Mental Health Tips and Tricks
I'm sure you've heard the deal about "if you have a mental health problem, go see a therapist." By all means, do that. But if for whatever reason you can't see one, you might like to try out this stuff too. Also note: be very careful about who you see. I've been to a few too many therapists (actually all of the therapists I saw did exactly this) who literally let me talk for a whole hour, then when I asked them what to do about it, said "see you next week." Scams, scams, scams.
Stress Relief Section
- There is a lot of unhealthy peer pressure. I hope you get to the point where you don't just think but KNOW that "I can be whatever I want. I can be whoever I want." The point where you can look at yourself in the mirror and say: "I may not like you, but I'll do right by you." The predominant social trend these days is to tear down everyone different from you, and build up those similar to you, and where has it gotten us? Why do so many not want high school to ever end? That isn't freedom. Many people still have a terror of displeasing their parents/peers/significant others and wind up avoiding everything they like as a result. The challenge, and the way to positive change, is to look those feelings and traumas in the eye, feel them, and do the uncomfortable but liked things anyway.
- I found a bunch of mental health apps on the NHS UK website here. If you have an iPhone or an Android, check them out, most of them are free. If you don't, I'm sorry, I don't know of a good replacement on PC, but I'm still looking. There is currently a Netflix show called Headspace which is excellent for learning meditation, by the way. I hear there's an app of it too.
- To learn a bit about natural approaches to mental health problems, check out Balancing Brain Chemistry. This is cutting-edge stuff and it has far fewer side effects than most standard psychiatric medications, but I would recommend that you screen any potential supplement with a good M.D. before taking anything. If, however, your M.D. writes off things like l-tyrosine supplements as "dangerous," and thinks that sertraline is "less dangerous," get a new doctor.
- A year and a half ago I'd have recommended you visit Single Dad Laughing's blog at Danoah but he took it down, so if you have the dough, you could buy the Single Dad Laughing book or other stuff written by Dan Pearce. In the meantime, you can read through his quotes, here, or the archives of John Pavlovitz and it can help with mental health. link out
- Buy this book: When Panic Attacks by David Burns, M.D. Work through the exercises. It's far cheaper than therapy and dare I say, probably more effective. Get this book before you run into mental health issues because all the tools it teaches you will help you for life. Worth its weight in gold. Other books I recommend for helping with mental health include Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, How To Be You by Jeffrey Marsh, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, and Un*^&! Your Brain by Faith G. Harper. That said, the one by David Burns is the best of the lot. I personally also like Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach for helping to appreciate daily life, but only recommend the first two chapters (January and February) unless you want unnecessary talk about Goddess religion and magic, which really doesn't belong in there tbh.
- I am slowly collecting more books for mental health right now. The latest find is The World According to Mr. Rogers. It's good.
- If you have Simple Abundance or The Daily Stoic, a really good trick for using them is actually to team them up with a journal and use that day's meditation as a journaling prompt. With Simple Abundance in particular it can help you get your life on track. It's awesome!
- Playing video or handheld games of any kind can actually help a lot with mental health. This is probably partially due to improved emotional resilience, when you encounter failure repeatedly in games but learn how to get over your frustration and enjoy it anyway. Old-fashioned games like chess and cards are fine too if you like them.
- If religion or spirituality is a comfort to you, then delve into it, but be aware that it is a double-edged sword no matter which religion you're in. It can improve your mental health or it can detract from it depending on what you're doing. Introspect on it often and be sure you aren't indulging in cognitive dissonance or projecting on others. Above all hypocrisy and denial ruin lives and make good religions into destructive wrecks.
- There are several threads on Buzzfeed and Reddit asking people what the best thing they learned in therapy was. These are sometimes helpful.
- Sometimes, Buzzfeed comes through with useful stuff. Such as relationship advice from couples counselors Buzzfeed and advice for women Buzzfeed
- Several manga are actually helpful for improving emotional resilience and understanding mental health. Here are a few that helped me and which might also help you, or at least just keep you entertained: Sailor Moon, Full Moon Wo Sagashite, Otomen, Eyeshield 21, Ouran High School Host Club, and Rurouni Kenshin - with the caveat that after #163 it is really tough to read if you have traumas so keep someone next to you if you do so.
