Throughout my life, my mental health has gone up and down dramatically. At my worst, I had issues with substance abuse, self-harm and suicidal idealisation. On more than one occasion I almost followed through. Eventually I went to a doctor and was put on some antidepressants.
They saved my life. However, despite being great at keeping me alive, they were certainly not ideal. Regardless of the type I tried, I faced the same issues: nausea, headaches, lack of appetite, an inability to drive and lethargy.
After a few months of living in ambiguity, I realised what was happening and I didn’t like it. Life felt bland and muted—a side effect some people feel on anti-depressant medication, which can impact them for both the short and long term.
There had to be another way. So upon a friend’s advice, I started seeing a psychologist for regular therapy sessions (great idea) and stopped antidepressants cold turkey (horrible idea).
Thankfully I was now receiving expert help. My psychologist was able to recognise my problems and help me move towards recovery. She also worked me through the transition off medication and initiated other forms of therapy. Medication became a backup to be used if my mental state falls significantly.
Under the guidance of a GP, taking anti-depressants can be a helpful tool in recovery, but they should always be part of a holistic approach to your health. Here are seven strategies you can implement right now:
Sport and Exercise
Exercise releases positive hormones, gets the blood pumping and makes you feel good. In addition, the social aspect of a sport cannot be understated, as the friends and comradery gained can last a lifetime.
This has been the best form of therapy for me and I couldn’t recommend it more. Poetry, free writing, fiction or a simple diary, the choice is yours. Through writing, you can privately express everything, honing the words until they perfectly reflect how you feel.
Reading is one of the best forms of mindful distraction. Reading forces you to focus on the present moment, which, for the duration of the read, is in a fictional universe. Focused attention to the present moment has tremendous benefits for mental health and the escapism aspects of fiction cannot be understated.
You are what you eat, literally. Your brain is just another organ of the body and as such it is vital that it is being properly maintained. A good diet that has a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats combined with lots of water will ensure that your hardware is well maintained and working properly.
More and more people are turning to a daily meditation practice to help calm a troubled mind. There are endless methods, books and apps available, but the key here is to develop and maintain a habit. Personally I have found that mindfulness meditation focusing on the breath, mala beads or a mantra to be particularly beneficial.
Humans are social animals; we thrive on friendships and connection. Where at all possible, make the choice to hang out with your friends, even if for only a small amount of time. If there is somebody in whom you can confide, talk with them, you will be surprised what opening up to people can do.
Setting and chasing goals can be amazing, choose something that you want to accomplish and begin to work towards it. This is what life is all about, striving to achieve something. If you define your goals and display them prominently they can provide a source of drive and motivation. Just make sure they follow the SMART principle.
Professional help cannot be understated. A psychologist or counsellor is somebody who has trained and has experience helping people with similar issues to what you are feeling. Feel free to try a few different ones before settling; you need to ensure a good fit.
Zachary Phillips is a survivor of suicide and a mental health advocate. You can view his blog here. His book Under ‘The Influence – Reclaiming My Childhood’ is out now.
Do you struggle with feelings of isolation and lethargy? Would you like support to enter holistic recovery ? Contact Colleen 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how she can best help you or press book now on the online diary.