Self-help is both a viable option in many cases of mental health difficulties and disorders, and should be fully utilized regardless of one's other treatment choices. Whether someone utilizes professional help or not, self-help should and must be a part of the healing process for long-term gains in mental healing.
Regular, balanced exercise is one form of self-help that can help with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and other mental health disorders or tendencies. It is part of lifestyle-adjustment and contributes to overall better health.
Exercise can be pursued in a variety of low-impact formats.
Mindfulness is the order of the day when it comes to mental health self-help, advocated by most psychologists and psychology organizations. For those who may not embrace Eastern-style meditation, focused and intense exercise is one method that can contribute to a state of "mindfulness" while exercising.
If we go to a doctor, lay ourselves on the table, and expect the doctor to "fix" us with pills or some other way, we are delegating responsibility for our own lives to someone else. One of the first steps toward recovery is to accept personal responsibility over our own physical and mental health; a professional can only facilitate help in that process, but ultimately, we need to take responsibility for our own well-being. See the NAMI mental health recovery page.
Decisions we make on mental health treatment and self-help are ultimately our decisions rather than our doctors'. Self-help is one of the first steps in any treatment plan; from the moment one recognizes mental health difficulties, until one's symptoms have gone into remission, and in preventive measures. Work hard for better mental health: educate yourself, fight, and struggle to overcome negative symptoms, mental health disorders, or difficulties. It takes much effort. Like the butterfly coming out of the cocoon, we can emerge a different and stronger person.
Don't Resign Yourself to a Label and Medication Based on the Medical Model
We can't resign ourselves to a label and feel like there is nothing we can do about it except to take pills. There is no magic pill to cure mental illness. This is a fundamental truth that has been highlighted over and over, and proven by mental health professionals who take a balanced and holistic approach towards mental health treatment and recovery.
Psychiatric labeling can be beneficial in that it raises a red flag and opens up the possibility of getting support. However, it can also be self-defeating in that we may resign ourselves to the label, and then become more inclined to not take necessary actions, including lifestyle changes and self-help, to improve our mental health. Good mental health requires lifestyle changes, effort, and determination. And even then, it can take some time to fully recover. However, a positive, forward-looking approach to mental health recovery is an excellent foundation for long-term results.
Assistance in the form of psychiatric drugs should not be considered a first step, but a second or third consideration. Choose the least invasive approach towards recovery first. For many, psychiatric drugs should be only considered as a temporary stopgap; something that is a last resort rather than the first line of defense. Develop skills and a new lifestyle to overcome symptoms and develop coping tools.
Some situations may be more difficult than others and patience is needed, but it is possible to overcome many core symptoms of mental health disorders—many times with simple lifestyle adjustments. A psychologist or therapist should also endeavor to help identify weaknesses in certain lifestyles and help make appropriate changes. A cognitive behavioral therapist may assign homework exercises to facilitate overcoming specific symptoms especially related to thought patterns that may be contributing to depression or hindering progress. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also being used effectively as a self-help tool.
Lifestyle Changes - Effective Self-Help for Mental Health Disorders
In the case of a serious mental health disorder, lifestyle changes that include improvements in diet and exercise and quitting destructive habits such as smoking and the overuse of alcohol can be effective in overcoming up to 30% of the symptoms (especially those associated with bipolar disorder), states one specialist on the subject.
That being the case, if we explore further aspects of our lifestyles that we may improve, implement other positive changes, and identify triggers to core symptoms such as depression, mania, or panic attacks, we may be able to experience an even higher percentage of reduction in said core symptoms. By accomplishing that, we may have effectively taken ourselves out of the clinical range of a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Cutting back on passive time spent watching mindless television, including spending less time watching what is usually depressing news, can help symptoms of depression or mania. One middle-aged man who found himself with symptoms associated with major depression experienced relief from nearly all of his symptoms by exercising regularly, giving attention to diet and nutrition, and cutting out watching the news daily, the negativity of which was contributing to his depression. See AYCNP page Two Positive Experiences in Dealing with Depression
Additionally, keeping movie time—a passive and often mindless activity—to a minimum, and making adjustments with anything that might overwhelm the mind (such as toning down or mellowing out our tastes in music and moderating the amount of time we spend listening to music) can also be productive.
Lifestyle changes can help a person regain and maintain mental balance without having to resort to medications, or aid an individual taking psychiatric drugs cut down on the dosage, contributing to fewer side-effects. It takes courage to face mental health difficulties, make difficult lifestyle changes, and swim against the current. Recognizing personal responsibility with our choices by not relegating our decisions in mental health to others is an important step forward.
Therapy for Mental Health Difficulties
In Great Britain, Health magazine reported that doctors are known to prescribe self-help books to patients as a first-line defense strategy. Medication is given secondary consideration. Granted, professional therapy is necessary and protective at times. Many options for professional therapy can be effective in treating mental health disorders.
Educate Yourself with Self-Help Books and Research
Educate yourself on mental health. Read books that can help you understand what you are going through and what you can do. You don't have to follow only one book or subscribe to one specific method; be selective and eclectic, and implement ideas from a wide variety of sources. This can help you put pieces in your personal mental health recovery puzzle in place, and implement and maintain a realistic plan.
Avoid fringe, fad, unproven, or unrealistic methods. Make changes modestly and gradually, rather than trying to take on too much at one time.
Coaching for Mental Health
Coaching for those with ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder is another useful adjunctive approach to mental health recovery. A coach is there to give support, provide practical suggestions and encouragement, and provide reminders to help keep clients on track. Coaches may communicate with clients by phone, virtually through Skype or some other video application, by email, or in person.
Coaching is less costly than a therapist, and is often used in addition to the role of a therapist. At times coaching has been utilized in lieu of a therapist. The quality of the coach, as well as the willingness of the client to make needed changes and stick to a self-help plan, also determines the success rate in mental health recovery. Coaching for those with ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder is another useful adjunctive approach to mental health recovery. A coach is there to give support, provide practical suggestions and encouragement, and to provide reminders to help keep clients on track. Coaches may communicate with clients by phone, virtually through Skype or some other video application, by email, or in person.
Conclusion for Self-Help Towards Good Mental Health
Self-help, along with self-determination (taking personal responsibility), is an important part of recovery from mental health difficulties and disorders. By making positive lifestyle adjustments and implementing a workable short-term and long-term plan, you can recover from even serious mental health disorders. By all means, make whatever effort and adjustment needed, get whatever support you can, and be patient with your recovery. You can succeed if you stick with it.