8 Easy, Frugal Self-Care Tips for a Bad Mental Health Day

When you’re suffering from a mental illness like bipolar disorder, some days are worse than others. You will have days where you wake up stressed, depressed, and feeling unloved. Your brain often tells you that you’re worthless, that you don’t deserve love, and that you shouldn’t expend the energy to take care of yourself–and that no one else will either.

So how do you get through a bad mental health day?

The answer is self-care. Self-care is the act of taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. That’s it. That’s all self-care is.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Observed in May since 1949, the awareness month aims to educate families and communities about mental illnesses, and support those who struggle with them. One of the best ways to take care of yourself during a mental illness is to practice self-care.

Here are 8 easy, frugal ways to practice self-care when you’re facing a horrible day:

How to Survive a Bad Mental Health Day - CassandraStout.com

1. Get Out of the House

I know, I know, when you’re feeling down in the dumps, you don’t want to go outside. You’d rather stay in your dark, gloomy bedroom, which is far more comfortable that going outside in a winter drizzle. But trust me, getting outside, even when the sky is overcast, is crucial for your mental health.

Sunshine entering your eyes has a huge impact on your mood. Even if the sky is cloudy, you’ll be absorbing a therapeutic amount of sun–10,000 lux, or units of light. Absorbing this lux helps lower your blood pressure and engender feelings of contentment. A therapy light box uses up to 10,000 units. During the summer, the sun shines up to 30,000 lux.

During the winter, without absorbing the sun, many people suffer from the winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For more strategies on how to combat the winter blues, click here.

So getting outside, even for a brief walk, is critical to manage a bad mental health day. Even sitting in a sun puddle in front of a window can help, though walking outside also helps because you’re getting some exercise, too. Try it today.

2. Practice Hygiene

If your energy level is so low that even showering and brushing your teeth sound like onerous chores, then at least use baby wipes or a damp rag, and mouthwash. Washing your face, arms, and the back of your neck will help you feel better. And mouthwash will enable your mouth to feel fresh for a little while.

Practicing hygiene this way only takes a few minutes. You have nothing to lose by trying.

3. Do a Full-Body Check

Performing a full body-check can help you tune into your needs. Sit in a chair or lie down on your bed. Mentally examine your whole body, starting with your toes.

How do your toes feel? Are they sore? Cold? Too warm? How about your shins? How about your hips? Belly? And so on. Keep asking these questions about each of your body parts.

Next, ask yourself how you’re feeling in general. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? When is the last time you’ve eaten or drank water? Can you take a nap?

After you’re done asking questions, start addressing the problems that may have cropped up. Go feed yourself, and drink water. Take a shower if you can, or use baby wipes. Take a nap.

Doing a full-body check can help you identify issues with your body as well as solutions to those issues. Just try it.

4. Take Your Medication

This tip is more preventative than reactionary, but if you have prescribed pills and haven’t swallowed them today, make sure to take them.

If you have fast-acting anti-anxiety meds, for example, then by all means take them if you’re feeling anxious. Sleep aids can also help you take a nap or get a good night’s sleep. Don’t be afraid or ashamed that you need the extra medical help. That’s what your medication is there for.

5. Talk to Someone You Trust

Letting someone you trust know about your bad mental health day can help you feel listened to and empathized with. If the people around you understand your struggles, then you may feel less alone.

Some therapists, if you have one, offer emergency counseling sessions. For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.

If you can’t get a hold of your therapist or you don’t have one, then call or text a trusted friend. If you’re truly alone, then call a warmline or visit an online support group.

6. Appeal to Your Senses

When you’re struggling with a bad mental health day, appealing to your senses is a good way to center yourself.

There are several ways to engage your senses: burn incense or a candle (scent), eat some chocolate (taste), apply lotion to your hands and face (touch), look at a beautiful picture of a forest (sight), or listen to your favorite soothing song (hearing).

If you appeal to your senses, you can ground yourself in the present moment. It’s almost like meditation. Give it a try today.

7. Get Lost in a Book

One of my favorite ways to distract myself is to get lost in an imaginative book. Being transported to another world, reading about people who solve problems that aren’t my own, is a wonderful way to focus on something other than my sad state.

