tips to be at the top of your mental health game (or, things to try if you don’t want to use medication)
Sorry for being gone last month. But I’m back and continuing our series on mental health. It’s not directly related to Mormonism, but it is related to feminism, because we should be in control of our bodies and our medical decisions.
I thought it would be useful to talk about what to do if you’re feeling a little down. Not so down that you can’t get out of bed, but getting out of bed takes more work than it used to for reasons you can’t identify. Not so bad that you think you need to see a doctor, but enough to bother you.
(Please note: these aren’t earth-shattering. But if you’re feeling a little lost and this is your first foray in these waters, these suggestions are good to know.)
Many people are averse to taking medications. I think medications can be quite helpful, but they aren’t always necessary. Here are some things within your control:
• Get eight hours of sleep, and get a regular eight hours. Try not to go to bed at 1 am one night, 9pm the next night, and 11pm after that. It’s good for your body and your brain to get into a routine schedule.
• The 30 minutes before you go to bed, try to avoid screens. I know that is easier said than done. Reading a book, or talking to your roommate, or writing, makes the transition to sleep better. Staring at a screen keeps your mind alert, even when you are tired.
• Eat fruits and vegetables. Your body actually does feel better with the right nutrients. When I first started suffering with mental illness, I had physical symptoms in my stomach. I went through a long process of trying different diets to see if that was the cause. It wasn’t – but it was important to rule that out. Eating right helps your body to feel better.
• Exercise. Your brain is happier after you’ve move around. There is enough science (http://nyti.ms/1gHeY38) that suggests that besides being good for your brain in a memory and cognition way, exercise can lift your mood. If you want to avoid drugs, try walking/biking/playing soccer more. It doesn’t have to be much. Go for a walk after work/school for 20 minutes – everything helps.
• Put motivational quotes (“You can do it!” “I am fantastic!”) where you’ll see them, or set an alarm to go off reminding you of it. Or ask a friend (or home teacher, or visiting teacher, to remind text you a nice note during the day).
• If the week is stressful, schedule a time to do something fun. Decide that Friday is the day you will sleep in/get a pedicure/go out for ice cream/watch a new movie/buy a new book/etc. It helps make the rest of the week easier.
If you’re doing all of these things and it life still seems unusually difficult for a number of weeks, it is likely time to talk with someone. Here are some symptoms, which, if they persist for more than two weeks, or take up most of your time, you should reach out for help:
• Feeling sad or “empty”
• Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
• Loss of interest in favorite activities
• Feeling very tired
• Not being able to concentrate or remember details
• Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
• Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
• Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.
• Symptoms clustering around excessive, irrational fear and dread, including avoidance of more typical behaviors.
As always, if you want to hurt yourself or kill yourself, or are in other immediate danger, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) Next month: Depression. What causes it, types of depression, ways to treat it. If you have a story you would like to submit, or other opinions, please feel free to reach out. Email me, as always, if you have questions or concerns or need someone to talk to. You are not alone. email@example.com
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