- Some TV shows are helpful for mental health. Believe it or not, Star Trek: The Original Series is one of them. So is Steven Universe and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
- Beware any kind of ideology that insists you are not 'a special snowflake' and that you're really not that different from everyone else; that fundamentally we are all exactly the same inside. I grew up in a place where everyone believed that and they were miserable, bored, and most of them committed all kinds of crimes that never got reported. This kind of belief is very common in Communist or Fascist places and it is used to force the population into a herd mentality. Pros: you get social support. Cons: you completely forget that it's only you experiencing your life, always try to conform to what you think the 'normal, average person' is like (which btw doesn't exist), constantly live in terror of what your masters aka Others would think, have absolutely zero freedom, and live in a zombified state! You'll essentially lose your soul if you buy into it. If you think you might have fallen into that trap, then your first step is to formulate your own thoughts completely on your own. Daydream. Ask questions. Introspect. In particular the "Get to know yourseeeelf" exercise in How To Be You by Jeffrey Marsh is helpful here. The answers are within you and yes - you are unique, you are special. You wouldn't say a beloved dog or cat was just like another of its kind and therefore replaceable, like a gear in a machine, so you shouldn't say that crap about yourself.
- The Sweet Potato Queens series and the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series of books will definitely keep you entertained if you need something fluffy and lighthearted. Other good recommendations include Dave Barry and Stanislaw Lem. If you just have access to internet, then raid the meme hoard.
- Journal each day, even if it's a little. That being said, make sure you keep a goal in mind for each journaling session: that of improving your mental health. The classic approach to using a diary is to just write down whatever you feel, and maybe that works for some, but pay close attention to what you put in there. It should help you, whatever it is. For instance, you could write down whatever traumas you've experienced and a plan for how to overcome them. You could write down what kind of self-esteem you have, why, and your plan to improve it. Don't just let yourself wallow in your feelings with that journal - make a plan for improving your mental health and improve it over time.
- A very wise person I once knew suggested going for a very long motorcycle ride to get over traumas. In my experience this helps on two levels: 1. it's a kind of meditation that requires focus and awareness 2. it involves long-distance travel. Travel is an excellent way of freeing your mind from whatever cycle it's been locked in. If you can't physically travel, travel with your mind to brand new paradigms, new ideas, new ways of thinking. Delve into topics you've always wanted to learn, and delve deep. Go so far into a new topic that you get lost in it. In losing yourself you often find yourself.
- Meditate daily. Even if it's just for 2 minutes, the benefits stack over time. You don't have to be in any particular position, although with your back straight while sitting up in a chair, hands resting palms down on your legs, is probably the easiest way to focus. It's simple. Close your eyes, and focus on one of the following: continually telling yourself to "relax" while willing your thoughts to still themselves until there is peace and silence - repeating a word mentally to yourself such as "peace" - focusing on the sensation of breath flowing on the area beneath your nose - imagine literally any kind of environment that you like and imagine yourself there; it can be a place from your past, one you want in your future, or an imaginary place that you come up with just to mentally visit
- Make a list of things that help with your mental health; that help you cope with things in a healthy way; and stick it somewhere visible, like by taping it to the wall or something. Remind yourself to go actually DO something from the list whenever you feel mentally unwell!
- Other helpful lists to tack up on a wall: a list of life goals (I used the inside of my closet door so I'd see it every morning and evening), a detailed description of how you want your life to look in five years, a list of things you love and want to bring more of into your life, the most awesome things that could possibly happen this year and in the future. The trick here is to ignore "being realistic" and dream big, without any limits. You'll surprise yourself. I promise.
- If you have access to music, then make yourself playlists to combat bad moods and for whatever else you like. Music is really underrated for mental health.
- Talk to yourself in the mirror. Give yourself a pep talk. Even if all you say is "I love you. You're great. You got this." Give yourself genuine compliments so you actually believe them.
