Are you looking for a self-care plan to cope with mental illness? We all need to have a plan of how to cope with challenging situations. Whether you are prone to panic attacks, manic episodes, or bouts of heavy depression, everyone needs to have a personal care plan. It is important to note that not everyone copes with their mental health challenges in the same way. These are some suggestions for a self-care plan to cope with mental illness based on my own personal experience.
1. Important Phone Numbers
Or really a list of people you can lean on for support. It could be your doctor or therapist’s phone number, your best friend, significant other, or family. Humans are social creatures, and emotional support from others is vital during a mental health crisis. This is one of the most important aspects of a self-care plan to cope with mental illness.
Healthy distractions, that is. What are your hobbies? What are things you enjoy or engage your mind? When dealing with anxiety in the past, two things that kept my mind occupied were painting and playing the ukulele. I’m not good at either one, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is keeping yourself calm and distracted from any toxic thoughts. Read a book, go for a run, just do something that you find enjoyable to occupy your mind.
These are positive statements or phrases you repeat to yourself. If you practice them enough, you can actually change your way of thinking in the long run. It is important not to beat yourself up for having a hard time. Think of some positive statements that really resonate with you and rehearse them next time you are struggling. One good method for doing this is writing them down on note cards. Keep them with you and use them when you need to boost your mood.
4. Relaxation Methods
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When I experience panic attacks, my muscles tend to tense up. One relaxation method I find especially helpful is called progressive muscle relaxation. I learned about this in one of my psychology classes in college. Take a few deep breaths, then begin to tense each muscle group starting from your feet, and working your way up, tensing each muscle and holding it for a few seconds (whatever feels comfortable). Release and repeat until you have worked your way through every muscle group. This is also great for insomnia.
If you have a pet, cuddle up with it. Studies have shown that petting a dog reduces blood pressure. Dogs possess a great amount of empathy and can sense when someone is sad or upset. Go pet a dog, or if you don’t have one, borrow one from a friend. Or, if you’re more of a cat person, they can be helpful too! Fun fact: owning a cat may reduce the risk of having a stroke.