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58 Self-Care Ideas for When You Need a Boost

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Self-care… we know it’s important, but do we always make it a priority? What does self-care actually look like for each of us?

We are all unique, so our self-care prescription should reflect that. Sometimes when we’re struggling with life it can seem almost impossible to get back to that place where we are feeling good and hopeful for the future.

We often put the needs of our families, friends and jobs before our own. Or, we might mentally hit a rough patch and find we are not doing kind and nurturing things for ourselves. We might even turn to — or get stuck in — destructive behaviors as a way to reach for a better feeling.

Strategies that have worked for us in the past — or strategies we have yet to try — can help build us up again so life starts to feel more manageable and as a result, more enjoyable.

We’ve asked some of our R U OK? Ambassadors to give us examples from their own self-care regimes that help them regain their sense of wellbeing and peace-of-mind.

They’ve come up with 58 ways they take five, recalibrate and show themselves a bit of TLC.

We can also share these self-care strategies with other people in our world who might be going through their own tough times. Share them around and see if they help you and your loved ones. 

Community Ambassador Jake Gablonski:

1. “I pull out the guitar and play some songs that make me happy.”

2. “I go for a walk to the park with a mate to kick the footy around and have a chat.”

3. “I’ll call my family just to hear their voices and find out what they’ve been up to.”

 Ambassador/musician James Van Cooper:

4. “I do my ironing. It’s something I don’t have to think about when I’m doing it. I can just be there in the moment.”

5. “I’ll call a friend and talk to them about absolutely anything else but what’s going on. Just laugh and tell jokes or funny stories from the past – so I can laugh at myself. For me, I can be too serious and forget to laugh at my situations sometimes.”

6. “Go out to a cafe, get a good coffee and something sweet to eat. One of my biggest weaknesses are sweet things and good coffee. So going to one of my favorite cafes and getting something indulgent always feels like a good idea and it can give me a little burst of energy.”

Ambassador/TV host/former NRL player Brett Finch:

7. “I am a big believer in the benefits of exercise and how it effects my mood in a good way.”

8. “I’m all about getting plenty of sleep — lack of sleep can really mess with your mental health.”

9. “A fridge full of foods you love is good self-care for us. Fruits, vegetables and lots of water.”

Ambassador/ Country music artist Travis Collins:

10. “Disconnect from digital devices and instead focus on physically being present with a friend.”

11. “Take a walk, or rest, in serene environments like the bush or at the beach or go fishing.”

12. “Exercise. A big old sweat, gets the blood and oxygen pumping.”

13. “Hang out with my dogs, play ball and fetch. I appreciate their unconditional love and always feel better for it.”

Community Ambassador/Founder of The Happiness Co Julian Pace

14. “I’m huge on writing and journaling what I think, feel and behave to really understand the emotional triggers I have. Awareness precedes change.”

15. “Focus on what I really want. I’ll usually put some music on and get creative and work on being proactive. Making progress in life is vey much linked to my happiness.”

16. “A big one for me is self-love days. These can include things like spending time with family, getting a massage, a sauna, going for a run or to the gym. It’s about making sure I’m filling up the ‘me’ bucket. It’s an important way I stay on track.”

17. “Doing nice things for others, showing kindness, care and compassion.”

Ambassador/performer/singer/actor/ Musical Theatre Barry Conrad:

18. “Make sure wherever I’m staying (whether at home or on tour) is clean and in order. I find that the less clutter there is around me, and the more organized I am, the clearer I think.”

19. “For quality ‘me’ time, I’ll light some candles and listen to (or write) music. Or I’ll go on a Netflix marathon of my favorite shows, along with some of my favorite treat food of course.”

20. “Keep the lines of communication open with the people in my world. Isolation and shutting the people I love out is never healthy when I’m going through a tough time.”

Community ambassador/Founder Just Be Nice Project Josh Reid Jones:

21. “Leave my phone at home and go read and enjoy a good book on my own.”

22. “Write a list of things that need to be done, tick a couple off straight away.”

23. “Crank some good tunes and get a sweat on at the gym, again, leaving the phone at home!”

Ambassador/ performer/ singer G.R.L. Natasha Slayton – G.R.L.

24. “Dance! It releases endorphins and serotonin, ups my breathing and gets me in a meditative zone!”

25. “Working with a Reiki healer or other spiritual healer who helps release emotional, physical and mental pain and blocks.  I work with a few who have inexplicably transformed my entire life.”

