One of the initial steps on the road to mental health recovery is acceptance. Sound simple? Let me tell you, it's far from it. The notion is that we need to come to grips with our mental health issues, acknowledging them instead of brushing them under the proverbial rug. Acceptance is not about facile submission; rather, it is recognizing that mental health issues are a part of life for some of us, not a life sentence. We can compare this to having a pet. My Siamese cat, Lulu, for example, might bring me a bird as a 'gift'. I don't necessarily want it, or like it, but I must accept that it's a part of having a cat. This acceptance doesn't mean I let her run wild, but I take measures like cat-proofing our home or keeping her indoors to prevent her from harming the local bird population. Similarly, dealing with mental health issues involves understanding its existence and making a conscious effort to manage it.
Seeking Professional Help
After the acceptance phase, the next door that often opens leads to seeking professional help. While there's a myriad of self-help resources available, a qualified professional is invaluable for providing a realistic diagnosis and treatment plan. The analogy I often use to explain this is trying to fix complex machinery without any professional training. It's possible, but without understanding the intricate workings, you might end up causing more harm. Mental health is a complex mechanism of our brain and should be addressed by professionals in that field. I want to emphasize here the importance of finding a mental health professional you trust, just as you'd want trust your car mechanic who's handling your car's delicate engine.
Building a Support Network
Once you've onboarded with professional help, it's time to foster a reliable support network. My husband Nathan, who has always been my rock, comes to mind in this scenario. Simply knowing that Nathan is by my side has been an incredible source of strength for me. It's not just the profound talks we share, but also the mere knowledge of his presence in my life that reinforces my grit. But it doesn't always have to be a spouse or family; your network can include friends or people who've experiences similar journeys. Making connections with people who understand your struggle brings a form of solace that is difficult to articulate but very real and tangible.
Nourishing Your Body
Addressing physical health is an integral part of the mental health recovery process. Our bodies are akin to well-oiled machines: when all parts work in symmetry, the system runs smoothly. Way too often we ignore diet and exercise, and these are key to overall well-being. I am not suggesting to suddenly become a fitness or diet obsessed fanatic. A balanced diet and a simple stroll in the park can go a long way into integrating a sense of health into your daily routines. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and your body won't transform in one either, so take a step at a time.
Structuring your day can be a valuable tool in striving for mental health stabilization. By this, I don't mean running a rigid military-style program, but a gentle routine that includes time for work, rest, leisure and, of course, your mental health coping strategies. Mundane as it may sound, consistency usually trumps intensity. Just like we feed Lulu at the same times each day to keep her healthy and happy, so does a routine help maintain a balance in our overall wellbeing.
The Power of Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness helps bring us back to the present, discouraging destructive dwelling in the past or a hazy future. It teaches us to appreciate the reality of the current moment. For example, when I'm sat watching Lulu playing with a string, that becomes my world. It’s just me, her and the dancing string. Embracing such moments can serve as an anchor, a grounding point that helps alleviate anxiety and stress. Introducing even a few minutes of mindfulness into your daily routine can provide a calming balance.
Talking About It
Talking about our mental health issues is often therapeutic. The basic act of vocalizing our feelings diminishes the power those feelings hold over us. As I write this down, I am able to face my vulnerabilities and simultaneously hope to influence someone else's journey positively. Sharing not only helps the person facing the struggles, but it also educates and builds empathy amongst those who listen. Just like a specialty book club that exposes new ideas and viewpoints, sharing invites awareness and understanding.
Recovery is a journey, not a destination. It is important to remain patient and forgiving with yourself during the process. There will be bumps, sudden turns and some upheaval, but as you navigate through the labyrinth, remember to pause and appreciate your progress. Like leaving breadcrumbs on your way out of the enchanted forest, keep a journal, jot down milestones or simply take self-reflecting coffee break to appreciate how far you've come. With every step, just remember that moving forward, no matter how small the step, is a victory on its own.