5 Things That Improve My Mental Health On A Bad Day

Here are five thing that I find helpful when I’m struggling with my mental health. I just want to say that while these work for me, they may not be right for everyone, and that’s okay! Let me know what works for you in the comments!


1. Sleep

Dealing with a mental illness can be extremely tiring, especially if you experience the physical symptoms that come with anxiety/panic attacks. I find that having an early night, or even just a good nap, can really help me recharge and get ready to face the day. It might sound obvious to some – and I guess it kind of is – but I used to avoid going to sleep because I thought it would just make time pass quicker and I’d have to face my anxiety much sooner. In reality, being tired just heightened my anxiety and made the situation worse!

2. Saying No

When I’m struggling with my mental health, I like to give myself a few days to rest. More often than not, giving myself these few days means that I’ll have to say no to people when they want to make plans. In some cases, when I’m feeling particularly low, I’ll cancel existing plans. It’s important to put yourself first and do what you think is best for you and your mental health!

3. Finding A Distraction

While I think it is important to face your mental illness, I believe a distraction can be a good way of coping when things get particularly tough! If I’ve had a panic attack, for example, I like to give myself a bit of time to recover. This will usually include reading a book or watching Netflix. My favourite distraction is Harry Potter (book or film, I’m not fussy). I think it is the perfect form of escapism and gives me the time I need.

4. Talking About It

Even though it can be a scary prospect, talking about what you’re feeling or what you’ve experienced can really help! Whether you talk to someone in a professional capacity or a friend/family member that you trust, talking can help you process and deal with your experiences. If you aren’t ready to talk, or if you don’t think it will work for you (and trust me, you aren’t alone in thinking that), try getting your thoughts down on paper.

5. Being Kind To Myself

This is something that has taken me a long time to put into practice, but be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to need time to yourself. It’s okay to cancel plans. I recently had to take a day off work because of my mental health, and I spent days berating myself because of it. But why? I needed that day to recover and recharge so I could go on and do the job to the best of my ability; something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. Always be kind to yourself!

Anxiety

Anxiety is nausea. It’s a churning in the pit of my stomach. A tingling sensation seeps across my fingertips and through my toes. They are completely numb. I take slow, deep breaths, in and out, in and out, trying to calm the urge to vomit. My head pounds with the same rapid rhythm as my heartbeat, and I grit my teeth against the pain. Sweat starts to drip from my pores, coating every inch of my skin in moisture.

Anxiety is chaos. I can’t think straight. Every thought I have is quickly replaced with another; quick flashes of colour, sound, dread. So many thoughts try to fight for my attention. Thick black chords of jumbled words, phrases, memories, and predictions weave themselves around me. Friends making plans without me. Stumbling over words. Injections. Waiting in the airport. Driving too fast along the motorway. Public speaking. Being late for work. Being too early. Forced into awkward conversation with a stranger. Phone calls. Bad things will happen. Self-doubt. Embarrassment. Loathing.

Chaotic thoughts swirl around my brain, and I’m helpless to stop them. I brace myself against the wall in front of me, trying to place enough pressure on my palms to distract me from the onslaught of thoughts. I focus on the pain, and let it ground me in the present.


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Panic

Panic is hands in my hair, gripping so tightly my roots ache. It’s the sound of sirens; a sharp pain in my ear that I can’t escape. It’s clutching my head in my hands as everything around me heightens; sharpens. Lights are brighter, clearer, and yet black spots corrupt my vision. I can feel the blade above me, dangling precariously by a thread. Waiting. Anticipating. The knife will drop, and all I can do is wait for the sharp blade to pierce my skin.

Panic is out of my control. Someone else holds the scissors that will cut the thread and release the knife. I beg and plead, over and over, please don’t cut the string. The response is manic laughter, an insane cackle, and the threatening snip, snip, snip of the scissors.

Panic is fight or flight. My lungs burn with need. I need more oxygen, more air, or I have no chance of escaping the blade that threatens to end me. Survival mode is triggered, and every part of my mind, body and soul is fixated on escape.


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