26. “Working with sage, crystals and nature therapy. Being in nature is a phenomenal medicine for me. The energy of the Earth is undeniable.”

27. Extra credit: “Taking the right nutritive supplements, keeping on a plant-based/organic diet and drinking ample amounts of water works absolute wonders for me.”

 ​Ambassador/performer/singer Jazzy Mejia – G.R.L.

28. “Getting all dressed up, spending extra time on my make up, getting my nails done, etc., and getting out of the house. Feeling pretty boosts my confidence and makes me feel better on the inside.” 

29. “Writing in my journal helps me organize my thoughts and feelings. It also helps me get to the root of the problem of why I’m feeling down and helps me to let it go.”

30. “Spending time in nature (specifically the by the ocean) helps calm my mind.”

Ambassador/business woman Elli Johnston:

31. “I drink lots of water.”

32. “I’m huge on getting plenty of sleep and rest.”

33. “And lots of exercise, but out of these three, decent, sound sleep is by far the most important for my wellbeing.”

Ambassador/ F45 gym/model/sportsman Daniel Conn:

34. “Get out of my own bubble. Get some fresh air and some form of exercises light or high intensity. That’s the best medicine for me.”

35. “Spend some time with animals — I borrow my friend’s dog every now and then just get outside for a walk, away from my own head noise.”

36. “Spending time or talking to my sister’s kids… they put it all in perspective about what is important in life and that can highlight the negativity that can often creep into our lives.”

Ambassador/Bondi Lifeguard Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins

37. “I enjoying going for a long ocean ski paddle to clear my mind.”

38. “Go surfing, sitting out in the ocean is very calming.”

39. “I love going for long walks along the coastline, it helps me think and puts things in perspective.”

Ambassador/ actor/ filmmaker/producer Steve Bastoni

40. “Go to the gym or for a surf. Exercise helps to change the way I feel if I’m in a rut.”

41. “Wash my car or mow the lawn… I hate doing it but it does lift my spirits in that it gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

42. “Treat myself to a massage, hot springs or a nice lunch.”

43. “Call someone to discuss whatever is going on for me. It’s true that, “a problem shared is a problem halved,” and the other person appreciates the call so it’s win/win!”

Ambassador Radio/ TV personality Bianca Dye:

44. “For me true self-care lies in learning to say ‘no’ because I’m a yes and a do person.”

45. “When I have a clear diary for 48 hours all my anxiety drops.”

46. “Taking a picnic blanket to the park with a turmeric latte and listening to my audiobook in the sun guarantees I’ll feel a million bucks after an hour…”

47. “I know it’s cliché but a one or two hour walk (with no phone!) always makes me feel incredible and I like to be as close to the ocean as I can get.”

48. “Even when my anxiety is at its worst and I really feel like being alone, if I force myself to go and have coffee or lunch with one of my authentic friends that I can truly be myself around I always come away with a higher vibe…”

49. “And lastly a magnesium bath with amazing essential oils while watching Netflix on my iPad always winds down my monkey mind.”

Ambassador/ author/model/student Natalia Siam:

50. “There is evidence to show eating a balanced diet improves your mood. Throw in some veggies! Treat yo’self!”

51. “Take a power nap with a heated blanket, tea and aromatherapy. For those days where a calming atmosphere is required.”

52. “Cuddle session with the pets. It boosts your mood to spend time with the creatures who love you most!”

53. “Dress up, do your hair/makeup and make yourself feel fabulous! Ask a few friends to come over and make it a makeover party! Its always best to share a fun time with others.”

The R U OK? team:

54. “Reconnect with a loved one or mate you might have lost touch with. Catch up for a chat, a laugh and a cuppa. Enjoy being around someone who knows you inside-out and likes you anyway.”

55. “Laugh! Grab a mate and watch a funny movie together. Whatever it takes to make your cheeks ache from LOLs.”

56. “Make a feel-good playlist. Be strict – only songs that genuinely make you feel uplifted or get you dancing. Music can really shift and lift a mood.”

57. “Take care of business (bills/commitments) before they swamp you…”

58. “Try cutting out alcohol for a while — your sleep/anxiety/mood will improve.”

Now it’s your turn:

Write a list of 10 things that get you back to a better place and commit to doing them this month.

Keep a journal or just tick them off in your head and see if your self-care prescription is just what the doctor ordered.

For more information on how to help family and friends who might be struggling go to www.ruok.org.au

Check out the HELP section if the conversation feels to big for you to handle.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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How I Escaped My Family's Cycle of Violence

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233.