If you can concentrate on reading, try getting lost in a book today. Just pull your favorite off your bookshelf, or find a free one online.

8. Lower Your Expectations of Yourself

On a bad mental health day, just getting through the day is enough. You’re not at your best, so you’re not going to be able to be as productive as you usually are. Bid goodbye to guilt about not being on the go.

Our capitalistic societies (in the US especially) expect us to perform like cogs in the machine. But you are human, and you struggle with a mental illness. You are enough just the way you are.

Final Thoughts

Everyone suffers from a bad mental health day from time to time. These 8 tips can’t cure a mental health day, but may be able to help you manage one. If you can only manage one, that’s okay.

Just pick your favorite off the list, one you can handle, and try it today.

I wish you well on your journey.

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8 Frugal, Easy Tips for a Bad Mental Health Day - Cassandrastout.com

 

 

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How to Start Seeing a Therapist

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A picture of a man in a white doctor’s coat. Credit to flickr.com user Tyler Byber. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

A version of this post first appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation Website, found here.

Seeing a therapist can be enormously helpful in sorting out issues you may have in your life. You can also develop coping skills in therapy to deal with serious problems, or just the less-serious issues of everyday life.

But how do you start searching for a therapist? Read on to find the solution.

Facts to Keep in Mind During Your Search

There are a few things to keep in mind before you start your search for a therapist:

  • You need to find someone you feel comfortable talking to. No therapist worth his or her salt will be offended if you decide that your relationship with him or her isn’t working out. Don’t stick around if you need to move on.
  • Secondly, if you want medication, you’ll need to see a licensed psychiatrist or nurse practitioner who is allowed to prescribe for you. You may encounter a combination therapist-psychiatrist, but those are a rare and dying breed. More likely, you’ll hire a treatment team to take care of all your needs. You don’t need to factor this into your search for a therapist, but if you need meds, you’ll have to find someone other than your therapist who can prescribe for you.
  • Third, you will find that there are all sorts of acronyms following the names of various therapists. There are Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs), Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), and Doctors of Psychology (Psy.Ds.), among others. Don’t be put off by the variety in titles. Rest assured that your level of care will be similar despite the different acronyms. Just make sure your therapist is licensed. Look up the meanings of some of these acronyms. It may help you narrow your search.

Step 1: Figure out What You Want and Need in a Therapist

Do you want a female therapist? Maybe someone Christian? Someone with experience with elder care? Sometimes therapists will list their specialties on their office websites, but it’s not difficult to ask before you see them a question like whether they have experience with patients with bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety.

Next, figure out what you need, not just want, which can be more difficult to pin down. Do you need someone who approaches you with tough love, or someone who indulges you a little? Do you need assignments out of the office? Do you need a shoulder to cry on?

Make separate lists of your needs and wants, and reflect on them at your first appointment, to see if the therapist you’ve chosen is meeting most of your needs and some of your wants.

Step 2: Figure Out How Much Care You Can Afford

Some mental health counselors take insurance, but many will require payment out-of-pocket. Fortunately, most therapists charge on a sliding scale, which means they will consider your ability to pay in determining the price. Determine how much you can afford to pay per month, and how many sessions you think you need. Your budget will determine what therapists you’ll think about using. Keep in mind that mental health is crucial for your day-to-day functioning, and a therapist should be able to help. If you can’t afford a therapist, then that will add strife, not help.

Step 3: Start Searching

There are several ways to find a therapist once you’re ready to search. First, ask for recommendations from your family and friends, provided they’re supportive of your mental health journey.  Next, ask for a referral from your doctor, if you have one, and your insurance company–they’ll send lists. Searching online is also an option. GoodTherapy.org allows you to search by location.

Step 4: Prepare for the First Appointment

Once you’ve done the research, it’s time to make appointments. If you can, try to vet more than one therapist to cover the bases of your wants and needs. Prepare for the first appointment(s) by writing down a few questions to consider when meeting with your therapist:

  • Do I feel comfortable with this therapist? Can I make a relationship with him or her?
  • Does he or she ask me enough questions?
  • Has my therapist asked me what my goals are?
  • Does my therapist meet my wants and needs?

