18 Mental health tips for living with a mental illness

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Mental health tips for mental illness and stress

I’ve been struggling with mental illness for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I was always having pain caused by abnormal muscle tension and having heart palpitations due to stress.

Over the years I learned a lot of tips and tricks on what works and what doesn’t work when you’re dealing with mental illness and stress. Keep in mind that what might work for me might not work for you. We all have our preferences. But knowing a lot of fellow mental health sufferers, I know what works for a lot of people.

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost for you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase. I will only recommend things that I personally use and like.

Stay connected

Many people tend to close off when they are not feeling well. They stay home and don’t want to see other people. When you have a mental illness, it’s hard to remain in contact with others. Daily life is already challenging enough, but it’s essential to have a social circle, especially when you are suffering. It’s important to set boundaries, don’t let people cross them. If you can’t go to a party because you are completely drained of energy, don’t go. But stay in contact with people no matter what. Make a list of people you want to keep in touch with and decide how many times you should contact them. There is an app called Bond that helps you stay in contact with your loved ones.

Taking a bath

Taking a bath works for tense muscles, getting to sleep faster, relaxing, but it can also help you work up an appetite. This is very helpful if you don’t want to eat or you are not hungry. Take a hot relaxing bath, and when you’re done, you want to eat. If you don’t have a bath, try to sit under a hot shower instead or take a relaxing foot bath. Try using Lavender oil, this is very calming, and it can help you sleep. You can also put some on your pillow before bed.

Heating pads

Heating pads make my life so much easier. They help with muscle pain, but the heat is also very relaxing. I started with heating pads that you can heat up with electricity. They come with a charger. You plug it in, and it charges for 5 min, and it stays hot for a few hours. The best thing is that you can bring the heating pad and charger with you everywhere you go. Lately, I’ve been using heated plushies. You put them in the microwave for 1.30 minutes, and they stay hot for about an hour. You can cuddle with them, and there is some weight in them, that makes them comforting.

microwave heatable plushies miss mental

Bullet Journal or planner

I can’t stress this enough. Having a journal or planner is very important for anyone suffering from mental illness or stress. I always wanted to stay in bed all day and let the day go by, but in the long-term, this would only hurt me. You can use a bullet journal to set small goals, plan your day, keep track of your goals and health and so much more. It’s great for writing down your thoughts and worries. I like to make a habit tracker and set myself a goal. At the end of the month, I can see how I performed, and it always makes me so proud. Seeing that you are taking steps to get better is very satisfying. Having a self-care page is also very useful.

Meal prepping

Meal prepping is making meals in bulk to heat up later. If you know that you have problems taking care of yourself, this is an excellent tip for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Whenever you feel good or decent, and you are planning to cook anyway. Instead of preparing for one day, make food for multiple days. So you can heat something up whenever you aren’t feeling well. You can keep food fresh in your fridge for at least three days. If you want to make more, you can keep it in your freezer up to 3-6 months.

If you want to see examples of things you can make you can click here.

Having a crisis list

Everyone who has mental illness should have a crisis list. On this list, you put everything you and others can do to de-escalate the situation when things are getting out of hand. You can give the list to your mental health professional and people you trust who can help you if needed. For example, you can write down that if you have a panic attack, you will try breathing exercises and if that doesn’t work to calm you down, you will call someone to talk to. You can also write down what you want to happen if you are no longer in control of your actions. Do you want to be admitted to a mental health ward? Or go to your parents or friends for a few days to calm down? Or maybe your medication should be adjusted. Having a crisis list will give you more control in times that it feels that you have none.

Exercise

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind, but it helps to clear your mind. Studies have shown that exercising regularly enables you to cope with mental illness better and reduces stress. You need to find something that works for you. Maybe its walking three times a week or swimming. If you have trouble setting goals or sticking to them, you can try to work with a trainer in the gym or sign up for classes. Its easier to stick to your plans if someone else is counting on you to show up.

Adopt a pet

I don’t know where I would be without my cats. They are amazing. Whenever I feel lonely, I will cuddle with them. Having company in the comfort of your own home is great. Pets help us to relax and feel safe. If you have trouble leaving your home or getting out of bed, you might want to get a dog. You are responsible for the dog’s well-being, so you will have to leave your bed and go for a walk with the dog, and in return, you will get lots of love and cuddles! That’s what I call a win-win.

