According to the Blackdog Institute, 1 in 5 (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health illness then you’re probably already aware of how difficult it can be to find a sense of equilibrium. Even with medication and therapy, it can take time to find exactly what works best for you.
The most common self-help strategies are to exercise, meditate, eat a nutritious diet and learn how to be more present. Below we have a listed a few more techniques to add to your toolbox. Everyone is different and we all respond to things differently, so these are just some ideas. Some may work for you, others may not. Try them out and see what resonates.
In a previous blog post, we provided a few different breathing techniques that activate the body’s natural relaxation response. When we breath slowly with a focus on a longer exhale, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Essentially, just by breathing we are able to feel more connected to our body and quiet our busy minds. This is not for everyone though. Some poeple may find that focusing on their breath can actually be triggering so just be aware of how your body reacts and adjust accordingly.
Grounding with the 5 Senses
If deep breathing is not something that works for you, another effective tool is to ground yourself through all of your senses. For example, if you feel triggered by something, stop and look around the room you are in:
5 things that you can see
Take conscious notice of 5 things that are in the room you are in. Notice the textures, colors, size and shapes. Imagine taking a mental snapshot of this room right now.
4 things you can touch or feel
Take notice of your body. What can you feel? Perhaps your socks gently covering your feet, or your elbows leaning against a table.
3 things you can hear
What are the sounds around you? Perhaps the voices of people, or cars passing by.
2 things you can smell
What are the smells? Are there any?
1 thing you can taste
What can you taste? Perhaps a mint or chewing gum, or noting at all.
Going through your senses helps you stay you present and focused on what is actually happening around you, rather than the stories or thoughts in your mind.
Cognitive reframing is an effective tool that counsellors use to help a client see a certain situation a different perspective. For example, you applied for a job and found out you didn’t get it.
While it would be disappointing, especially if you feel the interview went really well. It’s not helpful to feel bad about yourself and consider yourself bad or unworthy because you didn’t get the job. Instead, you could reframe the situation: I didn’t get this particular job, but now I know how I can improve for the next one. If I keep trying I will eventually find a job, and maybe the next one will be even better.
Radical acceptance means to completely and totally accept a given situation for everything it is.
It’s a skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. To radically accept something does not mean that you are agreeing or approving with what happened. Instead, it’s simply acknowledging reality and not fighting it.
Some ways we fight reality is by saying “It shouldn’t be this way,” or “That is not fair!” or “Why me?!”. But unfortunately, fighting reality will only make things worse. Sometimes life will deliver something that we did not want and it can be painful to accept. Just like being diagnosed with a mental illness. You simply cannot change the fact that you have a mental illness. The more time you spend trying to “get rid of it” or pretending it doesn’t exist is only draining you of valuable energy. Instead, accept what is. Accept yourself and your condition. Only then can you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
It can be really hard to practice all these, and it takes a patience and persistence. You don’t need to do it alone. If you need help then find a trained professionals on our website – either online or in person- who can help you today.