The last time was not the first time. My father was attempting to break both my mother’s arms off, and in trying to help my Mum he tried to throw me through our glass sliding doors.

The floor was wet, a result of the beverage that Mum was preparing being knocked off the kitchen counter as she was manhandled to the floor by a man who was lost to an alcohol induced rage. Black eyes, screaming, crying siblings. A small boy unable to save his mother properly. These are my memories, but we got away that night.

My father himself must have watched similar scenes as a child. His own father was an abusive alcoholic, as was his grandfather. A long line of male abuse runs in the family, stretching back generations of men whose behavior I cannot understand.

Flash forward a few years and I am at my most impressionable age, in my early teens, going through the usual motions of hormones, girls, school, feeling the self-imposed responsibility of being the “man of the house,” etc., etc. It is one of the rare weekends we spent with him. My father sits me down, my younger siblings now in bed.

What feels like a deep and meaningful conversation begins, and he relays to me a lot of what I must be feeling, tells me he went through the same feelings with his father. I feel like there is an understanding, an understanding of a feeling that has always been hard for me to articulate. Then he says to me that even though now I was appalled by what happened, one day I would do the same thing.

One day I would do the same thing.

Rationalize what you want, when you are an impressionable young teen, and someone relates an understanding of your feelings then predicts your future, it is hard to reconcile. It’s a weight you carry with you everywhere. It hangs over every interaction, every relationship. The “Black Dog,” the “Dark Cloud,” the “Weight.” Call it what you want, it just lurks in the background of your whole life.

During the same time, my best friend and I were in high school. We had been mates since we were 4 years old, and with varying levels of engagement, his father had always been an example of what a loving and supportive father should be. An example of a good man. Without being over the top, he just lives a good life and is a wonderful human.

Greg was there in all the non-hero ways someone can be there: dinner, help with school work, discussions about the world at the dinner table. He is universally respectful, hardworking and always loving to his family. For 10 years Greg had been this fantastic example to me before he changed my life.

Driving home from an after party, in the morning, while nursing my first mild hangover at 14 years old, Greg told me he was proud of me.

It was a throwaway comment, no fanfare. “You boys did really well last night, we’re proud of you, and we’re proud of you too, Josh”.

I nearly cried in the backseat of the car right there.

By living a good life, by being there consistently, by being a fantastic example of being a man, Greg was able to be the counterbalance to the negative impact of my own father. If someone this good, if a family this close is able to bring me in as their third son and be proud of me, then maybe I am different from the long line of men who have made mistakes before me.

Consistency.

Not one hero action, no attempt to save me, no overt move to “help.”

Greg and his whole family gets their credibility from living a good life, and for consistently being a source of support in times of need and in times when it’s not needed. In the years of just being Greg, there have been a couple of times when simply caring enough to be proud of me, or popping a hand on my shoulder and checking in on me, have made all the difference and allowed me to go on to bigger and better things than I could have without their support.

Never underestimate the importance of just being nice, being a good example, being consistent and checking in on those around you. Never underestimate the importance of taking the time to earn the trust and respect of those around you by practicing what you preach, because you never know who is watching. Sometimes we spend too much time looking to “save” people in very visible distress, and forget to look after those who may be silently having a tough time right next to us.

Just be nice, ask people R U OK? and be someone who sets a good example in their own lives, and the world will be a better place.

Josh Reid Jones is the founder of the Just Be Nice Project and an R U OK? Day community ambassador. He can be found at joshreidjones.com and jbnproject.com.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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19 Ways Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects Your Mental Health as an Adult

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Experiencing emotional abuse in the formative years of childhood can be incredibly damaging to a child’s mental health. Unfortunately, the effects of early emotional abuse often do not stay confined to the period of time when they occurred. The effects can be debilitating and far-reaching, often creeping into adult life in ways we may not expect — much less want.

What happens exactly when emotional abuse from childhood follows you into adulthood? And what happens if your experiences contributed to a present struggle with mental illness?

We wanted to know the effects of experiencing childhood emotional abuse, so we asked our mental health community to share how emotional abuse in their upbringing affects their present mental health.

If your experience with childhood emotional abuse has contributed to challenges you face now, please know help is available.

 

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “[I have] very low self-confidence, [have been in] toxic relationships [and experience the] feeling of being never enough… Currently I’m battling with depression and eating disorders.”

