Learning how to manage a serious mental illness requires a wellness toolbox of skills. The skills that most people strive for are: long-term recovery, physical health, purpose and meaning, and mental wellness. Being able to recognize the appropriate steps to take in a crisis, and identify supports, (in both people and activities), are both essential to maintaining a healthy, independent life. In school we are taught about the importance of things like exercise, a healthy diet and the risks of smoking. But we rarely learn about the impact of stress on our bodies, symptoms of anxiety and depression, or healthy mental habits, and may then find that we desperately need these wellness tools.
Research has shown that self-determination is important in recovery (1), and being open to tools like exposure to role models, and engagement in meaningful work can help to facilitate recovery (1). Experts suggest that working with a mental health treatment team to map out a plan for desired skills is a good way to start building your wellness toolbox. Psycho-educational support activities such as learning relaxation and mindfulness techniques can reinforce healthy habits, and help people galvanize the skills in their toolbox. Other recommended activities include taking care of your physical well-being, proper sleep schedules, and consistency with medications (2).
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has compiled a list of tools to help people with day to day living. Recommended to augment professional therapy or medication management, NAMI suggests the following (3):
- Radical Acceptance – Completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind.
- Deep Breathing – Breathe in for 5 seconds. Hold the breath for 3 seconds. Breathe out for 7 seconds.
- Opposite-To-Emotion Thinking – Act in the opposite way your emotions tell you to act. For example, if you feel like isolating, the opposite of this emotion might be to spend some time with friends.
- The 5 Senses – Run through what each of your senses is experiencing in that moment to help keep you present and focused on what is happening right now.
- Mental Reframing – Taking an emotion or stressor and thinking of it in a different way to change your perspective in a tough situation.
- Emotion Awareness – Be in touch with your emotions and recognize what you are feeling. Practicing this coping technique can help you feel better emotionally, spiritually and physically.
It is reassuring to know that these suggestions are also the same techniques employed by residents at Rose Hill Center which encourage self-determination and responsibility. A core principle of Rose Hill’s mission is meaningful activity, and the holistic skills reinforced through the residential program are the same skills experts agree make for a strong and sustainable wellness toolbox.
For more information check out Mental Health America – 10 Tools