Self Care For People With Mental Illness

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People sometimes ask me for ways they can help themselves to feel better, the following are things that have helped me, helped people I know or are widely recommended by people with degree’s hanging on their walls in fancy frames. Please note that I am NOT a doctor, in fact I didn’t even finish high school and the things that I suggest on this page are strictly from personal experience and the experiences of people I have met along the way, but absolutely should not under any circumstances replace anything that was recommended to you by a trained professional!

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Acceptance
  • Therapy
  • Finding an Outlet
  • Relaxation and Taking Time For You

SLEEP

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Sleep is a big issue for me and most people with mental health conditions that I have spoken to. Depression, Anxiety, Elevated Moods, PTSD – all of these things are (understandably) amazing at causing insomnia.

Insomnia leads to overthinking which generally only ever makes things worse, those of us fighting off depression and anxiety end up trapped in a seemingly never ending loop. In people with bipolar disorder, lack of sleep can actually trigger hypomania or mania – I find that the less I sleep the less I think I need to sleep, my mind is wired and excited thinking about how I can renovate the house, fix the situation in Syria or start my own cooking show and sleep when you don’t ‘feel’ tired is the last thing you feel like doing. But alas, even though I feel I am being productive my body cannot sustain it and it only makes the crash back to earth later that much harder.

So, we agree that insomnia is not a good thing, but how on earth do we prevent it?  Click HERE for some more detailed information and tips!


NUTRITION AND HYDRATION

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Forcing yourself to eat, preferably healthy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables are ideal, you know, stuff that doesn’t require a nutritional information label, stuff with vitamins! Nourishing your body will also help nourish your mind we need a certain amount of vitamins and minerals for our cells to function properly and our diets which are rich in fast and packaged foods tend to be severely lacking. I know that when you are depressed often the last thing in the world you want to do is start cooking fancy fresh meals all the time, if you even want to eat at all. I LOATHE cooking at the best of times so believe me, you don’t have to become an amateur chef to eat nutritiously! Particularly nowadays as most grocery shops cater for the time (or motivation) poor amongst us and sell things like already cut up carrot sticks and ???

Drink water. Our bodies are made up of 70% water although I worry mine is more like 30% water and 40% Pepsi Max… Basically, we need to stay hydrated for our bodies and brains to function properly and drinking water is a 100% natural way of staying on top of our saturation needs, fill up some water bottles and keep them handy in the fridge at all times and remember to take one with you when you out either in the car or for a walk.


Drugs and Alcohol

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Just Say No!

Hah! Well that is much easier said than done, but the truth is that substance abuse runs rife in people with mental illness, not surprising really, who doesn’t want the potential to escape the reality of your predicament! Alcohol and drugs serve to numb our emotions and forget our stressors, they can bring us up or help us to sleep and many people will turn to them as methods of self medication both before and after a diagnosis of a mental illness. Illicit drugs and alcohol don’t tend to mix well with the prescription meds that we might also be taking for our condition, they can make their effects and side effects stronger or cancel out the benefits of the prescription all together.

While it might numb the pain of the moment it is frighteningly easy to wake up one day and realise that you can’t remember how to function without your substance/alcohol of choice anymore and that’s where you might find yourself with an addiction and a whole new world of added pain and suffering.

Personally, I have been pretty lucky and have been able to avoid addictions to cigarettes and illicit drugs. I have avoided alcohol most of my adult life because I fell pregnant with my first child at 17 and had three more kids in fairly quick succession so I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for the best part of a decade, my husband is also a recovering alcoholic (10yrs sober this year!) And so of course I don’t want to drink around him.

I try to avoid using addictive substances, which can be difficult when even prescription drugs like the very addictive Valium which I do have a prescription for, are sometimes the only things that can help me get to sleep. I have been known to smoke the odd joint in recent years as a form of self-medication for depression, if I only do it occasionally it helps me escape reality long enough to fall asleep but if I do it more regularly it doesn’t work anymore.

If you are struggling with addiction or are concerned that you may be becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol then I can’t stress how important it is to ask for help as soon as possible, it is good to start by talking to your doctor, they will be able to put you in touch with services in your area that best suit your particular issue. The internet is abundant with support groups and forums for people with addictions, just do a google search! Several bloggers I read regularly talk about their addictions, recovery, relapsing and the feelings that go along with it all, if nothing else you will soon learn that you are far from alone and that makes a world of difference!


Exercise

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Exercise, we all know it’s good for both our physical and our mental health, according to the Australian government recommendations ideally we want to aim for around 30 minutes of moderate exercise three days per week. Unfortunately we live in a fast paced world, people work long hours and have very limited spare time to dedicate to exercising.

Finding the motivation to exercise can be hard enough at the best of times but if you have depression it can feel nearly impossible. I have a history of eating disorders as well as the depression that comes with my Bipolar Disorder so exercise is something I have a long and sordid history with and something I still have a great deal of trouble doing in moderation. I tend to fall into the habit of either running 8km per day or using my dusty treadmill as a clothes horse with very little in between, so in this instance I will out myself as a hypocrite from the beginning of this page and suggest you follow my gold standard ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rule.

Science has proven time and time again that even if it’s just a short walk around the block, getting out into the fresh air and feeling the sun onto your face helps the happy chemicals in our brains and also gives us an important dose of vitamin D that more and more of us seem to have a deficiency in. I agree with science, I always feel better after spending time in the great outdoors, convincing myself to leave the house on the other hand can involve far more effort than the exercise itself…  SEE MORE…

 


Hobbies

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Find an outlet – some people do marshal arts, improv, singing, fishing – I write. Do the thing that you are passionate about or just something you find relaxing that gives you time out from the business of reality!


Therapy

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Therapy can make a huge difference to our lives with mental illness, someone to vent to who can also offer practical solutions to improve your daily life. Click HERE for more detailed information about what you can expect to get from therapy, links to therapists, financial costs and more.

 


Relaxation and Taking Time For You

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Just chill out, man! Easier said than done in a busy world at the best of times but especially when you are struggling with your mental health. But seriously, devoting part of your day (every day) to some guilt free relaxation even if it is only a few minutes when you are super busy, can make the world of difference to your mood and overall wellbeing. CLICK HERE for more information and relaxation tips!


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