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10 Tips From a Therapist for Supporting Mental Health

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As a psychotherapist, I’m often asked what suggestions I would recommend to someone to support and help manage their mental health.

I love this question because, obviously, I think mental health care is incredibly important, and also because my answers may not be entirely what someone expects.

So here is my personal tip sheet for cultivating and managing robust mental health, 10 suggestions honed over my years as a therapist and fellow human. Enjoy!

My Personal Tip Sheet for Robust Mental Health

1. First, recognize and realize mental health is every single bit as important as physical health. Assigning mental health the importance it deserves can make it far easier and make you more motivated to seek out and build supports to manage your own mental health.

2. Put together your mental health care team. You have medical supports, right? A doctor and OB-GYN? A legal team, like a lawyer and CPA? Then I suggest you model your mental health care in the same proactive way and gather around you the supports you need even before you need thema therapist, a psychiatrist, a clergy counselor. Whatever this means for you, curate and gather your mental health care team. Many of us need someone who is not our significant other/friend/parent to talk to about life’s toughest stuff. Get your team in place so you can count on them for that.

3. If you believe medication may be of support to you, seek it out. Please don’t be dissuaded by any stigma or shame about potentially needing short- or long-term pharmacological supports if that’s what your brain chemistry needs. Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist if you feel this may be an option you would like/need.

4. Take very good care of your physical health. Always rule out any underlying physical conditions that may be contributing to your mental health and, of course, visit your doctor regularly to make sure your body is functioning well. Make sure you’ve got a solid nutritional plan established that works well for your own body’s unique chemistry (consult with a nutritionist if need be for this!). Move your body daily in moderate, invigorating ways that feel good and enlivening for you. Get enough sleep! I can’t stress this enough: Everything in life — including our mental health — can become more challenging when we don’t get enough sleep. Avoid mood-altering substances as much as possible and in ways you specifically need depending on your own brain chemistry.

5. Build nourishing relationships in your life. Seek out and spend time with those who you feel seen, accepted and celebrated by. Whether this is friends, a loving partner, a women’s group, your therapist, your spiritual community, or your family, make a point of intentional, regular contact with those nourishing relationships in your life. Also note this tip may sometimes mean withdrawing from or decreasing contact with those relationships in your life that feel painful, challenging and unsupportive.

6. Plan play, joy and adventure! Between the often grueling demands of work and adulting, days can fly by, weeks can bleed into one another, and the months pass. Play, joy and adventure are fundamental needs each and every one of us have, and intentionally building time and resources into your life to support the pursuit of these is, I believe, wonderful for your overall mental health. Of course, the way that play, joy and adventure manifests for each of us will be unique, so find out what sparks your joy. Reconnect to old childhood hobbies, break up your daily routines, discover what feeds your soul and lights up your life, and then do more of it regularly.

7. Create, teach, or serve. I read somewhere once that ultimately what fulfills the majority of us could be lumped into the categories of creating, teaching, or serving. So I would encourage you to consider how you can weave one or more of these roles into your life regularly. Or if you already have this as part of your life, reconnect to the parts of it that fulfill and inspire you.

8. Spend time in nature. If there’s a panacea for more ills, I’m not sure what it might be. Connecting to nature in whatever way feels good to you — be it gardening or sitting in the sunshine, long coastal bike rides, or hikes through your local park — can support mental health in profound ways. Nature can be therapeutic, so I encourage you to get outside often.

9. Limit time spent on social media. Or be curious about how you can better use it. I know, I know — no one really likes to hear this, and yet we all know it: Social media can often have a negative impact on our self-esteem and therefore our mental health. So be mindful and curious about what impact social media has for you, and if it doesn’t feel supportive, consider limiting time on it, and/or be curious about using it in ways that feel more supportive.

10. Connect to something bigger than yourself. Whether this is God and church, or spirit and universe, or the women’s spirituality movement, or another movement or institution or practice that feeds you, guides you and inspires you, spending time connecting to something bigger than ourselves and cultivating faith and purpose can often support our mental health significantly. Whatever your personal preferences or practices, I encourage you to cultivate the role of this in your life as a support for your mental health.

And if you would like even more resources and suggestions to support your mental health, I invite you to explore the ways you can work with me personally and/or utilize one of my e-books or online products to support you in your mental health journey.

Image via Contributor.

Follow this journey on Annie Wright Psychotherapy.

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Originally published: November 3, 2016
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