By Rachael Lamb
This isn’t the be all and end all of staying well as I know different things work for different people and also what works for you sometimes may not at others so do go back to things you have tried before even if it didn’t help in other times because every day, every situation is different.
First I would just like to say that I am mentally ill, I have had therapies, counselling , lots of medications, hospital stays and so much discrimination because of this. Over the years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm , anxiety and PTSD and I have found over this time some things that help me also help others.
Two years ago, I was talking with my peer support worker and she mentioned needing ideas for a new occupational therapy group, so I sat and reeled off some ideas; she wrote them down and a week or so later rang and said she had some other ideas from another service user and our ideas were going to make a group which would run for 12 weeks via the mental health team and I was asked to help facilitate this. I felt like finally something good had come of my struggles.
The group ran and it was so popular than have run it 3 times a year since and are also sharing the 12 week group on a website for professionals in the UK so they too can run the groups.
Everything is low cost / free . I will gladly share details on a separate blog but for now I wanted you to know a bit of my background and ideas for mental health.
Anyway here are some tips I have found help me to stay ‘well’
1. Have a daily planner
If you are really struggling to prompt yourself to do even the minimum of tasks like self care, taking meds , washing , eating etc , you can buy a planner to put on the wall.
Fill it leaving slots so its not overwhelming. Once you get into the routine of doing the self care stuff you can add other things like going for a walk or gardening or something you enjoy or will get you out of the house. I have a weekly planner now as my days are going OK so I have not been using it but if I feel myself sliding I will write up what I’m doing for the week and I consult it in the mornings it helps to ease stress and anxiety.
I use a zip up bag for inside my bag which is my go to area for when I’m out and about, I use the bus a lot so having things to help calm me or keep me from fidgeting and getting over anxious helps.
I have the following below in my bag, but you can put in anything you think would help you while out and about, or even have it in your living room or bedroom though I have a bigger selection of things for use in situations at home where I am anxious.
- Hair clip to open and shut so simple but the motions helps
- Roll on perfume , the scent helps me to concentrate on the here and now of I find myself getting distracted in a day dream
- Fiddle toys, there are lots on the market and I find the cube one helps me to relax and stop my hands shaking
- Lavender balm, lavender is known for its relaxing scent.
- Lip balm , dry lips are the worst when anxious
- Boiled sweets/mints to ease dry mouth
- Little charms that I have been given , these remind me of happy memories
- Hair brush and hairbands , I sweat a lot due to anxiety and there’s nothing worse than a hairband breaking so knowing I have spares and a brush to sort out my sweaty hair helps
- Mobile phone emergency charger , I use my phone all the time when out and it helps to know my battery can be charged when needed. I have apps and the radio which help a lot.
- Bach’s rescue remedy drops , I’m not sure if they really help but I use them sometimes
- Promethazine ( I am prescribed this and can take it throughout the day if needed)
- Pen and small note pad, so I can doodle or write when needed
- Shiny stones , because they look pretty and are smooth its a great sensory tool.
3. Find a group
Even if it is online where you can talk to others going through similar things and it is good to help others and also talk to others when you aren’t feeling so great.
4. Have a bath or shower
I know we can get dictated to by mental health professionals to keep doing the basics but I struggled for a long time to have a bath and relax , now I found some lovely bath products and candles can really help if I’m stressed out .
5. Try and go for a walk
Even if it is a short 5/10 minute walk each day , I used to roll my eyes and say whatever but even a short time outside can break a bad mood and help move the day forwards.
I’m not going to say eat healthy eat your five a day but it is important that you eat ( or drink) at low points I made sure I had lots of smoothies in so I was getting some goodness , when you are on medication it is key to having something in your stomach.
Eat little and often if you can’t face or prepare a meal. Toast , porridge, yoghurt etc , make a snack plate and includestgubgs that you fancy to encourage yourself.
Never say no to treats!
7. Engage with support
Whether you can’t reach for the support of mental health teams or you find that you don’t get listened to, even if you have a good friend, they will listen or help you keep distracted go out for coffee/tea and relax.
I must say at this point if you do have a named care co ordinator or mental health nurse do ask for another if you don’t feel they are helping or don’t understand you. If your relationship with them is not a good one at the times to need to speak to someone you are more unlikely to call if you don’t get on well.
I had to do this myself recently and although it made my anxiety increase it has worked out better for me in the long run as I now have a care co ordinator who listens
8. Connect with free services who have trained volunteers.
I stumbled upon a web service chat with trained volunteers called mental health matters.
They operate an online chat usually after the telephone line has finished late at night usually around 10.30/11pm. I found talking online really helped. Sometimes I just could not verbally get the words out and would seek support and guidance and they gave me the courage I needed when I really needed to get help.
You are never truly alone.
Mental health lies to you to isolate you and it can consume you but by following your own path you can be well. It’s not a recovery , I don’t think you ever truly are recovered from mental illness but that as in life you have the ups and downs the highs and lows.
Never be ashamed of being you, you are beautiful.
** If you need to seek support in a crisis please try and reach out. **
You can call the Samaritans just to chat, you do not have to be suicidal you can just need someone to listen and vent to and it’s completely confidential.
The number is 116 123 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org although a reply may take a little while.