After going through a period of mental health problems, when we start feeling better it may play on our mind how long these positive improvements will last. If you have been through a period of therapy, hopefully keeping up your newfound tools and techniques will help you to maintain your progress, but there are also other things you can do to help yourself stay well.
Unfortunately there is no guarantee that you will never feel down or anxious again, it is entirely normal for our moods to fluctuate. When life gets hectic, we often forget how important it is to put ourselves first. Self-care isn’t about ignoring others needs, it’s about making sure we look after ourselves so we can reduce stress, enjoy life and have the time to be there for loved ones.
It’s important to remember that life isn’t always plain sailing, and everyone’s recovery is different, however trying not to see bad days as a complete failure or that you are back square one may help ensure these bad few days don’t turn into a bad few months.
Another thing that can help with this is to be aware of the early warning signs and triggers that may indicate changes in your mood or anxiety levels, this way you can spot things early on in order for you to take action and prevent yourself slipping back into a vicious cycle. Although we may not want to think about it, it can be helpful to have a really good think about the symptoms you were experiencing when you started feeling unwell, as these are things to be aware of coming back in the future. Remember a lapse does not necessarily mean you have relapsed, and being compassionate to ourselves when we lapse is vital.
It should be priority to look after yourself, this can including eating well, getting enough sleep, and keeping active. It can be helpful to have a list somewhere of the things that make you happy and try to ensure you include some of these into your daily routine. When you’re feeling down it can be hard to feel good about yourself so it may be useful to try to do at least one positive thing for yourself each day. Treating yourself with kindness and respect, and avoiding self-criticism can ensure you are not falling into a cycle of negativity – try treating yourself the same way you would treat a loved one.
Some tips for maintaining your wellbeing:
• Connect with people – it can help you feel valued and confident about yourself
• Writing things down, keeping journals
• Plan in a regular time to check in with your wellbeing. Ask yourself ‘how am I really feeling?’
• Practicing relaxation and mindfulness (read our blog here)
• Set yourself small goals
• Don’t dwell on things – we all make mistakes
• Do something you’re good at
• Talk about your feelings
• Accept who you are – it’s much more helpful to accept that you’re unique, than to wish you were more like someone else
• Take time out for yourself – self care is really important, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
• Get up, showered and dressed each day
• Remember to smile – research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain and reduce stress
• Maintain as much routine as possible, ensuring you are also allocating time for pleasurable activities so that life doesn’t become ‘all work and no play’
• Remember avoiding things doesn’t get rid of the problem, if something feels too overwhelming try breaking the problem down into smaller steps
• Reflect on how far you’ve come, rather than just the things you may still want to do or improve
• Take a break – whether that’s five minute pause from your desk at work, or a weekend away exploring somewhere new
• Try not to believe everything you think! If you are having negative thoughts, try to focus on the factual evidence you have to support these
• Get some fresh air – spend time in a green environment, such as your garden or local park
• Avoid drugs and alcohol – although this may help short term, in the long run they can make you feel a lot worse and create more problems
• Ask for help if you need it – none of us are superhuman, and all of us may need some extra support or advice at some point in our lives