I’ve been thinking recently on how I can help myself to maintain a better state of mental health, when I’m already feeling a bit better in myself, but also how I can make it easier to lift out of those darker moments. Through some conversations, therapy, and self reflection I have come to appreciate how important the small steps we take to support our mental health are.
However, when you’re feeling particularly blue it can be difficult to even begin to do the smallest things; people can often get annoyed at us for this as well. For me one way of overcoming this is by breaking them down into even smaller steps. For example if my aim is to take my meds, then I’ll start by walking to the drawer, then opening the draw, taking them out, laying them out etc etc. It may seem silly at first – I know for me it almost felt like I was patronising myself – but it might just be of use to try this, and it is a huge thing to take any of these steps so you deserve congratulating for that!
So what are some of the small steps I’ve come up with to help maintain my mental health? Writing my diary; gratitude and affirmation lists; meds and vits; drinking enough water; walking; allowing myself downtime; using planners to keep on top of work; reading (to make learning fun); making my happy notes; doodling and using fiddle toys; playing piano; meditating and more…
I hope you can find some small steps that will help you maintain your mental health! We all have it and we all need to look after it
I’ve spoken about funding for mental health systems here before, but I wanted to write a bit about what we want to fund. The mental health system as it is is flawed – I am certain of this – and while extra funding is needed and would help, it won’t fix everything. That is whey when I talk about improving the mental health system I use the word reform.
When we talk about funding the system we need to consider what we are funding. Do we want to pump money into a fundamentally broken system (because it’s been getting worse for quite a while) or do we want to use that money to reform the way the system works, promote independent person led treatment, and then provide resources to help make that happen?
Here’s some examples of areas that need to be changed:
fatphobia within ED (eating disorder) treatment. That means not having to be under a certain weight to be validated, the mental side of an eating disorder taking precedent, and providing space for people who don’t fit the ‘typical’ ED profile you might expect
Medical racism. This needs to be tackled at all levels and in all areas of society – they all influence each other
Inability for medical practitioners to see individuals rather than symptoms. The individual patient matters; they should have a say in their own treatment; all of who they are should be recognised and celebrated. There’s a difference between having to tick boxes and refusing to see anything outside of those boxes
Inappropriate medication/ sedation in inpatient. There should be more resources and a better system of action that doesn’t lead to drugs so quickly, especially if that is against the patient’s wishes
Criminalisation & lack of human respect for people with substance use issues.
Staff who always validate the experience of the patient, don’t rush patients through, tell them they’re not ‘bad enough’, aren’t rude, aren’t tired etc etc etc
Voluntary treatment truly being voluntary. Rather than ‘admit yourself or we’ll section you’ (which happens far too much)
Language changes. Being labelled as compliant or non-compliant, for example, and threatened with no help at all or penalties on freedom in inpatient, when in reality the reasons behind each person’s choice should be explored and respected. They should be helped to be motivated, and if the treatment isn’t working for them, there should be other options
Space for alternative treatments. For example art therapy, drama therapy, animal therapy – just using other methods to get through to patients can be pivotal in their treatment. There should be the ability for this to happen on a wide scale
Recognition of the wider factors impacting and maintaining mental health. Such as money, identity etc
There’s so much more I could discuss and it’s not like I’ve studied this for years, so this is just the opinion I have developed, but I know I am not alone in this. I’d also like to say that I respect any professionals that want to make a difference for someone struggling with their mental health, but I recognise that in such a strange system, it’s often hard for them to do so, and after time that motivation may just disappear.
If anyone wants to add anything, please comment below, would love to have a discussion on this topic.
One of my favourite ways to look after my mental health and deal with a crisis is through creativity – in many different forms. I truly believe that we all have creativity, and the beautiful thing is that it looks different for each of us, a product of our own expression, imagination and original thought. Since we all have mental health as well, it only goes to say that using creativity to look after our mental health is a viable option for all of us.
For me, writing as a way of expression, and sometimes performing what I’ve written,is a go to when I experience difficult emotions. It not only helps to distract me, but allows me to externalise my thoughts and feelings in a non harmful way. Writing, drama, and art therapy now exist as alternative forms of therapy. Many people report success using these forms; Alzheimer’s sufferers have been helped by art therapy as it can enhance communication, brain function, and social interactions – it can even trigger dormant memories and emotions! This shows how powerful the creative arts can be.
Not everyone will want to engage in full art/ drama therapy, or therapy at all, but we all deserve to look after our mental health (even if we’re feeling good in ourselves currently) and so being creative can still serve us in many ways. Maybe you would like to try picking up a pen, doodling, and just seeing what happens. Maybe writing or acting to express yourself. Perhaps you’d like to try origami as a way to focus, painting as a way to relax, or using writing prompts for a fun activity (having fun is vital for feeling good).
Flexing our creative muscle can also be really helpful in our every day lives as well – we may find it easier to balance tasks and find ways to overcome challenges. Plus if we’re using creativity to look after our mental health, we might feel better and brighter, giving us the energy and stability to get through the day.
Using creativity to approach difficult topics for us that we might find difficult to open up about otherwise – even to ourselves – can be super healing. And we can use our imaginative minds to overcome any difficulties we may face in doing so!
Looking after and facing our mental health doesn’t have to be boring or scary – life offers so much more than that.