- Consider this: Perhaps you can decorate your stuff and your clothes. Kids often do this and it seems to work out okay to boost their mood; perhaps it'll help you feel a little better. If it works then maybe make it a habit.
- Doing art or some kind of creative form of self-expression is extremely important for keeping an even keel. People say art is not important. They lie.
- Make a point of giving yourself gifts. Free time, your favorite hobby, a monthly frivolous spending budget, treating yourself. Get in the habit.
- If you happen to have any health issues that affect your mental state in any way, write down exactly how they do that, and if it happens on some kind of schedule, write that down too. That way you can plan ahead for reducing the impact of these things.
- Do your best to get a support team going for yourself. If you've been scared to confide in someone you trust with your life anyway, then you'd better tell them what's going on with your mind because how else can they help you? They want to help. Believe me. Fill them in and keep them in the loop, especially about any mental conditions you might have and what they can do to make it easier on you, and don't forget to return the favor. Underrated.
- Educate yourself about any mental or physical health conditions you have. If you're attempting to help someone else with these then educate yourself on their conditions too.
- If you have PTSD, check this out: PTSD section
- If you have anorexia, this might sound weird, but try watching Scooby-Doo a lot while you eat.
- If you've lost contact with people who are important to you, now is the time to fix that.
- Work your way through any self-help books you find that actually help you. The ones mentioned above are my favorites but any book can be considered a self-help book if it works for you. Carry it around if you like.
- Whenever you get the impulse to deny yourself something that wouldn't cause any harm to give yourself, make a point of NOT denying yourself that thing!
- You might want to jot down what you did each day at the end of it, what you ate, and how you felt, so that you can figure out what is helping you and what is not. This also helps if you have any unrealistic expectations of yourself, i.e. "I didn't do enough today!"
- Consider making some collections, or single item helpers, to help you. For instance, jot down a quote each day or a piece of wisdom each day that you figure out for yourself, and then later compile them into a notebook. Writing down affirmations that actually help you when you're spiraling can help you beat your demons in the heat of the moment. You can make playlists for various activities, make book collections to help you with various moods, ditto for movies and anime, comic books and manga. The key is knowing that if it works for you, it's nice to keep it and if it doesn't, fugheddaboudit. With any or all of these things, you can surround yourself with them to make it interactive: frame quotes and put them on the wall, put up pictures and posters that uplift you, even if you have a favorite color try wearing it more often. Anything goes here, just focus on what makes you happy and bring more of that into your daily life. Try to surround yourself with positive programming for your brain. It is kind of like a computer, in some ways. When you come across something that is helpful for your mental state, try decorating with it or putting reminders of it in places you can't miss.
- Read fiction. Anything you like, anything at all that expands your mind and gives you new perspectives. In my experience, some books in particular are helpful for mental health, especially when you're going through something, mainly because they help you take your mind off things. Here's a couple I like but try stuff on your own: Ender's Game, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and What Do You Do With A Drawbridge. And here's a list of childhood favorite books Goodreads
- Be honest with yourself about how introverted or extroverted you are, and consider: no matter how extroverted, it's probably a good idea to have alone time every day where you get to goof off or be weird completely by yourself. And total isolation can drive you crazy too if you aren't into that.
- If you are concerned about all the bad stuff going on, do what you can to add to the "positivity pool," even if all you can do is one small action. Making even one person smile in Final Boss 2020 is a big deal.
- Find a form of exercise that works for you. Ideally, find one that you enjoy. There are so many different resources online and especially on Youtube for staying fit in quarantine, and exercise is super important for mental health.
- A couple resources online for learning more about mental health include Psych2Go Youtube Channel. Check them out.
- Texting JOIN to 37352 puts you in touch with an organization that links you up to frontline workers, people in isolation, and other humans from around the world. You say which of these you are, your first name and country of origin, send out a message of support, and you get one in return.
- I'm going to make us a music with positive vibes playlist, possibly also on Spotify. It's currently smol. Will add more. Music Playlists
- Remember to do whatever the heck YOU want whenever you get the chance. No one else is living your life, you know.
I really hope this helps. These are tough times for many right now.