10 steps to Mental Health wellness (on the outside)

Mental health recovery is a long process. Some  would perhaps say that it is one continual process / effort through life. It’s been a month and three weeks since I left the psychiatric unit where I spent two months of my life under section 2(diagnosed as BPD). Since then, I’m on new medication and a lot has changed in my life. These points below are steps in recovery that have helped me, some seem really trivial, but there you have it! There are plenty more tips out there, but from a personal perspective – here goes, I’ll share some of my top tips to wellness on the outside.

  1. The transition from hospital to the community is never easy. I’ve experienced it four times to date. Always remember that although you’ve been discharged, there’s a professional team to help you on the outside too, Home Treatment, Care-Coordinator who could be a Community Psychiatric nurse or various help-lines like Samaritans. Alternatively, if things get too much, you can always contact your GP. There’s also friends and family, if you feel comfortable reaching out to them. There are no battles that you have to fight alone.  

2) Take things slowly. The life and pace of a Psychiatric Unit is nothing like real life. Life on a unit is very different. Everything pretty much is done for you (meals, medications given to you, clothes washed, beds made) You will come out to a world that is very different. If you’re anything like me, even the pace of moving traffic exhausted me at first, that is – before I could even think of start doing every day normal things for myself. Take things slowly, don’t kick yourself if you don’t fulfil your day’s to do list. Stick with the bare basics for a while and build on those when you’re ready to do so. You will get there, just try to accept that it will take time.

3) Exercise is a great way to keep your mind and body at balance. It can be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to get up and go but it’s always worth it! When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body. I had a very inactive lifestyle before my latest hospital admission. When I was released out of hospital this time, I decided I’d do a minimum of 5k steps daily. It’s not a lot, but it’s a whole deal better than I was doing. I have also joined the gym and feel much better for it. Having a friend to go to the gym with also keeps me from blabbing excuses when it comes to getting to that part of the day. It may help you too?

 4) Self-Care. This is a difficult and sticky one. Something that very few I find, are actually comfortable to talk about. It’s a personal topic and can be really emotive. At my worst, I could not comb my hair or shower; I came back from hospital last time with matted hair and great embarrassment regarding my basic lack of grooming. It took half a bottle of hair de-tangler to sort it all out. I’d constantly be thinking before then – who could possibly want to share space with a person who looks like me? I was too low to self-care, life meant nothing, and of course my body felt less than nothing. Something as simple as buying a single self-care item for yourself, like a nice moisturiser and applying it on your skin, can help lift your mood. You are worth it, try telling your body that – when your mind is being challenging.

5)  Hug your hairy friend a little tighter. My dog has been so influential in the process of my recovery. It doesn’t matter how low I’ve felt, she’s been constantly by my side. When I’ve felt I’m falling, her little paw has always made everything much better. She’s a great companion and makes sure I get out of the house in all weathers. She can make miracles happen without saying a single word!

 6) Sleep is so important to recovery – it helps the whole body to heal. I also find that daytime naps help regulate my mood. Lack of sleep can affect our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite, and immune system. Try to develop a relaxing sleep routine and stick to it whilst being sure to wash those sleep/quilt covers regularly. For the colder nights I have a wonderful Tweedmill blanket in my favourite colour! It’s a treat – and it makes me feel comfortable.

7) Keep a diary / Tweet or Facebook – Sharing is caring. I blog and tweet and to be honest it helps me, and I’ve been told, it helps other sufferers. It helps externalise complex feelings, even if you’re writing a private diary. Everyone won’t feel comfortable doing this, but for me it works. Sharing a journey enables one to acknowledge that there are good and bad days and that you can get through both. If you’re tweeting or using Facebook – friends can also offer support or gain strength from reading about your experience. We’d never not talk about another illness like diabetes or ME, so why are we so ashamed to share mental health issues? Get writing with your held up high!

 8) Eating cleaner. Eating cleaner has helped me, and I’m no dietician or obsessive health guru. Far from it. But, I used to eat a lot of the wrong things (Fat, bad sugar and Carbs) at the wrong times of day. Everything is OK in moderation, of course, but finding out Iwas comfort eating was half my battle post-hospital. Touching base helped me realise what I eat, when and why. I’ve been empowered since starting to use My Fitness Pal App, to calorie count. You can calorie count all food and snacks and make sure that you fulfil your weight goal. Weight has always been a slight issue for me as a lot of the psychiatric medications I take are weight gain pills. The secret to keeping weight off in my case at least, is to get the metabolism going by exercising daily and eating healthy clean foods at appropriate times of day.

 9) Set yourself micro goals. I’m rather suspicious of huge goal setting as not being able to reach the required mark in some circumstances can push individuals to loose all hope and revert to old/unhelpful ways for a long period of time. Who really wants to fall from a great height after being in hospital? Not me! My answer is to set myself micro goals. A micro goal can be something as simple as clearing my bedroom, eating a certain amount of protein on a particular day to meeting a friend for coffee. It’s a small goal and usually I set myself a whole day to achieve it. I’ve found that personal growth can happen much quicker by useof micro goals, as opposed to setting over-ambitious goals.

 10) Relaxation. Whatever you do, take time out to relax every day. Maybe you relax be reading, lighting a candle, meditating, playing an instrument. Relaxation is as important in my mind as exercising and goal setting. Don’t tightly ration relaxation time either. Be as kind to yourself as you would to a friend. Relaxation can help balance the mind of fears and life stressors and can sever circles of rumination in the click of a finger. Give yourself the opportunity to relax and to grow spiritually through relaxation.

I hope these tips to wellness helped!

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