And so on. Finding a therapist takes time and dedication, but the results are worth it. If you can establish a relationship with your therapist, then you can address the problems which are plaguing you.

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Which Mental Health Professional Should You Use?

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Credit to flickr.com user Jonas Bengtsson. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Mental health professionals come in all types. When making the decision as to which doctor to start a treatment plan with, keep in mind that you can try several–as many as you can afford, that is. Your primary care physician can refer you to one or many of these mental health professionals.

 

Psychiatrist

A doctor trained in the medical field of psychiatry, including the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. The most important job of a psychiatrist is to prescribe medication for you. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors. You will likely be referred to a psychiatrist at least once in your mental healthcare journey.

Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist

Just like it says on the tin, a child/adolescent psychiatrist is a medical doctor specifically trained to treat mental illnesses or behavioral problems in children. These professionals can and will prescribe medication.

Psychologist

A psychologist is a mental health professional with a doctoral degree in psychology who can diagnose and treat mental illnesses with courses of therapy. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists do not prescribe medication. There are two forms of psychology: applied psychology, which includes “practitioners,” and research-oriented psychology, which includes “scientists.” Psychologists are trained as researchers and practitioners.

Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker is a counselor with a master’s degree in social work who provides individual and group counseling. The social workers have three years or more of supervised experience. They do not prescribe medication.

Licensed Professional Counselor

A licensed professional counselor (LPC) is a counselor with a master’s degree in psychology and several years of supervised experience who offers individual and group counseling. In the U.S., the title varies by state, but the most common next to LPC is licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). The counselors do not prescribe medication.

Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor

A certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor is a mental health professional with specific training in substance abuse treatment. The counselor can provide individual and group counseling. The counselor does not prescribe medication.

Marital and Family Therapist

Marital and family therapists are professionals specializing in relationships between families, or couples. The therapists emphasize familial relationships as important to consider for your mental health. The counselors have master’s degrees in psychology and related fields, and do not prescribe medication.

Several types of mental health professionals are available to help you. These are just a few of them. A lot of the counselors seem interchangeable, but they all have different approaches, tailored to you.

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What Types of Therapies Are Right For You?

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Credit to flickr.com user John Graham. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Therapy is a crucial part of treatment. There are several different types of therapies that your mental health professional may encourage you to take.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of psychotherapy, and is often preferred by many mental health professionals. During CBT, you work with a therapist to challenge negative thinking and develop constructive beliefs. That’s the cognitive part. The behavioral part helps you act on these beliefs.

CBT can be conducted one-on-one, or along with family, or with other people who have similar issues in a group setting. During CBT, you will learn about your mental illness and practice relaxation techniques and coping methods.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy focuses on the relationships you have with others, being based on the principle that relationships affect your moods. IPT also helps you express your emotions in healthy manners. The therapy is highly structured, and intended to finish in 12–16 weeks. IPT and CBT are the only therapies that are mandated for mental health professionals to be trained in.

Family Therapy

Family therapy goes by many names. To wit: it’s referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling. The driving force behind family therapy is the thought that involving family members benefits patients. People undergoing the therapy learn how to communicate with each other and solve problems.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy operates on the principle that you have unconscious habits and emotions which developed early in life and cause difficulties in daily functioning. The therapy focuses on revealing and resolving these unconscious problems. Dream interpretation and free association are often used. This therapy is a treatment of choice for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but largely used to treat personality disorders.

Art Therapy

Art therapy uses art such as music and painting to help you resolve problems and reduce stress. Art therapists will work with you to help tease out messages from your art. They are trained in artistic practices and psychological theory. You do not need to be artistically talented or trained to make use of art therapy.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is just as it sounds: education about your mental illness from a mental health professional. Psychoeducation can occur in a one-on-one setting or a group session, where several people are informed about their illnesses at once. Family members can also benefit from learning about your mental health condition, and are encouraged to sit in on psychoeducation sessions.

There are several therapies out there, and not every therapy works for every person. Stick with your therapy at first, to see if it works, and if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try another.

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