What do you do to encourage your mental health?

I’ve battled with depression for over half of my life, therefore maintaining my mental health is incredibly important to me.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that:

  • Depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.
  • Fewer than 25 % of those affected have access to effective treatments.

These numbers are disturbing, so with the increasing prevalence of depression in society, how one deals with their mental health is becoming integral to daily living. I’ve tried a whole load of things to help me get through, some previously tried and tested, some things that worked, some that failed dismally.

Here are some things I’ve done, or presently do, to help maintain a balance:

  • Burn incense and natural oils when at home. I find certain fragrances such as Sandalwood, Musk and Lavender are relaxing.
  • Listen to music. Late last year I started listening to jazz and chants. I also started to rediscover some of the music I used to listen to – but had stopped through sheer laziness. I find it helps to take the edge off.
  • Don’t take drugs. Most are a depressant – after the initial buzz and high are followed by the lowest of the low. I learn’t this – not by choice – one night after my drink was spiked whilst out with friends at a club. I have never felt so low before in my life then I did after that night. The memory loss did not help things. It took me over a week to start feeling normal again.
  • Get a pet. Before doing so though, you need to realise it is a commitment, and they do require love and care. My dog was given to me as a present, and at times dragging myself out of the house to take her for a walk has been hard, but without her I would have been lost.
  • Write lists. This helps to get stuff out of your head and onto paper. I have many journals with copious amounts of lists on all kinds of things from what makes me happy, to what I want to do in life, to why I hated my job or felt so sad. This is also good to look back on years later – to see how far you have progressed, or to really ‘see’ your patterns of thinking throughout the years.
  • Allow yourself to rest. I have moved between the extremes. I have either rested too much, or I have gone like a bull at a gate, and ended up exhausted, sick and depressed. Allow yourself time to recoup, but try not to just sleep your life away. It’s a very easy habit to slip into.
  • Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the more relaxed, slower paced yoga style focussing on relaxation and breathing. I didn’t actually expect to be able to relax, as I had tried other types of yoga such as Ashtanga, and ended up stressed! But alas! The effects from Hatha Yoga were instantaneous, and I really must take it up again.
  • Say no. I still struggle with this, but you must learn to say no, and realise that it is okay to do so. Dealing with the guilt you feel from doing it is not easy, but you must remember that if you are exhausted, you are really no good to anyone (Note to self).
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. I should be saying ‘don’t drink alcohol’, but I can’t do that as a few drinks relax me. You just need to remember to not let it become a habit, and to avoid binge drinking, as like drugs, the high is followed by a real low.
  • Exercise. Easier said than done when you are sad, tired and frustrated. I struggle with this as I’m either all of nothing. I become obsessed with something, such as weight training at the gym, but then I become so reliant on it for the way it makes me feel, that it turns into a type of addiction. And then I force myself to stop. And then I just don’t exercise.
  • Get out and spend time with friends and family. Sometimes it takes a lot to get out, but when you do it’s worth it. Even if you just sit in silence with someone. Knowing they are just there really helps.
  • Read. There is a wealth of literature on depression, on self-help, on writing and art therapy to help with depression, and of course comedic fiction, or really whatever you fancy reading. It takes your mind off of the seemingly never-ending internal battle within your mind.
  • Talk to a professional. You may need to try a few first – councillors, psychologists, your GP, and so on, but once you find the right person, major breakthroughs can be made. Most countries have organisations or initiatives that can help with the cost these days also – so hit google and don’t let money, or the lack of, be an excuse.
  • Take anti-depressants. From experience you are either pro or con anti-depressants. I have moved between the two, but as someone explained to me once, it’s like taking medication for diabetes, or cholesterol. Sometimes you just need to do it to have a better quality of life. It’s important to note here that not all types will agree with you. I took Zoloft many years ago, and weened myself off of it as the side-effects freaked me out. I managed okay for a few years, but then ended up in the lowest of the low of my depressive states, and after trying everything – diet, counseling, exercise, mediation, Pilates, yoga, and so on, I realised I could not do it myself anymore. After being open and honest with my doctor of years, we decided to try Luvox (Movox) and thankfully it has helped dramatically. The thought of possibly being on them for the rest of my life terrifies me when I think about it, but I would rather take a pill every day, then not live.

The important thing to note is that these may not work for you. Just because it works for someone, does not mean it will translate to others easily. It’s a matter of trying, and then watching yourself closely to see what the effects are.

It is also important to stress that there is nothing wrong with seeking help from medical practitioners, or in taking medication to ease things. From personal experience I have gone through this. I have avoided speaking to my doctor or seeing a psychologist, and battled with the thoughts of taking anti-depressants. But, sometimes that added assistance helps. It doesn’t mean you are a lesser human being. It just means that you are human.

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29 thoughts on “What do you do to encourage your mental health?

  1. Janine
    I admire you so much for your honesty and courage in sharing this of yourself.
    I too, have battled depression for many many years and have tried many of the things that you too have. For me, having my pets has been a life saver as too has medication, without it I plunge into a black hole that I cant get out of. I hate taking my tablets, and like you liken it to medication for diabetes or cholesterol. But what it does is allows me to have a life, a quality of life that is meaningful for me.
    Thanks so much for sharing
    Maureen

    • Oh Maureen, It is so great to hear someone else who feels like me (even though I am not happy to know that you are going through this too as I wouldn’t wish this on anyone) and to read what you have written. Thank you for your kind words. Do keep in touch beyond the TLC blogging club. I must go to sleep – there is so much I want to say but my brain has now started to shut down. Take care x

  2. Such an honest and thorough post, Janine. I’ve also implemented many of these methods at one point or another and I can especially identify with your all-or-nothing approach to exercise. I’m on the “nothing” wave at the moment. =P

    My 2 cents (or more): I like taking baths to relax and clear my mind. Spurts of meditation also help. When it comes to making lists, I would also add free-writing to get your thoughts out without judgment of spelling, grammar or content. To build on your point about reading, I’ve found that I can get my mind off things when I go to the library. There’s something about being surrounded by and filling my mind with so many other people’s stories that connects me with humanity and forces me to realize that I’m not alone.

