31 Incredibly Smart Mental Health Tips From People Who Have Been There

My psychologist told me to do a countdown with my five senses when I felt a panic attack coming on; notice five things I see, four things I feel, three things I hear, two things I smell, and one thing I taste. It really helps me to get back to reality and stay present.

I’ve struggled with feeling like my mental health issues aren’t really that bad and that has very much affected how and when I seek treatment. My therapist told me that no matter how mild or how severe, my depression matters and it deserves to get treated. I got told that I deserved to get help, and that changed how I view my mental health entirely.

If you were diabetic, would you think yourself weak for using insulin? Of course not. If you need psychiatric medication, it is for a very real medical condition that just happens to be in your brain, not your pancreas. Don’t feel ashamed or weak or guilty, just do what you need to keep yourself healthy.

Take your fucking meds. I often think that this muted version of myself is too boring and want to go off my medication. It always starts out great. I have more ideas and motivation, but after a few days to weeks it turns to racing thoughts that just can’t stop and my mind starts interpreting things wrong, and I get paranoid and start hearing voices confirming my paranoid delusions. I end up in the mental hospital and have to go back on the meds anyway. So I have to remember, just take the fucking meds.

I track myself: sleep, food, mood, activity, medications, physical complaints, and significant events. It helps me see connections between my mental state and other variables in my life, which lets me make choices that are better for my mental health or identify the impact of changes.

If something is wrong, admit that something is wrong, and decide that you’re going to fix it. You don’t have to know what to call the problem, or know the solution, but decide that you’re going to work to get better.

When I was first experiencing severe depression as a teenager, I confided in a friend’s mom, who said to me, “Work to be happy, not perfect.” I’m still fighting depression to this day, but those words have stuck with me for the past ten years.

I was once told … 50% of success comes from good medications, but you cannot rely on meds alone. The other 50% comes from the mental effort and positive thinking you have to do everyday, whether is it is going to counseling or being an active leader of your life choices and thoughts. It made me realize I couldn’t succeed by sitting in the backseat and just taking meds. I had to put in mental effort every day to gain success and be mentally healthy.

It’s OK to ask for help and it is beneficial to tell people exactly how you need them to comfort you (hug me, listen to me, offer advice). In the moment it’s easy to worry that their comfort won’t mean as much because you’ve told them what to do, but it is so awesome to be comforted in the way you need and most people are willing to do exactly what you ask for. It also makes them more willing to help you in the future because they know what to do.

Sometimes the best thing that I can do to help myself is to separate which thoughts are mine and which belong to anxiety or depression. For example, I might get the thought: “Why bother going to the club meeting? No one wants me there anyway.”

The first thing I do is attribute the thought to depression. It is not an organic thought of mine; it is depression mimicking my voice and whispering in my ear. This helps me to separate myself from any negative emotions the thought might give me.

I work in the mental health field and my supervisor gave me this advice. I use this at work and in my personal life to give myself permission to let go of drama and other exhausting and non-essential “emergencies” from other people.

I suffer from anxiety attacks and my psychologist told me to breathe when I begin to feel overwhelmed, and it sounds simple but it has made a huge difference and lessened the severity of my anxiety attacks. I use the app

The best piece of advice I received when I was going through a really rough time in my life was simply to feel what I was feeling; to not cover it up or try to be strong, but to just allow myself to feel. Even if it hurt, even if I didn’t want to face it, but to just let it happen. It’s a very natural and therapeutic way to cope with mental health issues, or simply anything difficult that comes your way. Allow yourself to feel.

Sometimes it’s OK to retreat to your bed and hide under your duvet. You can fight long and hard to function in the world so it’s ok to take a break. Also, it’s OK to say no every now and again. If you are finding that you have been coping with social situations a lot then you will need time to recharge your batteries.

I tell myself this after obsessing over if I’ve said something wrong in a social situation or when I mess up at work. You are just an ant, no one cares, the world has not changed because of your one mistake. It helps. Realizing that on this giant earth with billions of people, I am just a single person, like an ant on a sidewalk — gives me great relief.

My therapist suggested this. I always find it helpful to think of things from a third person perspective. So, if a friend was feeling stupid or worthless, would I say “Yeah, you are pretty stupid and worthless,” or would I say the opposite? We are often way more harsh with ourselves than we are with others.

A counselor once told me to compartmentalize: Draw a grid with several boxes and list your stressors or reason for anxiety in each box. Separating stress from school, work, relationships, etc. in a tangible way can help the overwhelming feeling of processing them all in your mind at once. Go through each box on the grid and list ways you can make the situation better, or facts that prove the issue is not worth feeling anxious about. Tackling each point of stress one at a time on paper calms me down and helps me feel more in control.

For example, I’m a server and sometimes I screw up with every one of my tables at once and it seems like the world is ending. But then, in the heat of the moment I remind myself that this feeling, and these tables, will get up and leave and this stress will be totally over. I just have to get through it 10 seconds at a time until it does.

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