Mental health, schmental health. For years, mental health problems were treated like folklore or something made up to scare children and adults. Even now, a lot of the older generation will swear that ADHD, Depression and Bipolar are all about an individual’s character and ability rather than their actual health and wellbeing.
In the last 10 years I have suffered with self-harm, depression, PND (another story for another day) and currently, Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I know a thing or two about experiencing it and coping with it (or trying to). But I’m starting to feel better in myself as of the last week and that made me want to help someone else start to feel that glimmer of hope too.
Mental health is becoming more recognised all the time with the likes of Adele, Kirsten Stewart, Kate Moss, Ellie Goulding and Lena Dunham all sharing their different experiences. Although some people feel not enough conditions are being covered (agreeably), depression, OCD and anxiety seem to have the spotlight at the moment.
Whatever it is that you’re dealing with, I want you to know you’re not alone, you’re not crazy and you can survive – there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just a longer tunnel for some! In the meantime, while you travel through your personal tunnel looking for that light, here are 10 ways to help you cope in the darkness:
- Accept it – this can be the hardest step for some, the second hardest or the easiest. Either way, come to terms with how you’re feeling (or not feeling) and accept that maybe it’s just not okay and everything probably isn’t just “fine”. I ignored my PND and missed out on a hell of a lot because I couldn’t accept my thoughts and feelings.
- Get help – I can’t decide if this was the hardest step for me but it’s not easy telling your family or going to a GP to talk about something so personal and misunderstood. I found it easier to go straight to a GP but my family also have some knowledge while Mr.Me is an absolute saint at times.
- CBT – or cognitive behavioural therapy. Please, stop rolling your eyes or moving towards the [x] just because the word “therapy” makes you uncomfortable. The idea made me uncomfortable too. The sessions make me uncomfortable. The feelings I am starting to face make me uncomfortable. But did you see that last sentence? I’m starting to face my feelings! For too many years, I have been living in a state of neutralness and fear and in the last week I have allowed myself to feel enthusiastic and to be more involved. I have allowed myself to utter the words, “I guess it makes me… happy” although I did nearly burst into tears. I know therapy isn’t for everyone and I thought I was one of those included but promised myself to stick out at least 6 weeks and it was the best thing I have ever done. You can get a referral through the NHS from your GP or you can try somewhere like AnxietyUK who provide various options of help and support for a very reasonable price.
- Exercise – Aside from weight loss and general fitness, exercise is your bodies cure for most things. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, help to cope with stress, release endorphins (we need these for happiness), and can be better than a 20 minute bath when it comes to unwinding the mind and relieving some anxiety. Add to the list that if you’ve ever done a crazy workout -you can bet you’ve slept better than you did for weeks and voila – you have a great excuse to spend some money on new workout gear and time to find a way to exercise that works for you!
To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain. – Lena Dunham
- Natural Remedies – if I can go natural I will so I have looked into natural remedies aside from exercise. The main remedy I came across was chamomile tea or supplements – I cannot stand chamomile tea and I’m yet to get the supplements but I know someone who has and swears by them. You can find various other remedies including a good diet, Hops and holding your breath on google although I can’t swear by the value of them.
- Headspace – So I have an app called Headspace which teaches you basic mindfulness in 10 days for free (you can pay for more after this) and I love it. I usually put it on in my headphones when I am unwinding to sleep and either fall asleep listening while actively following or fall asleep pretty soon after finishing. It’s a great way to calm your mind, control your thoughts and just focus in general. They also have packages for different things from sleep to anxiety and relationships.
- Medication – Yes, I said it and no I don’t regret it. If you don’t agree with medication, good for you. I didn’t. I put off asking for some extra help for months while my anxiety got worse and worse to a point Mr.Me got concerned about going out and leaving me alone. I think the breaking point was when I had to get off a bus due to an anxiety attack and it was the first time he realised how bad it was and told me I needed to get some real help. Don’t be scared! Your GP isn’t going to force anything on you like a drug pusher (well, mine didn’t anyways). There are various options these days for different things. I’m currently on 75mg of Sertraline. 100mg completely stops my orgasm and thats something I refuse to give up. Sertraline doesn’t make me feel anything other than a bit calmer. I still have anxiety but it is too a much lesser degree (I learnt this by stopping medication for a few weeks and realising how quickly my anxiety returned). It isn’t a life sentence so I just think of it as something for now until I can make myself calmer naturally.
- Make time for anxiety – I learnt something called stress/worry time during one of my CBT sessions and it kind of works like a distraction for me although I doubt that’s the purpose. But basically, when you start to feel stressed or anxious or can’t control your thoughts, you tell yourself that it’s all valid but not right now and you schedule a time to worry about it later or tomorrow. I do this a lot while I’m in bed overthinking. And I make sure I schedule a time in my phone for worrying so my mind knows I intend to do it. Now I know I can sleep without worrying because I have 30 minutes scheduled to worry tomorrow. It doesn’t and won’t work for everyone and I rarely follow through but it does allow me some peace and sleep.
- Sleep – you know when you’re physically unwell and they say the best cure is rest? This applies to your mental health as well. A good nights sleep is vital to a healthy and happy mind according to science. The best way to get a peaceful nights sleep? A cold room, naked and dark – these are the ideal conditions for a good nights sleep due to comfort from not being too hot, it’s good for hygiene (think thrush, sweat and waking up to turn the pillow over) and darkness because who wants to sleep in a bright room?
- Limit alcohol and caffeine – this is something I no longer have any choice in as I shouldn’t really drink alcohol with the medication and caffeine gives me heart palpitations for some unknown reason (the hospital tried to figure it out, I just can’t cope with it). But if you do have a choice, try to limit these things in your diet as it’s scientifically proven they can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
I hope something here helps someone as much as some of these things have slowly started to help me. And if not, music always make’s me feel better so here’s one of my favourite feel good songs with a video too!