2. “I overanalyze every situation, what I did wrong and what I could’ve done better. My self-esteem is shot, my self-confidence is minimal. I question people’s intentions about everything and have a difficult time trusting others because of it, which causes extreme anxiety quite often.”

3. “When I get yelled at, I start to panic and will sometimes have a panic attack. This is mostly because my mother was unstable when I was young and would yell at me very often… It definitely attributed to my anxiety today.”

4. “I can’t do anything without apologizing for it. I’m constantly fearful of and waiting for people to abandon me. The constant anxiety makes me physically sick. If someone seems even the slightest bit annoyed or disappointed in me, I burst into tears. I feel deeply emotionally attached to anyone that offers me any emotional comfort, as if it can make up for what I’ve lost.”

5. “On top of emotional abuse, I was also sexually abused, so that probably has compounded my problems. I had very low self-esteem, trust issues, eating disorders, feelings of worthlessness, [I] obsessed with perfection, [had] anxiety, depression [and] suicidal ideation and [also] abused alcohol — all of which carried over into my adult years… I have made great strides in the past five years or so. I no longer use alcohol to cope and I have gotten out of a toxic marriage. Some days are worse than others, but for the most part, I have learned how to cope with everything in healthy ways. I still deal with not feeling like I am good enough and I second guess myself a lot. Some days I need more reassurance. When the bad days come and anxiety or depression creep in, I know it won’t be around forever. My faith in God and my church family have been instrumental in my growth and healing. I know my worth now, even if I sometimes need reminding of it. My past still affects me, but I no longer allow it to define me.”

6. “I can’t trust anyone. I internalized it and learned to hate myself. I learned to believe all the things they said about me. I have anger issues. I can’t get close to anyone. I fear being around people. As a result of it all I can’t work. I live with almost constant anxiety.”

7. “I have anxiety and depression now. I have to know why things don’t go as planned. I obsess over closure of situations and it makes being a mom and spouse very difficult.”

8. “[I] still think everything is my fault. The guilt, the shame, the low self-esteem. Nothing I do can be good enough. I struggle with OCD, anxiety, depression and I’m in eating disorder recovery. As an adult, it’s definitely easier to connect some dots (which I consider a positive), leading to at least understanding why I am the way I am.”

9. “I’m still figuring it out. [For me,] child abuse [has made] cognitive development detached from society and finding healthy boundaries a work in progress. Delusions knock at [my] door all the time.”

10. “College is extremely hard for me to get through, mentally. I am constantly feeling like I am not smart or capable enough, and am in constant fear that I will not graduate. I feel like my anxiety and depression have really kept me from enjoying the college experience fully, and kept me from making use of the opportunities around me. I’m in my third year and I still fear I chose the wrong major, and that I am not doing enough. College is hard enough, but with a mind like this… it truly feels nearly impossible.”

 

11. “I never wanted to admit to myself that my parents’ behavior and the environment in which I was raised had any effect on me as an adult. I did not want to give them any sort of power over me anymore… Only now can I relate my panic disorder to my childhood. My childhood was living in fear in the place where a child should feel safe and loved. I was made to feel unwanted and unworthy and basically, in the way. As I type this, I can feel my brain starting to spin out of control and my heart beating into my throat. It’s sad that I still feel unworthy of anything in my life.”

12. “I looked for love and attention in all the wrong places. I didn’t get love and attention at home so I looked for it in relationships and when they didn’t go well, I was devastated. I thought about all the things I did wrong. I developed depression and didn’t do much to get help because I thought I deserved it.”

13. “I can’t work due to the amount of hallucinations and stress vomiting that happens when I’m under stress. Living is stressful, eating is stressful, sleeping is stressful. I feel like there’s a threatening presence only I can feel… I have paranoia often, making it hard to leave the house. [I have an] eating disorder that has been present since childhood. [I go to] lots of doctor visits and [am on] different medications. It’s hard to know who you are when there’s so much pain blocking the joy. But I press on, and encourage others to do the same.”

14. “I stay between fight, flight and frozen. In many situations, I’m often anxious beyond typical ‘nervousness.’ I’ll stay guarded even around [people] I’ve been around for years.”

15. “I have no self-confidence, I have BPD and am a mother myself, now. I find myself second guessing my parenting and try my hardest not to repeat the past.”

16. “I don’t reach out for help, although medical issues make it a necessity. I don’t feel as if I am worth the help, or that people will berate me. [I’m] always on edge, waiting for the next verbal barrage.”

