Monday, 10 October 2016
World Mental Health Day; My Mental Health Tips
Today (the tenth of October) is World Mental Health day! Mental Health is a really important issue for me personally, but also for everyone; while nobody really talks about it 9not nearly enough, at least) it impacts on a huge percentage of the population, and is the biggest cause of death in my age group in the UK. It is likely to affect you, or someone you know, either right now or in the future, so I thought today I'd share some of my tips for lookjing after your mental health. I found these out the hard way so hopefully sharing them will stop somebody else having to!
Talking is so important. I don't necessarily mean talking to someone in particular, because I know how hard that can be; I just mean, talk. To an empty room, to a pet, to a plant, or of course to a friend or someone you trust, if you're comfortable with that. Even just writing it all down can help. For me, my problems escalated because they were bouncing around inside my head with no way out. Just verbalising things gets them out of your head, and I find really helps to properly assess them and work things through. It feels weird at first but can really help.
Plan for the worst
You might be feeling fine, either because no problems have arisen or because you're on the road to recovery. But feeling fine now doesn't mean things won't start going downhill later on. I like to be prepared for that, so that when I realise things are going pear shaped I know what I can do to head it off before it builds momentum. For me, this means having something that cheers me up, ready to go. When I was little I played Warhammer, and really enjoyed making and painting themodels. So now I have a little area of my desk set up for playing around with doing that; not just when I start feeling down, but just for fun. Having stuff set up and ready to go makes it easier to start doing it too, even when I've got no energy. Plus at the end I have a physical object that I'm hopefully proud of, which helps a lot too.
Plan for the worst... more
I'm not always in the mood for models, and forcing yourself to do something you're not going to benefit from much isn't going to help you pull out of a nosedive. It's good therefore to have a big bag of tricks, a list of things you can do that make you feel good, or at least take your mind off things. For me, I've got walking on the seafront, writing a blog post, playing video games, and more. This means that even if I'm not in the mood for a lot of those things, there should always be something I can do to take my mind out of any downward spiral. Belts and braces!
Learn the early warning signs
By now I've had enough low points and dips in mood that I can pick up quite early on what's about to happen. This is going to be different for everyone, and for me is just a general feeling that's hard to put into words, but the important thing is knowing what to look for and recognising it as early as possible! Like most illnesses, or episodes of illnesses, the earlier you realise it's happening the earlier you can start to deal with it, helping recovery. So have things in place to help, and know when to start using them!
Put up safety nets
All the preparation in the world can still go wrong sometimes; best laid plans and all that. So it's good to have support networks and things ready and waiting should all else fail. It's a lot harder to sit in the doctors filling out forms when you've already got the flu, and the same goes for bad episodes of mental health problems. Being on the books for your local doctors,or even better the local mental health services (or your university support people if that applies to you) before it becomes desperate really helps you get the help you need when you need it. Again, even if you feel ok now, prepare for that to change just in case it does. For examle, I had a peer mentor last year, who to start with I was really just checking in with now and then but ended up being really helpful and instrumental in getting me out of a real rut.
Watch out for things that set you off
Just like hearing a few bars of a song can get it stuck in your head for hours, brief moments of exposure to certain things that can spark off thoughts and feelings can really impact negatively upon you. Really obscure things can do this for me, but also big topics that are common (especially in tv and movies). I'm not too comfortable sharing them to be honest so won't go into details about that, for obvious reasons, but knowing what these things that can set you off are will help avoid them, or at least if they're unavoidable can help you prepare so it isn't coming out of the blue.
So those are my tips, or rather just a list of thingsI do that I find useful. The most important thing to remember is that it is ok to not feel ok; it's not something to be ashamed of or to hide.
Feel free to shoot me a message or leave a comment if you want to talk about any of this.