  3. Well done for staying so positive Janine.
    I also find that a 5-min meditation helps. Just doing nothing makes me feel more positive.
    Tiramisu is also good for my mood (but I take it without custard!)…
    Good luck

    Muriel

  4. Great post Janine. I admire the courage you’ve shown in opening up about a difficult situation — one that so many of us experience and then ignore or handle poorly. Thank you for also sharing some of the tools you use!

  5. Until experiencing grief-related depression, I had no insight into the challenges that come along with it. Janine, thank you for so authentically sharing about this important topic. Each person must find their own path and seeing what has worked for others creates new ideas and possibility. For me, living the Energy Leadership paradigm was the missing link. I now coach others in this model to transform their relationship with how they interact with themselves, others and life’s circumstances. May each of us find the light we are looking for.

  6. This is such an admirable composition! Being a mental health professional all I can say is that you couldn’t have been more accurate in the understanding of depression.

    Hats off to such a wonderful post 🙂

  7. Wonderful post and so timely. With the many ails of the economy and the world its hard not to be “overwhelmed” and burdened to the point of being depressed.

    Its great, as you said to “seek help” to get through those times! Its OK to ask for help!

    Thanks for sharing your story, it will help others I am sure!

    All the best!

    Regards,

    Michael
    CCO OutMaturity

  8. thanks for sharing so much of yourself. Depression is a tough one. I know people who struggle with it and it can be debilitating. You have come up with wonderful ways to combat it. Good luck to you! p.s. I meditate and pray daily. I think that helps my positive outlook and my sanity!

  9. It’s such a relief to know that I’m not alone. I’m glad you shared this here, Janine. 🙂
    I’ve become so vocal about my own depression that it terrifies me how hush-hush the whole issues is, especially among certain circles. I went through hell when my dad experienced his own depression, starting when I was 17. I’d been dysthimic (chronic, mild depression that people think is just your personality)since age 7, but my dad’s depression threw me off the deep end. Unfortunately, my family was very involved in our church and depression was seen as something you could fix if you just trusted God enough. Think what a difference it would have made if it had been “safe” for both of us to get help.
    I love your ideas. Obviously I could go on about this topic forever, but I’ll pick one thing you spoke about: atmosphere. I need to integrate music and good smells into my life.
    Everyone should read this post, whether their depression is grief-related and short-lasting or something they battle all their lives. I’m going to link to it in my block, share on Facebook, tweet, and keep a link to share with everyone I know.
    The best compliment I can give you is that your post mentioned things I either hadn’t heard before or said them in a fresh way that made me think. Thank you for writing a post that even a jaded person like me enjoyed!
    Jen 🙂

  10. You have posted some very helpful information for dealing with depression. I think my dogs have been a great help in maintaining my mental and physical health. I spend at least an hour each day walking them and just enjoying the beauty of nature. I also agree with your suggestion to read. I have found great pleasure in reading book and posting book reviews on my blog.

    • Our doggies are a real blessing. I really need to get stuck into reading your posts on book reviews but I want to be able to really ‘read’ them and not just skim through them. This weekend since I will be at home!

  11. I just wanted to chime in and say what a great post this is. I have tried a lot of the things mentioned here, but I still find myself battling against my demons. I find it is cyclical with me. My meds are something that I take with almost religious fervor. I have tried meditation and that really seems to help, but, sadly, my motivation when I am depressed is sorely lacking. It is like everything is a struggle. I know what you are going through. Good post. 🙂

    • Yes I must actually admit I wrote that post but am a little down so it was a good reminder to myself also for this moment in time. I’m pushing through it but at the back of my mind I just want to cry my heart out…it might help : ) ?

  12. Wow- so many great suggestions. You compiled a list that hits such a variety that there is no doubt that at least one method on that list can help someone. I think that I amy research the type of yoga you mentioned…that sounds extreemly calming.

  13. Great blog hun. I find that in life people may have so much, yet they have a void in their hearts that nothing really can remove ,an inner sadness of a black hole, an emptiness that comes and goes. I find when Iam down remindering myself of my purpose of life, my goals, hopes and aspirations and being true to God, as a Creator of life, praying to him for inner satisfaction and doing good deeds. I love your honestly

  14. Pingback: Looking back through my blog: My 7 Links | Reflections from a Red Head

  15. Your insight is remarkable Janine. And it was wonderful to share your experiences publicly on your blog. I hope this is read by many people and will help them.

    And speaking as a psych nurse, think of the Luvox as a vitamin for your mental well being. I often use the diabetes analogy to help both clients, and my student nurses, to understand mental illness in a less restrictive, prejudiced light.

    Loved this post!
    ~cath xo
    @jonesbabie on Twitter

    • I recently did an interview Cathy where I mentioned the whole ‘it’s like someone who takes a pill for diabetes or high blood pressure’. I can’t wait to be able to share it with you – although I’m freaking out as it was my 1st spoken interview and I forgot my brain in bits of it!

  16. Great advice here Janine. So many things listed some of them are bound to be helpful to others going through the same thing. I will pass this on and share everywhere.

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