17. “I have serious trust issues, and I am unable to completely relax or know anything about what I would like to be at 60 [years old]. I have literally no clue who I am, and I am sometimes really mean or quick with words when I should not be. [It is] to the extent that it is causing me serious health issues now, too. I am scared of me.”

18. “[I struggle with] low self-esteem, developed an anxiety disorder [and] BPD, and [feel] the need to constantly seek validation in everything I do. It took me a while to realize the connection to emotional abuse from childhood, and this community has been so affirming.”

19. “I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Trusting in stability is a struggle for me, and I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I’m very self-critical and have worked extremely hard to change my internal narrative to something more positive. I’ve had to learn how to be kind to myself, and understand I am not a bad person — that I deserve to love and be loved. I [have] an anxiety disorder and OCD, as well as mild PTSD.”

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.  You can also visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo via Archv.

19 Ways Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects Your Mental Health as an Adult
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I Can’t Always Give. I Need Help, Too

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I smile, I laugh, I even I crack jokes. I make people feel good about themselves, and let them know I am there to help them whenever they feel like they need someone to turn to.

I was there. I supported, I comforted, I helped and I gave assurance.

I was there. I was always there.

But inside, I needed help, too. I needed someone to tell me everything was going to be OK, that someone was there to support me, to comfort me and give me assurance. I needed that too. I guess they didn’t know though.

Every morning I wake up thinking, “Why do I have to start another day of faking everything, again? Didn’t I do enough yesterday?”

I am alone. At least I feel alone. It has been eating away at me. I want to run, scream at the top of my lungs and cry until I cannot cry anymore.

I feel tired, even if I sleep for 10 hours or more. I feel cold inside. I felt numb, breathless, like I am drowning from the inside out. Sometimes I walk aimlessly, because I feel lost, like everything I know has suddenly disappeared in front of me.

I cry myself to sleep each night, praying that I don’t have to do it all again tomorrow. I choke from the huge lump I feel in my throat whenever I think about how helpless I feel. I rock my own body to somehow thaw the ice that is at my core.

When I dream, I dream about falling down a dark void, but I never land. I always wake up, drenched in my own sweat, the hairs in my body standing. I try to sleep again and end up following the same excruciating pattern.

I start the day again. It’s always the same as yesterday. Thoughts are gnawing at my brain, eating at me bit by painful bit. My hands feel numb all day long, and my knees feel weak. I don’t stare at anything for too long. I come back to reality when I feel a tear crawling down my cheek.

Then I think about how the people around me would live if I weren’t here. Would they be happy? Would there be any changes at all if I wasn’t alive? Would their lives be better off without me?

I tried to escape, to go to places far away, where no one knew me, where I was free to do anything I wanted to; places where I can feel the wind in my face and forget that, for most of my life, I’ve felt nothing. That is why I loved taking breaks.

I did everything I’ve always wanted to do, and I didn’t waste a single minute. I fought to keep the thoughts away, and during these breaks, I win.

I filled my mind with things I wanted to think about; things that made me feel like everything was going fine, that there were no problems. I filled my mind with happy thoughts, like being free, which I realize are just illusions.

Was it so bad to feel happy and carefree for a short while? Was it a sin to get out and not think of anything for a day or two?

I wish I could feel like many other people do. I want to be free. I also want to do the things I want to do. I also want to be the things many other people want to be. I don’t want to feel tired anymore. I don’t like feeling useless and judged. I don’t want to be alone anymore.

Yes, I smile, I laugh, and I even crack jokes; but deep down inside I am lost.

Is it too much to ask?

Is it too much to ask to be free from this?

Is it too much to ask for more breaks from this life that I have been living in for so long?

Is it too much to ask to feel happy?

Is it too much to ask for someone to help me?

I deserve to be happy.

I need help, too.

There are a lot of us who need help; a lot of us who try to be OK, when we know in reality, we are not always OK. A lot of us who try to be genuinely happy, when we know we have thoughts of hopelessness. A lot of us who try to be like some others — carefree and at ease, when we know that living like that feels almost impossible. We need help, too. But it’s hard for us to ask for it because we are scared of getting rejected, we are scared of getting judged and we are scared of being ignored. It’s hard. It’s hard living in the shadows of our own lives.

