06 Oct The Eight Best Self-Help Methods for Tackling Mental Illnesses
Whether you’re suffering with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, it is important to be able to provide yourself with some much needed self-help.
Although I am most definitely not undermining the need for a trained specialist to aid the recovery of anyone suffering with a mental illness – there are many things that you can do yourself, outside the four walls of a therapy room, that will aid your recovery and help you to feel better in the future. Plus, most of these self-help strategies are free… Even better!
From my own personal experience and from extensive research, here are the best self-help strategies that everyone should use. Enjoy!
The NHS recommends that the average adult should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, and two sessions of strength exercises per week. Of course, there are obvious benefits to exercising: a slimmer waist, smaller dress size, less risk of cardiac diseases, healthier bones and joints and, if you’re like me, the ability to eat more food guilt free!
However, the benefits of exercise go far beyond the obvious and observable things. What about exercise as a self-help method?
There is research to show that exercise can treat mild to moderate forms of mental illnesses in the same way that medication can but without the, quite often nasty, side affects. This is because when we exercise our bodies release a neurotransmitter called ‘endorphins’. These endorphins trigger positive feelings which will help you to cope more with your depressive or anxious feelings, allowing you to feel less stress, improve your self-esteem and sleep better.
You should be attempting to do as much exercise as recommended by the NHS by engaging in activities such as jogging, biking, walking, running and doing strength based exercises such as, squats, lunges, hip thrusts, push ups. However, on days when you’re busy or you’re just simply not feeling exercising, remember that something is always better than nothing; even if it’s only a 15 minute walk to clear your head.
Finding time to relax:
Relaxation is important both mentally and physically as it will lower your heart rate, relax your muscles, improve concentration, reduce fatigue, reduce anger, boost your confidence and allow you to think of things using a positive mindset.
You should aim to allow for at least 10 to 15 minutes of time each day to focus on relaxation. To help you relax, you could learn some relaxation techniques, such as mediation or mindfulness. Exercising will also allow for relaxation and so will focusing on your breathing or picturing calming and happy places.
Have a regular sleeping pattern:
Whether you’re suffer with a mental illness or not, regular sleep patterns are essential for regulating emotions and just generally making you feel better.
A lack of sleep can lead to stress, moodiness, increased negative thoughts or feelings of loneliness. Whereas a good nights sleep allows us to recover from the day we have just experienced and allows for mental healing to take place.
The average adult needs around eight hours sleep a night. To ensure that you are not only getting that sleep but also getting good sleep, follow these simple methods:
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day (with the exceptions of a few late nights, we all need to have fun!). To ensure you do this, set alarms for the same time every morning and set a realistic bedtime that you can follow each say – if you’re a late night owl or have a busy evening schedule, don’t try to sleep at 9pm.
- Use the relaxation techniques that I outlined earlier before bed to help you unwind.
- Try to avoid using technology before bed, instead try reading a book.
- Ensure your sleeping environment is correct – it shouldn’t be too hot (or too cold), too light or too noisy.
- Be tired when you get into bed. You should engage in exercise or mental stimulation throughout the day to ensure that you feel ready to sleep at bedtime.
Find some YOU time:
Whilst keeping busy will help you cope by not focusing on your negative thoughts and feelings, it is also crucial that you find some time for yourself to invest in some self-help and self-healing. This ‘you time’ will help you to unwind, find some enjoyment from life and focus on thinking about things positively.
Allow at least a couple of hours in your busy weekly schedule for yourself. Have a hot bubble bath, take some solo walks, go shopping, go to the gym or read a book in front of the fire. Essentially, do whatever you want, as long as its something you enjoy and will gain satisfaction from.
Take up a new hobby:
Although this may see daunting, there are remarkable benefits to taking up a hobby. A new hobby will provide you with excitement, purpose and studies have found that taking up new hobbies will reduce stress.
There are many hobbies that you can take up, such as:
- Joining a gym or engaging in team sports. This will offer social relationships, friendships and support that will greatly contribute to your recovery.
- Learning to bake, play a musical instrument or paint. These creative hobbies can increase your self-esteem as you watch yourself become better at them.
- Helping out in a local charity will make you feel better about yourself, allowing you to think more positively.
Learn to challenge your low moods:
Dependent on the therapy you receive, you may or may not learn ways to challenge your own negative thoughts and self-views. If you haven’t: keep mood diaries, think of alternatives to your situation, consider how some of your thoughts maybe unhelpful, and complete homework tasks set by therapist that are designed to challenge your low moods.
Socialise with friends and family:
Whether you’re a massive party goer, or more of a lone wolf – it is important to keep in contact with those close to you and to make the effort to engage with them.
Humans are sociable creatures, and social interactions play a massive part in our moods; you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel after a coffee with your friends. Also, remember that if you’re feeling down, these people will be there for you and you can, and should, count on them to support you.
Learn to prioritise:
Any form of mental illness can be overwhelming and exhausting to deal with. Prioritising and learning what to put first can be revolutionary to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by their daily duties.
Making check lists and to-do lists of what you need to do that day or week can help you determine where to invest your energy. It will also ensure that you are not wasting your time or energy on tasks that are not particularly valuable.
Written by Heather Harper.