Write down a number you can call when you need help

Look for a place that you can call whenever you feel that you can’t take it anymore or need advice. This can be a local number, a mental health clinic or a doctor’s office or a national number like the national suicide prevention lifeline. Every country has other options, but if you google something like ‘Where can I call in a mental health emergency situation’ you will find plenty of options. You can also schedule an appointment with your general practitioner and ask him what your options are in your neighborhood.

Set small goals

You can’t expect to get better in days. This will only set you up for disappointment. Instead set small goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Don’t judge or punish yourself if you don’t achieve your goals, Just make them smaller or reschedule them. Be proud that you are trying to get better. It can be helpful to talk about your goals with someone you trust. They might be able to help you or make sure you stick to your goals. Follow my Instagram feed for motivation.

Therapy

Somehow therapy is still seen as taboo by a lot of people, and that’s a shame. Therapy does work, and it can improve your life in many ways. It’s hard work, and you need to be able to handle feedback, but it’s worth it. Don’t settle for the first therapist you see if your gut tells you it doesn’t feel right. Find someone you connect with and makes you feel safe. It can take a while before you find a therapy that works for you. Be patient and let it happen.

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Photo by Afrah on Unsplash

Do one thing every day

It doesn’t matter how bad you feel. Part of overcoming mental illness is not letting your feelings guide you. Do one thing every day. It doesn’t matter how small it is. Clean half the kitchen, take a shower, water the plants. Get out of bed and do something. After you’ve done something take a moment to realize that you overcame your feelings and did something anyway. Be proud; it’s a step to getting better. If doing one thing a day is easy for you, make it three things a day. Make sure to reward yourself or write it down so you can see your progress.

 

Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for everyone. But if you are suffering from stress or mental illness, this is especially important. Don’t drink too much caffeine or alcohol and be careful with fat and sugar. When you have a lot of stress, you might suffer from problems with your intestines like IBS. It’s important to see a professional doctor to get tested for any intolerance. Fructose intolerance can cause a lot of symptoms like heart palpitation, mood swings, and anxiety. Your general practitioner can run a blood test to see if you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. You can see a dietician to help you choose the right foods to eat and help lighten mental illness symptoms.

Keep dreaming

Even if it feels that you won’t ever do anything nice in life again, keep dreaming. Make a list of things you want to do. Make a mood board with beautiful pictures of your dream destination or write a story on how you will climb the Mount Everest someday. It’s crucial to keep hoping and dreaming. It’s what keeps us going. If you have things you want to do in life, you have reasons to get better, learn to live with your new situation.

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Sleeping

Anyone suffering from mental illness or stress knows that sleeping can be hard. Not being able to sleep, starring at the ceiling all night is frustrating. Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to sleep better. The first thing to do is getting rid of blue light a few hours before bedtime, If your devices don’t have a nighttime light stand you can download f.lux. No devices an hour before bed can help, instead read a book or take a nice bath with lavender. Warm milk with anise or getting some fresh air is also things that often work. Doing a guided meditation before bed is the best tip I can give you. Find something you like. You can try a visual meditation or a body scan. If all this still doesn’t help you sleep, you can try melatonin. This is a natural hormone that can be out of balance if you don’t have a good biorhythm. If you keep having troubles sleeping make an appointment with your mental health professional or your general practitioner.

Stay grounded

Being in your head all the time will give you stress, and you might end up dissociating. Try to stay grounded by consciously feeling your feet. How do they feel? Are they warm or cold? How does the ground feel? This helps you to get out of your mind and be more connected to your body and surroundings. This also helps during panic attacks. Instead of focusing on your fear, try to focus on something else. What do you see around you? What do you hear? And what do you smell? Try to touch something and focus on what form it has, how it feels and what it’s made of. For more information on staying grounded, read how to get started with mindfulness meditation.

Reading out loud

This is the best tip for hyperventilation or panic attacks. When you are reading out loud, you start to breathe more relaxed and even. You are also distracting your mind from the thoughts, after a few minutes, you will notice that you are calmer and your breathing has slowed down.

