Let’s be honest life, in general, is a daily struggle from stress to relationship issues then add on top of that a mental health diagnosis and it can leave you reeling and wondering how you can begin to cope.
Seeing a therapist isn’t waving a magic wand and everything suddenly turns out right, yes, they are amazing people to see, but you have to manage your expectations of what can be achieved and that in itself is another struggle at times to accept.
For some, you perhaps see your therapist for 1 hour a week. In a week there are 168 hours, so your therapist is there for 1 hour, so what happened with the other 167 hours?
Do you shut down and not face 167 hours of life or do you struggle and feel like you are not getting anywhere?
On another note, therapy isn’t always accessible to everyone so what happens for those people?
Here are some recommended tips on what you can do to help yourself when away from a therapist or if you are unable to afford one.
Actually, try writing your thoughts down.
Not everyone has someone they can talk to, telling someone your thoughts and feelings takes a lot out of you and then there is always the trust issue that so many of us have for one reason or another.
Purchase a journal, doesn’t have to be anything fancy a cheap notebook is just as good. Write down as much or as little as you want but give yourself at least 5 minutes a day to just vent to your journal. Writing something down that you are feeling helps get those feelings out, and as you journey through your recovery it will help you look back and see how far you have come.
When you are stressed and overwhelmed, see if there’s any way to put a positive spin on it.
We all experience stress in life, it could be work-related, home environment, taking care of the family is another example. Becoming stressed makes the situation even harder and leaves you feeling at times worthless and inadequate which trust me you are not, but even being told that can cause further stress.
Look at it that you have a job that is supporting you and your family, look at ways you can change your diary if that would help you feel more productive. If your diary is full of events or after school clubs look at that as you are helping your children lead full lives and they see you supporting them, where you think you may be failing your children with the constant running around, they see you as always being there for them, just as your boss will view you as hardworking and a valuable member of his/her team.
However, if you are chronically stressed that is a warning sign and time to review your workload before you burnout.
Plan to take daily, low-key walks (and actually do them).
No matter how short the walk is they do help. Getting some fresh air, blowing away the cobwebs and having some alone time will help relax you and soothe your mind. No matter the weather take that walk, a little rain never hurt anyone.
Try not to think about what stresses you, look at your surroundings take in the beauty around you and learn to love your alone time and take note of how you feel after the walk.
Counter negative thoughts with positive ones.
This is always a difficult one as your worries and concerns are very real for you, they impact how you feel and whilst your negatives thoughts are not to be minimized in any way nor should they be, think about how what is concerning you could be changed around. An example is you could be feeling guilty for spending some time alone and you regret that time as you know you could have been doing something else. Think about it as time well-spent self-caring as that is vital to your well-being.
Make a list of “your people.”
Never allow anyone to make you feel guilty no matter who they are. If they are not supportive of you then they are doing you more harm than good. Picture your friends like a Facebook friends list, in your mind remove who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, who put you down. You will slowly start to see who are ‘your people’ and who are toxic.
When you know ‘your people’ or even ‘your person’ have them as your go-to friends who you can talk to about anything and use them as your sounding board, who will encourage and reassure you that you are doing an amazing job of being you, being told that goes a long way to aiding your mental health recovery.
When you’re stuck in a negative thought spiral, write down two good things.
Go back to your journal, write down what bothers you and look at what you can do to remove that worry, have a pro and con’s list if that helps and slowly work through your con’s by either removing them or turning them into pro’s.
Write down two or three things, really good things that make you feel happy, loved and safe, treasure them and look at them whenever you are feeling low as sometimes when we hit a low everything feels wrong and nothing we think, feel or do seems right, it will remind you that there are good things in your life.
Have a self-care arsenal.
We all hear this a lot and for some people, it works whilst others it irritates. We all hear take a hot bath, read a book, watch a movie etc. If that works for you then awesome do it and enjoy doing them.
Find what gives you peace and use it to the maximum. I have a friend who hates to hear the ‘take a hot bath’ whereas I’ve said ‘so go for that hike/run you keep talking about’ she did and she felt better for it. Self-care is a personal choice and don’t allow anyone to dictate that only a certain list of things is self-care because it isn’t.
Talkback to your inner voice.
Mind talk, oh boy this one is at times a friend and others an enemy. Its that war zone in your head and when you finally understand you are fighting yourself it can floor you into thinking there is no way out.
It’s a cruel vicious cycle at times, but you can also turn it around so you have the upper hand. When you hear your mind talking something negative kickback by turning it around into something positive. An example is your mind is telling you that the party you went to shouldn’t have happened you should have stayed at home, kick back with but you saw friends you hadn’t seen in some time and you caught up with each other’s news.
Ask yourself “and then what?” when you’re stuck on an anxious thought.
The trouble with anxiety and the mind talking you find yourself always thinking the worst which then makes you even more anxious. So take those thoughts by the horn and say to yourself ok I’m thinking it so I’m going to think of an alternative ending instead of the worst-case scenario.
If you, for example, are worried about the end of your relationship or losing your job, thinking through what the ending could be in a positive way such as ok, I’ve lost my job what would I prefer to do as a career, do I want to go back to school to improve my prospects, does the job I’m actually doing feed my soul or is it just a paycheck for me. Being prepared in your thoughts does help if the worst-case becomes reality and can prevent a full-on spiral rather a moment of, ok I can do this.
Think about your alcohol habits and whether you could stand to cut back a little.
I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at one time in their life had a full blow out on booze thinking life will feel better. It perhaps does feel better for a short period of time but sadly the next day our worries are still there except this time we are hungover too.
Booze is a form of self-medicating at these times and very rarely helps, if you know you could fall into the cycle of booze to make the pain go away, then back to reality, perhaps keep a check in your journal on what and how much you drink so you feel in control, if you can’t control the booze intake then seek help before it gets dangerously out of control and then adds to your already stressful situation.
Have a bedtime ritual.
Ok, I know this one may sound a bit silly but it really can help, and sleep above all are the vital ingredients to assisting you with your mental health, as no one can function properly on insufficient sleep.
Saying that insomnia nearly always is a symptom of mental health conditions, so that then becomes a battle on top of everything else.
Make getting ready for bed a ritual even if that ritual starts hours before your chosen bedtime. Eat a good dinner so your body isn’t craving food, drink plenty of water so you are hydrated. Take a bath that relaxes you, for instance, lavender bath salts help ease your mind and aching body.
Make some hot chocolate and yes if you want to add the 50 damn mini marshmallows to it then damn well do it, it’s your bedtime ritual, and then settle down to watch a movie or read a book or just snuggle down in your bed and let your body drift away.
If you need sleep meds then use them, never be ashamed or made to feel guilty that you need extra help, this is all about you and helping you get through this time, ready to face the new day.
You can do this!
These tips are in no way a substitute for getting help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you with your recovery. But hopefully, this gives you something to consider and help you feel that you are in control even in a small way and that in fact goes a long way to reset your mind and aid you to fight each day.
Remember, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources to find help and support, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).