1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
That means that nobody is immune, from year to year, from experiencing mental health issues.
As an on-off sufferer of anxiety, PTSD and depression, I have spent most of my life, since my early teens, trying to teach myself coping mechanisms to get through the bleak days so that I can eagerly await the great days.
Here are some of the things that I do to try keep the demons at bay, that you may find useful for yourself, too, on your own dark days.
Stick on your favourite comedy programme, watch a comedian’s latest special, or even better, call up that friend that always leaves you in fits of giggles. On bad days, the last thing we feel like doing is laughing, but force it on yourself as best you can. Even if you can muster a genuine, small smile during the day, you’ve made progress!
Go for a walk
Simple, but effective. Taking yourself out of the house gets you moving (so endorphins – yay!) and it allows you to take time to think. When you have time by yourself, you have time to debate with yourself, and sometimes you need a clearer perspective to start feeling better.
Back to those cheeky endorphins… I know people rattle on about exercise being good for mental health, but it is very true. You don’t have to sweat it out at the gym for an hour to feel better, you could just go for a jog, or you could join that Zumba class at the local town hall; it can be anything you want. I adopted exercise last year when I was having a hard time and it became my saving grace – it really can help!
If you’re having a really low day and are struggling to control your emotions, call someone. Call your best friend, call your mum or your dad. Whoever it is that you know will listen and you feel comfortable in confiding in, call them or visit them.
And if you don’t have someone that you can call/visit, then call one of the numbers on the following link. You should never have to suffer alone.
Don’t reach for the alcohol
Just don’t. It doesn’t help, as much as you think at the time that it will. We do stupid things while under the influence of alcohol on a good day, never mind throwing a mental illness on top of it. Just please don’t do it. Put on the kettle instead and cuddle with your pet – that’s a much better alternative and will make you feel better than alcohol would.
On that note, cuddle a puppy
Petting your dog can lower your blood pressure, and playing with a pet elevates serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. A great concoction for keeping depression at bay. So snuggle your cat, play with your dog, or go borrow your friend’s pet for half an hour. If you’re really lucky and have one of those cat cafe’s nearby, then hit that place up. My dogs make me so happy when I’m with them, that I believe every one of the ‘facts’ are true.
Sing like no-one’s listening
When I was feeling down, one of my friends suggested I sing some songs that I love, while alone in my apartment; not sing songs that I had to do for my job, but sing songs that I love listening to, because they mean more to me. After I had sung a few songs, (some that I hadn’t even listened to in years), I felt uplifted. Taking the time to just play, and recall what music I love, helped to lift my spirit that little bit. It doesn’t matter whether you can sing or not; singing isn’t about that. Singing is a primal, spiritual thing that we have done since the dawn of time. So stick on your favourite music, and sing and dance around your apartment; it helps you feel like you’re living again.
Buy a colouring book
Another of my friends once bought me a colouring book as a way of coping with my anxiety, and I have to admit it did help. Not only was it kind of fun, and I completely reverted back to my 4 year old self, but it helped to calm me as I didn’t think of anything else while I was colouring. The most pressing question I was asking myself was ‘what colour shall I use next?’. Often, it can take just getting out of our own heads to soothe us.
“The strongest people are not those who openly show strength, but those who win battles we know nothing about.”
So there’s a few of my personal go-to tricks for trying to keep my head above the water when I feel like I’m drowning. I’d love to hear other people’s methods for handling their bad days, so please feel free to comment in the section below with your tips!
Remember to always be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what internal battles they may be facing.
If you need any further advice, information or support, then check out the following websites.