As it’s National Mental Health Awareness week, I thought I’d write a post on tips that may help in overcoming mental health issues.
Mental health is a tricky one because only the person who’s going through a mental issue knows what they’re feeling, and that’s why it can often seem like a lonely and dark place for the person. I call depression ‘the silent killer’ because people who are depressed often seem fine on the outside, but inside they feel dead, soulless or numb to emotions apart from sadness…a bit morbid sorry, but that’s one of the reasons why it can be dangerous or even life threatening.
But I’m not here to talk about that dark and lonely place, I’m here to help you get through it, simply because you all deserve to be happy and live a good life!
I really hope this post helps with anyone struggling with a mental health issue, even if it’s by the tiniest bit.
1. Your emotions are your guidance system
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay to feel like that. Our emotions are our guidance system, they tell us when something is right or wrong for us. So the fact that you’re feeling sad/ depressed/ anxious etc. is a good thing, it’s your emotions telling you that your thoughts aren’t doing you any good and they’re not leading you on the right track. Sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘I’ll just stop thinking those thoughts’. When you’ve been thinking certain thoughts for a long time, they become sort of engraved in your head and those feelings of depression/anxiety start to feel like home. It’s a matter of re-training your brain and stopping the bad thoughts before they spiral out of control, that’s where therapy or bibliotherapy can help (explained later).
This point it particularly important for men, because they’re taught from a young age to ‘man up’ and not show emotions. Emotions are good and natural! Listen to what they’re telling you.
2.Be kind to yourself
Maybe you’re feeling down, you’ve had a panic attack or whatever it is that you’re feeling, it’s okay! Say to yourself ‘right now I’m feeling sad/depressed/anxious and that’s okay, I’m okay’. It sounds silly, but it helps more than you think.
Don’t beat yourself because you think you should be feeling a certain way, like feeling happy. The fact is, you’re not feeling happy and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like I said, your emotions are your guidance system, listen to them and accept your feelings. Beating yourself up just puts pressure on yourself, and that is the last thing you need!
Being kind to yourself is much easier and healthier than putting yourself down.
3.Take the term ‘Mental illness’ lightly
When you’ve visited the doctor and you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you first thoughts might be ‘there’s something wrong with me, I have an illness’. If a doctor recognises that you have a problem, it’s their job to diagnose you with something and they need to give the diagnosis a label, hence ‘mental illness’, ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’. Try to think of these terms as just words or labels, it makes ‘mental illness’ a little less daunting.
Personally, I don’t like using the term ‘mental illness’, I prefer ‘a state of emotion’. As soon as someone hears the word ‘illness’ they think that they’re stuck with something long-term that’s difficult to cure. The good think about mental illness that it is VERY cureable and the cure is within us. Mental illness is all to do with how we think and feel, and that’s where therapy can help…
4.Going to therapy doesn’t make you crazy!
When people hear the word ‘therapy’ they think ‘crazy person’. You’re not crazy if you’ve been referred to therapy, if anything you’re strong. You were brave enough to even go to the doctor and open up to them about how you feel, which is a step that a lot of people don’t take. Someone with a mental illness tends to thing illogically. Therapy (especially cognitive therapy) is an effective way to re-train your brain, it helps us to look at things in a more positive and logical way. It won’t just help with how you’re feeling now, it’ll also help you in the long run when you face upsetting or tough situations.
We’re also very lucky to have the NHS in the UK, so therapy is free. Give it a go and if it doesn’t work, at least you tried.
5.Bibliotherapy is very effective
Bibliotherapy is basically reading therapy. There are some amazing ‘self-help’ books out there which really do work.
There’s a great book called ‘Feeling Good‘ by David D.Burns. In this book, 2 scientists actually discovered that ‘Feeling Good’ bibliotherapy was as effective as a full course of therapy or treatment with a good antidepressant.
Here are some books which might really help you and I know they’ve helped others as well. ‘Feeling Good’ is a great book if you want to understand depression and the causes of it.
6.Do something you enjoy everyday
Do it! Whatever it is or however silly it may be. Just do it. The best times are in the morning as soon as you wake up when your mind and body has re-set itself, or before you go to bed, so that you wake up the next day in a state of contentment. Try and do it everyday and watch how your energy shifts in a positive direction.
7.Meditate or take naps
People who are depressed often sleep a lot as it’s kind of like an escape from all the thoughts going on in their head. Naps are actually a good idea, because when you’re sleeping your mind stops, similar to when you’re meditating. It gives your brain a rest from a spiral of depressing thoughts, and that’s why you wake up feeling more rested and refreshed, even if it’s for 2 seconds.
Meditation is really recommended for mental health. It gives your mind and body a break from all the thoughts we have in our heads. My mum has become obsessed with meditation recently and I’ve noticed a difference in her, she’s definitely a lot calmer and it’s helped her to remove herself from any situation when she recognises that it’s spoiling her mood.
A great app is Headspace, seriously give it a go!!
A lot of people compare themselves to others, we all do it now and then, but you also need to know when to stop. Comparing yourself to others causes serious anxiety. Someone may have a better job than you, more money or be in the relationship that you want, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll never get the same! Your current situation is temporary, you have your whole future ahead of you to achieve what you want. There’s no set time for things that happen in your life and everyone’s journey is so different.
There’s a saying that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ and it’s so true!
Go with the flow and live in the present! Leave the past in the past, look forward to your future and just live in the now.
9.Speaking up about mental health
It’s not an easy topic to talk about for so many reasons. Maybe you’re not good at opening up/ you don’t want to come across ‘weak’/ you feel guilty for feeling depressed/ you think it’s just a phase that will pass/ you don’t know what’s causing it/ you don’t know who to talk to.
You don’t need to tell the whole world about your mental issues, but it will probably really help telling at least one person. It doesn’t have to be anyone you know, it could just be your doctor.
Speaking up about it is one of the strongest things that you can do and you’ll be thanking your future self for it.
10.You’re going to be okay, I promise!
You’ve probably heard this over and over again, but you’re stronger than you think you are, seriously. Yeah everything might seem really crap at the moment, like REALLY crap, but I promise you that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s a very long dark tunnel.
You’re probably going to want to punch me when I say this, but going through a mental ‘illness’ is going to be one of the worst and best things that will happen to you. When you get through it (and you will), you’re going to appreciate everything so much more, no matter how big or small. You’ll make the most of opportunities and you’ll go out of your way to achieve your dreams because you’ll have more control over your thoughts (positive thoughts, positive outcomes). Some of the most successful people have been through depression, so don’t think that you won’t be able to get to where you want to be because of how you’re feeling now.
It’s often the people that you least expect that have been through a mental health issue, and I think that’s because they’ve been through the worst and now they know how to focus on the positives.
11. How to deal with people with depression
Don’t tell them to ‘cheer up’ or ‘smile’, that’s the last thing they want to hear and it will probably make them feel worse. Just be there for them. You don’t need to baby them, but just check up on them. When people are depressed they tend to isolate themselves and they avoid seeing anyone or going out. Ask them round for a cuppa just to get them out for a bit and let them know that you’re there for them whenever they need to talk to someone.
Encourage them to seek help if you think they need it.
Here’s a cyber hug for anyone out there struggling with a mental health issue. Remember though, you need to help yourself and try methods to help you overcome it.
As you’re overcoming you’re mental issues, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, with some days really good and bad days, but don’t be disheartened. The good days are proof that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep practicing techniques that work for you (e.g. meditation) and you’ll get to where you want to be.
Stay strong and speak up!