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.
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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 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.
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 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.
Download a crisis list here
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.