August 29, 2022
As someone who struggles with a mental health disorder, I must confess that every day isn’t perfect. There are days when my anxiety is kicked into high gear, and though I try to go over the best practices in coping and all the steps I’ve learnt during my therapy sessions, my brain only seems to want to process the “what nots”.
So we don’t confuse my “what nots” with the piece of furniture you had to polish growing up, let me clarify. My what nots, simply put, are a list of things that don’t positively impact my mental health. Some of them, while they make things worse, are patterns and behaviour that come naturally but should be avoided entirely.
Before I share my list I want to put disclaimer to say that, while I have been able to identify these as the things that are not helpful to me, some people may find that they work for them. As always, I recommend that anyone struggling with their mental health speak to a professional to help identify what are the most healthy and helpful coping mechanisms they can employ.
Now, let’s get into the list of what not to do:
This may be a bit controversial because it’s a societal norm, but self-medicating to cope with a mental illness can lead to serious issues. Self-medicating may give you temporary relief, but misusing drugs and alcohol can result in dependence, which is a whole other problem that you don’t want on your plate. Personally, I don’t recommend that anyone take drugs of any kind, unless prescribed by a medical professional, and if you do drink, do so responsibly.
Ignore your disorder
I ignored my mental health challenges for quite some time and wished them away. Surprise, surprise, they went nowhere. The urge to ignore or avoid things that make you uncomfortable is generally human, but when it comes to your mental health the sooner you handle it, the better you will feel and the faster you will be able to heal.
If you struggle with anxiety, there will be moments when you feel overwhelmed with thoughts and start experiencing physical manifestations of your anxiety. This can feel like chest pains, chest tightness, a racing heart rate, and other frightening experiences. In those moments, though it will feel like the hardest thing, it’s important not to panic. Panicking will only make you feel worst. In the moments when you feel out of control and overwhelmed, try to maintain a sense of calm. Exercises such as deep breathing can help slow your thoughts and bring you back to centre.
Discredit your progress
Some days will be great, some days will just be good, and some days will be pretty hard. On the harder days, it’s important not to forget the great days or slip into a downward spiral. This one is a personal note to myself, all the progress you have made will not been undone because you are experiencing a momentary setback. On the more difficult days, give yourself a little extra love, be more aggressive with your self-soothing techniques and remember that you are strong and will overcome this hurdle.
One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is that your mental disorder will not suddenly go away. You will have to learn how to manage it and with tools you will learn from your therapist and from your own research and experience, you can manage it very well. Remember to stay clear of the what nots and maintain your healthy coping habits. All the best!
Sereta Thompson is a public relations professional and mental health advocate. She can be contacted at s[email protected]. Follow her on Instagram @ShadesOfSerri
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