Tools and therapy

5 Steps I took to improve my mental health

It can be lonely and scary to have a mental illness.  When I was first diagnosed, I felt ashamed and unsure of how to proceed.  Over the years, I have had ups and downs, and today’s post is all about how I picked myself up when bipolar disorder was beating me down.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

1 – Therapy and medical treatment

I am a firm believer that when you are truly depressed or manic, the only solution is to seek professional help.  We are not meant to struggle alone, and it is unsafe as both mania and depression can lead to suicide.  And you are meant to be treasured, you are loved, and you are not alone.  Every time I got clinically depressed, I scheduled an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist, where he assessed what the best form of treatment is.  Then I went home and applied his treatment recommendation. Whether it was an adjustment of medication (to get the chemicals in my brain balanced), taking time off work and getting rest, I did it.  It is essential to remember that you should follow medical advice, keep at it, and it will get better.  If you find the medication is not working well after two weeks, call the psychiatrist and communicate this with him/her.  They should help you find a suitable alternative.  I was lucky; my first batch of medication worked after two to three weeks.

 

It is equally important to seek therapy in the form of professional counselling or psychotherapy. Therapy will help you get a clearer mind and work through the issues that bring you down.  Talking to someone whose sole focus is to listen to you and help you is so good for you.  Therapists are trained to help you.  Even though I know how to help others (because of my psychological training), I could not see all the inconsistencies that I had myself.   My therapist helps me work through it, and together we work to keep me mentally healthy.

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Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

2 – Mindfulness and breathing

Mindfulness and breathing techniques are an excellent way to curb anxiety, and I find it especially helpful. I use apps on my phone that are free and give guided mindfulness sessions, and I can choose the length of each session.  I use SmilingMind  and Breathe (iPhone, Android)

These apps have various options depending on your mood, and the SmilingMind app even has one for traveling on public transport which I find useful.

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Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash

3 – Exercise

Exercise helps with depression and anxiety, and I found that true in my life.

When I exercise, my mood feels so much better for the rest of the day.  It is also a great stress reliever, and when I feel upset, I have learned to do a workout.  Even if it is just a 20-minute walk, to calm down and center myself again.  After two weeks, I started missing it if I don’t have time because it makes me feel so much better.

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Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

4 – Healthy eating habits

Getting enough nutrients in your body helps with overall health.  I noticed that it uplifts my mood because I feel good about my food choices. I haven’t always made the best decisions when it comes to eating and only recently started to look after my physical health.  The improvements are noticeable, and I find when I eat right, I feel good.  On occasion, I allow myself to have a treat, especially if I am out with a friend.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

5 – Get a hobby you enjoy

My hobby is baking.  I find it soothing, and I love sharing my creations with friends.  When I used to live back in South Africa, I loved to bake for my family, and we had something sweet every Sunday with our family lunch. I love watching my friend’s and family’s reactions – it brings me joy, and I feel useful.

 

Get yourself a hobby you enjoy.  Perhaps photography, cooking, hiking, reading, drawing or painting, fishing, it can be anything really, as long as you enjoy it and it keeps your mind busy.

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I hope you enjoyed my series of mental health topics for the month, I will be back next month with some new content.  Remember you are not alone, and you are stronger than you know.

About Andri

My name is Andri and I am passionate about encouraging others and sharing information and coping strategies through my personal experiences of having Bipolar 1 Disorder. I have a Honours degree in Psychology and am currently busy with my Masters degree in Psychology.

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