How can I help myself?
Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of many mental health problems, and may also help to prevent some problems from developing or getting worse. If they work well for you then you may find you don’t need any formal treatment.
However, it is important to remember that there is unlikely to be an instant solution. Recovering from a mental health problem is likely to take time, energy and work. Here are some tips for looking after yourself that you might find helpful.
Nourish your social life
Feeling connected to other people is important. It can help you to feel more valued and confident about yourself, and can give you a different perspective on things. If you can, try to spend more time with your friends and family – even a phone call can make a difference.
If you do not have supportive friends and family around you and are feeling isolated, there are other ways you can make connections. For example, you could try joining a group like a book club or local community group to meet new people.
“I try to have a friendly conversation every day, even if it is online with distant friends.”
Try Peer Support
When you experience a mental health problem it can feel like no one understands. Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences to support each other. This can offer many benefits, such as:
- Feeling accepted for who you are
- Increased self-confidence
- Meeting new people and offering your experiences to help others
- Finding out new information and places for support
- Challenging stigma and discriminatio
Make time for therapeutic activities
There are various techniques and therapies you can safely practice on your own. For example:
- Relaxation – you may already know what helps you relax, like having a bath, listening to music or taking your dog for a walk. If you know that a certain activity helps you feel more relaxed, make sure you set aside time to do it.
- Mindfulness – mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves being more aware of the present moment. This can mean both outside, in the world around you, and inside, in your feelings and thoughts. Practicing mindfulness can help you become more aware of your own moods and reactions.
- Ecotherapy – getting out into a green environment, such as the park or the countryside, is especially helpful
These activities can be particularly valuable if you don’t want to try medication or talking treatments.
“I really have to remember to be kind to myself and actually try to function when I’m unwell. Otherwise things spiral even faster.”
Look after your physical health
Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage your mental health too.
- Get enough sleep – this can help you have the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences.
- Eat healthily – what you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to how well you feel.
- Keep physically active – doing regular exercise can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing your energy levels. It does not have to be very strenuous or sporty to be effective – to start with you could try gentle exercise like going for a short walk, yoga or swimming. The important thing is to pick something you enjoy doing, so you are more likely to stick with it. If you are physically disabled, you may want to contact a local disability group for information about exercises you might be able to do. Alternatively, ask your doctor for advice.
- Look after yourself – when you are experiencing a mental health problem, it is easy for personal care to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed, whether or not you are going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol – while you might want to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings, in the long run they can make you feel a lot worse
“Exercise is hugely beneficial, in whatever shape or form. Keep on moving”
Challenge stigma and discrimination
Unfortunately, not everyone understands mental health problems. You might find that some people hold misconceptions about you based on your diagnosis, or use language you find offensive or hurtful. This can be very upsetting, especially if someone who feels this way is a friend, colleague, family member or a healthcare professional. But it is important to remember that you are not alone, and you do not have to put up with people treating you badly.
Here are some options for you to think about:
- Show people Mind’s information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means
- Know your rights
- Contact an advocate – an advocate is someone who can support your choices and help you make your voice heard