Affirmations

Make affirmations, something that you want to believe about yourself. Every morning you will repeat your affirmation. You can choose anything helpful. For example, you could say ‘I can do achieve anything if I put my mind to it.’ Your thoughts are a powerful tool. We think a lot of negative things about ourselves. But we can just as easily use our thoughts to empower us. I first read about affirmations in The miracle morning. This is an inspiring book if you want to learn more about how to start every morning right.

mental health tips for living with a mental illness or stress, Improve your mental health. 18 tips for selfgrowth #mentalhealth #mentalillness

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28 Comments

  • Andrea

    March 29, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 18 and I honestly felt like my life had been flipped upside down. It took a while before I finally made peace with my illness and realize that just because I was told I was different didn’t mean I couldn’t have a regular life. I adopted a cat and I also journal it helps a lot.

    Reply
    • Dimph

      March 29, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Yes getting a diagnoses can be life changing, it’s hard to accept, but it also helps that you know what’s going on. Cats are great company! hope you doing well.

      Reply
  • R. Roy

    March 29, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I remember my uncle’s situation. Unfortunately, people with mental conditions do not find many friends. That makes their life more miserable. ‘Being connected’ is really so important.

    Reply
    • Dimph

      March 29, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      Yes it can be really hard to make friends and stay in contact with them. Hopefully there will be more knowledge and programs in the future to help people with mental illness stay connected more.

      Reply
  • Deola

    March 30, 2018 at 1:11 am

    Great tips that I would say is helpful for anybody. Reading through this kinda shows me I have quite some ways to go in taking care of my self and my mental health. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  • Moipone

    March 30, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Remember telling my aunt who is a Doctor that I think I have depression and the answer was not supportive. She said you are a loner not depressed and therapy is still seen as a sign of weakness. I haven’t seeked help yet because I learned to notice the symptoms but sometimes it gets do bad to a point of i dont want to do anything but lay in bed. Thanks for the tips mental health is real and if it was dealt with it would reduce number of people taking their own lives because they just cant do it anymore.

    I tried to kill myself once and my mother found me and she told me. Dont let your enemies win and having my daughter has helped me a lot she gave me reason to get the hell out of bed and hustle on.

    Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Dimph

      March 30, 2018 at 8:47 am

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had to go through that. Honestly I’m lucky that i live in a country that mental illness is somewhat ‘accepted’. And my No care attitude helps a lot. I never made a big deal about telling people that i struggle with mental illness, If it’s not a shame for me, it shouldnt be for them. I’ve had mostly good reactions, just my dad that feels i just need to ‘act normal’ already. But hey, that’s on him, if he doesn’t understand it, it only tells me that his mind can’t understand it. Keep being strong, much love!

      Reply
  • Roselle Toledo

    March 30, 2018 at 8:37 am

    I have anxiety disorder and have been battling depression for years. Although the difficult years were over, there are days when I just stay in bed all day. Writing helps me a lot. I also avoid watching movies/shows that makes me feel sad.

    Reply
  • TColeman

    March 30, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Mental illness is one of those that a lot struggle with in silence. I think more need to reach out and help and these tips are awesome for outlets.

    Reply
  • Tina Hogan grant

    March 30, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Wonderful tips for those struggling with mental disorders. I especially like the idea of adopting a pet. They will be your best friend for life and will never judge you. Offering Love and companionship when most needed,

    Reply
  • Heather

    March 31, 2018 at 3:41 am

    I like that these are realistic and actionable steps to take when dealing with mental health. Many are thing I hadn’t heard of, like reading out loud. We all need to be bookmarking this.

    Reply
  • LavandaMichelle

    March 31, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    My daughter had a bit of anxiety and getting her ‘Zeus’ was one of the best decisions I think I’ve ever made! She still gets a bit anxious now and then but the nervousness has decreased a bunch. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Gerome of G&D Blog

    April 2, 2018 at 6:46 am

    Helpful information about mental health. I’m glad that no one is suffering from this in our family. It’s hard to see people struggling with this, and one of the things that we can do is to be there for them. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply

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