Tips on Keeping Your Mental Health at Bay
We all go through our ups and downs; it’s kind of inevitable. But Josh Green’s got your back with a few of the things he’s learnt from crying then not crying.
I’ve been up and down and up and down with my mental health for the past couple of years. It’s been frustrating, sure, but I’ve definitely not been the only one going through it. The ABS stated that in 2014 - 2015, nearly one fifth of Australians reported some kind of mental or behavioural condition.
For me, it’s anxiety. Sometimes a massive tide, way bigger than me, can come and make me feel so unsure of everything all at once. It’s a pretty dark headspace, and I feel like a massive downer. That’s okay sometimes, but I’ve started to realise a few things that really help me to feel better.
For you, it might be like making rice: the water starts off simmering really slowly, then it starts to bubble up a little more quickly, then, in the blink of an eye, there’s starchy scum all over your stovetop and it’s an absolute mess.
Kooky analogies aside, what I mean to say is that mental health issues affect everyone differently. This is why it is absolutely crucial to know what works for you, so you can pick yourself up again when you start to feel down.
Here are four of the things I’ve found to be the most helpful for dealing with mental health over time:
1. Getting creative
I write the lamest, saddest poetry when I feel anxious. I pour my little gay heart out onto the page, and then I’m forced to arrange the words in a way that make a little more sense to me. The whole point is to take the things flying around inside your head, and get them out of there. If words aren’t your thing, all kinds of creative outlets can be amazing for helping you to get through the bad times — painting, drawing, singing, collage, interpretive dance, whatever you feel!
2. Talk about it.
You start with maybe telling your best friend that something’s not right. Maybe you guys talk about it sometimes and that really helps you. Then you might see a doctor — they can do a bunch of good stuff for you like blood tests, prescriptions for medications, and mental health care plans. Those plans get you Medicare rebates for up to 10 appointments with some mental health services each year.
I know I’m oversimplifying what can be a really complex and daunting process, and it can take ages to get in to see your doctor, but trust me, getting started is the hardest part. The rest of it is so much easier. Just doing one of things can make a world of difference for you.
3. Get the blood pumping
Yeah, sorry. It really works though. You get running, the blood starts pumping, then the endorphins kick in with their mate serotonin. It’s like a sweaty little party of good stuff going on in your body. Plus you’re outside and away from everything (a super great way to clear your head a little bit and give yourself a chance to put things into perspective).
Walking is really good too, so take your dog/cat/sibling/pal with you and bond with your little buddy. If you’re alack for a little buddy, why not visit a dog park? Feel how soft or scruffy those pups are and focus on that for a little while.
4. Separate yourself from your thoughts
They’re just thoughts after all.
You could try this: take a minute to think about where you feel tension in your body, then outline the shape of it. Picture that shape in front of your (closed) eyes. What colour is it? What kind of texture does it have? Imbue as much as you like upon this shape, then consider this: can you feel compassion for this shape?
This exercise is meant to really dissociate your thoughts from your self. Think of your body as a host, or a guesthouse if you will. You live there all the time and now Nancy (that’s the mental illness’ name) has come to stay for a little while. She’ll be on her way soon. The most important thing to remember is YOU ARE NOT NANCY! You are separate and she is just a guest in your house.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are all different we all have our different ways of coping, but I hope that this can help you at least a little bit. Try to remember this stuff when you have exams or just having a tough time: pat a dog, go for a run, talk to your mates, and remember that you are not Nancy. You’ll be fine, it always gets better.
If things are really bad for you or someone close to you, call one of the places below (and most of them have online chat services too):
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
Headspace - 1800 650 890
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
NSW Mental Health Line - 1800 011 511
UTS Counselling - 9514 1177
(Call 000 in an emergency)
Josh Green is a second-year Journalism/International Studies (France) student at UTS. He loves drinking expensive craft beers in the sun with his housemates, and complaining about train delays.