All we want is for you to look at us, look at who we really are, and not our mistakes. Look at us with eyes free from bias, so that we may reveal our totality as one with everybody else. We want you to see us in a different light, for we have been living in the dark for too long, we forgot how it feels to live under bright skies. And we want you to care.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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Billie Lourd Shares Carrie Fisher's Cause of Death

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The coroner’s report for Carrie Fisher’s cause of death was released on Friday, six months following the actress’s death at the age of 60. According to the Associated Press, Fisher died as the result of sleep apnea and “a combination of other factors,” including drugs.

Fisher was best known for her role as Princess Leia in “Star Wars” and was an outspoken mental health activist who lived openly with bipolar disorder and addiction. The drugs found in Fisher’s system included cocaine, heroin, MDMA and other opiates. While it’s impossible to know what she took and when, the Associated Press reported that according to experts, she may have used cocaine about a week prior to her death.

Releasing a statement to People about her mother’s death, Billie Lourd, Fisher’s daughter, said Fisher would have wanted her to be open about her cause of death, adding:

My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.

She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Fisher’s brother Todd Fisher said he wasn’t surprised Fisher’s health was affected by her drug use. “If you want to know what killed her, it’s all of it,” he said of his sister’s heart condition, smoking and both prescription and illicit drug use.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Image via Riccardo Ghilardi.

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14 Steps to Help Me When I Am Hearing Voices

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I sometimes hear voices when I am manic. I have also heard voices when under extreme stress, or during dissociative episodes.

I usually don’t share what is going on in my head… except with my husband sometimes and at support groups. When I have told people about the voices, they never seem to know how to respond, and don’t say things that are helpful. I thought it might help if I wrote out how people could help me during this time. Psychotic episodes can be very different for different people. For me, the battle is mostly inside my head and I know the voices are part of my illness. These are things that would help me, and hopefully, it could help someone else as well.

1. Establish my trust.

I am always really scared to share that I am hearing voices. If I tell you, please reassure me that you are a safe person I can confide in. You could do this by making eye contact and showing empathy in your voice. Tell me you care about me and want the best for me. Give me some time before I share more details. It takes a while for me to build up the courage to talk more.  Remain calm, and be sensitive to whether I want to sit apart from you or closer to you. Tell me you don’t think I’m “crazy,” and that other people have this problem too.

2. Listen.

After you have given me a little time and established I can trust you, I might start talking a little more about what’s going on. Listen with empathy and without judgment.

3. Respond to the feelings I share.

I know it’s hard to understand what it’s like to hear voices, but you can relate to my feelings. So you could say things like, “That seems so scary. I understand how you would be upset.”

4. Summarize what I am saying.

It helps me to feel heard if you respond to what I am saying by putting it in your own words and asking me if you understood it right.

5. Ask me what the voices are saying.

I may not be ready to share what the voices are saying, especially if they are saying bad things to me. But sometimes it helps to get the words out in the open and not in my chest. If I am too nervous to share, you can skip to the next step.

6. Ask me whether I am going to listen to the voices.

The voices might be telling me all sorts of bad things, but if I ignore them, it’s not so bad. If I start believing what the voices say or act on what they say, it can be a real problem. So ask me if I’m going to listen to them, or how I am going to deal with them. Maybe we can talk it over, or you will notice I need professional help to find ways to manage these voices.

7. Decide whether I am in crisis.

If the voices are telling me dangerous things and I’m listening to the voices — if I seem to be a threat to myself or others — call 911 or refer me to get professional help. If I don’t seem to be in crisis, you can go to the next step.

8. Bring the focus back to me.

When I think or talk about the voices too much, I start focusing on them too much, and they get louder and stronger. So we can talk about the voices some, but then bring it back to me. Explain you are concerned about my health and care about me.

9. Ask me what you can do to help.

Sometimes I can think of something helpful, or I might share something unhelpful.

10. Ask me what has helped in the past.

I personally have dealt with voices many times in the past. I’ve developed coping skills, but in the moment I sometimes forget them. Ask me what I have done in the past, and I might remember things I have done before that have helped.

11. Ask me if I’m feeling better.

Hopefully talking to you has helped me feel better. I might say how you have helped me. It helps me focus on the positive and see things are getting better.

12. Ask me what I’m going to do next.

Ask me what my plan is to deal with these voices. Encourage me to get professional help to talk about hearing voices, if I’m not already.

13. Say you care about me.

Reassure me that you care about me and want to be here for me.

14. Follow up.

Check in on me later on, whether it’s hours or days later, to see how I’m doing. Convey to me that you care about me and want to help me if possible.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem

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