With NHS mental health waiting lists at record highs it’s not fair but it is simply the case that everyone who is suffering is not getting the proper treatment. My GP even suggested I seek my mental health treatment privately if I have the funds (which I don’t) due to the utter strain the services are under. Do not fear- whether you are one of the many who has been chucked on the back of a never-ending waiting list, maybe you are suffering in silence, or perhaps like me you are sick of the services failing you time and time again because you are deemed too ‘high-functioning’ to have a mental illness… well here are some things you can start doing today, tomorrow and from then on to start improving your mental health! (no waiting listing necessary)
Know your triggers
We all have them. You know the things that make us tick, stuff that just sets us off. Some people might be able to contain their emotions more than others or perhaps a situation may trigger you surprisingly- but it’s all part of becoming more self-aware. This is one of the key things that my therapy sessions taught me. However we are not all fortunate enough to access direct treatment particularly when we need it most, though I have found many good resources for CBT and self-help for literally most things you can think of here. If you go on an self-help course (NHS/charity run) and they give you a print out it is very likely to have been downloaded from this site, so it’s worth a look if you are in times need or even just a bit curious.
I mean business here. Social media accounts? Unfollow them. Numbers you don’t want texting you? Block. Delete. Negative influences? Toxic people? Minimize these relationships or better yet cut them out. Remember that you are in control of your life and you must surround yourself with positivity- things and people that make you feel good about yourself.
Self-care is different for everyone. It’s about listening to your body and taking care of it’s needs. Do the activities that you enjoy, take time out to nurture and look after yourself in a preventative way rather than just reactionary. Try to prevent stress building up by scheduling in self-care, you deserve it after all. This could be as simple as making that appointment to the GP’s, running a hot bath or taking the dog on a long walk. For some more ideas on self-care check my out series here.
Exercising and eating well are also important parts of self-care. Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water each day are essential in keeping fit and well. Exercising doesn’t have to be grueling it out at the gym. I wrote about how I lost six stone through eating well and exercise and these changes definitely have had a positive impact on my mental health- though I would never claim them to be a cure as mental illness is something that goes up and down. To be honest my favourite form of exercise is going for a good ol’ fashioned walk, I wrote walking for your mental health here. I know how daunting it can be crawl out of bed to make a coffee or even get a shower never mind think about going on a walk or eating some dinner when your in the pits of mental illness- but these things really do help. Start small and build yourself up each day.
We all need something to work towards and that’s why setting goals is such an important part of recovery. It means you have to think about your current situation and what you would like to be done differently. Setting goals allows us to envision a life in which we may be functioning or one where our mental health isn’t so troubling. It can be really encouraging to have a goal or even a few but try not to overwhelm yourself by setting unrealistic goals. For example if you have had some time off sick due to your mental illness and your goal is to go back to work, it might be more relastic to ease your way back into employment by only working reduced hours or voluntary work to begin with. It is essential for goals to be realistic so that they are achievable. When setting goals try to ensure that they are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed- this way it makes it easier to track and evaluate them.
Know your worth
One of the most important lessons I have learnt growing up is self-love is the most important kind. I spent so many years from being a little girl up until very recently loathing myself- what for? Try to quieten down that voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough, because you are! You must treat yourself with kindness, and respect. Be patient with yourself. Avoid self-criticism because it gets you nowhere, begin positive self-talk. I know after years of suffering with disordered eating and issues with body image it’s inevitable to have low self-esteem but change must start somewhere. I love bodyposipanda on Instagram- she is so inspiring, full of energy and shows that it is possible for you to change how you feel about yourself and your body. Megan, the face behind bodiposipanda, is a real life example of what the power of positive self-talk can do and is a true recovery warrior. If you haven’t heard of her, where have you been? And if you don’t already, I would definitely suggest giving her a follow!
I cannot stress this enough. Sufferers of mental illness can feel isolated and alone as if nobody understands, when in fact 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. The truth is these problems are so much more common than any of us think but we often feel like we are the only ones. By speaking out it can allow you to get the help you might desperately need or it might even just help to reduce some anxiety over a problem you didn’t even know you were catastrophising. Either way I am a firm believer that a problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to your GP, your family or friends, there is a huge mental health community online that I am so thankful for.
Everyone in the online community has been full of support and you don’t have to be a blogger to get involved. There are many weekly mental health chats taking place on Twitter- #TalkMH run by Hannah Rainey, #PosiMH by Megan Rees or the more recently founded #LetsChatMH by Gemma Callaway and Liam Stephen. All of these created by mental health bloggers (definitely worth checking out) but most importantly the chats are a place for people affected by mental health to take part in discussion, share their experiences, learn from others and give advice where possible – a place of support. There are other chats if you do want want to get involved just have a search through Twitter you’d be surprised by what’s out there, I know I was. If you are into online support there are similar support groups on Facebook too.
I hope this has been helpful to anyone reading, know that you are never alone and there is always a way out of whatever situation you are in.