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6 Self-Care Tips I Actually Use for Dealing With Mental Illness

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1. Knowing my boundaries.

I used to push myself hard to do everything and anything just to keep myself occupied. Little did I know the importance of taking a step back, realizing I’ve done enough today and I deserve the rest. I’m always trying to keep my mind busy; that’s when knowing my boundaries slips through the net. Sometimes, it’s OK to push myself when bouts of depression strike, however not all the time. It is OK to rest, to take some time out from the day and just chill or do nothing. I won’t feel guilty for “me” time. As I know, it’s all important to my recovery.

2. Think before I act.

During mania or hypomania, it’s easy to lose yourself in the high of it all and make irrational decisions. It’s easy to forget. During these times, I take a step back and ask myself some simple questions. Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing? Will I still want to do this a week later? I try to focus on keeping myself in the here and now and reminding myself what I’m actually about to do. I find it easy to overextend myself and then I just end up getting stressed. Whether it’s planning a skydive or joining a new gym class, sometimes I act before I think and end up getting myself into a situation that muddles up my brain. That could’ve been easily avoided if I just remembered to take a few deep breaths and think first before I act.

3. Remember I am not a failure.

When you have a mental illness, it’s easy to miss things out of your day that kind of needed to be done, like that shower you didn’t take or that walk you needed to take the dog on. It’s important to remember these aren’t failures. Think of all your achievements as victories. It is crucial to remember what you need when living with a mental illness. You need rest, so don’t feel guilty for taking that day off. You need to recharge your batteries in order to function and face the coming days. You may strive to be successful in the workplace and may feel disheartened when all doesn’t go to plan; however, remember every knockback is one step closer to a success. Don’t let striving for that pay rise knock you back; remember to take time out to care for your health. Money doesn’t equal happiness. Even without a mental illness, it’s impossible to be successful at everything, so don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not a failure; you are your own success story.

4. Keep active.

For me personally, keeping busy is the key to sound mental health. Sitting for too long can conjure up all sorts of negative thoughts. It’s important to keep busy, to not let your mind feed on these bad thoughts. No matter how tired you are, keep going. That nap you feel like you need may make you feel 10 times worse. Plus, it may lead to not sleeping at night, which can only result in more distress. Even if it’s doing simple things like ironing, walking the dog or nipping to the shop, all these things may feel like they’re not doing any good here and now, but if you didn’t do them you could’ve got progressively worse. No matter how much the depression seeps in and you feel like you can’t do these simple tasks, you can. I promise you, you can. Just give yourself a big push and look at the bigger picture. These little meaningless activities can set you on the right path to feeling better. They can be the difference between a bad day lying on the sofa all day feeling depressed, or a good, active productive day where your mind has been kept occupied, away from pessimistic thoughts.

5. Hold that tongue.

Anger and irritation are common in mood swings due to mental illness. When irritated or angry, it’s easy to fly off the handle. This can only leave behind a long trail of catastrophe. It’s never good to speak your mind when in this state. Take a step back and some deep breaths, count to five and realize where you are. Any confrontation that is necessary can wait until the morning when things cool off. Everything may seem worse than what it actually is in the moment. Remember: Nothing is as bad as what it seems. Best to tackle your problems with a clear, calm mind.

6. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.

When struggling with depression, alcohol is the devil. Sometimes, you can’t wait to wind down and have a glass of wine in the evening; however, the next day you really pay for it. What is to follow is usually spells of more depression, feeling lost, loneliness and hopelessness. Alcohol triggers anxiety and depression. Alcohol can usually increase anxiety and stress rather than reduce it. While a glass of wine after a hard day might help you relax, it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with in the long run. Alcohol is a depressant. It alters delicate chemical balances within your brain. It triggers negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, anger and stress, even if you were in a good mood when you started drinking.

Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash

Originally published: August 5, 2018
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