Let's Talk Mental Health, a 10 Step Guide

For most of my life I’ve been an anxious person and had panic attacks before, but three years ago all of my anxiety got heightened and other mental health issues became more prevalent after I was raped at the age of 16. I’ve dealt with severe anxiety, periods of depression, PTSD, constant panic attacks and binge eating disorder. This past summer I finally had had enough and decided to start putting myself, my mental and physical health first. Here are ten things I did to try and make my life better: 

 

1. I talked to someone. 

It sounds so obvious but one thing I struggled with was even getting the courage to speak up to say something was wrong. Whether it be a friend, a parent, a sibling or a professional. Saying it out loud and talking to someone may help you a lot. I personally talked to a lot of my friends and family as well as a few doctors and a therapist. I went to therapy twice a week for most of the summer and was trying to keep my parents in the loop about my feelings most of the time. 

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2. Got on medication because it was needed.

At my first therapy session, my therapist asked if I was open to the idea of trying anxiety medication after I had explained some of my feelings and how they affect me. She recommended that talking to my physician about prescribing an anti-anxiety medication would help to ease the frequency and intensity of my anxious and panic-filled days. She basically explained to me that it would be easier to learn more coping mechanisms and be okay on my own if I was also taking medication. I went to my doctor and was prescribed an anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication. 

3. Learned breathing and calming techniques for my panic attacks and anxiety. 

Panic attacks were one area that I wanted to work on because I would have them so frequently and they would be so intense that I was too exhausted to do anything after them. My therapist gave me a few ways to calm my breathing and relax my mind when I was in those moments of panic. We also figured out ways for me to put myself back in the present because many times my panic attacks took me to past events or scared me because of the future. These techniques also help just in moments of anxiety or stress when I start to feel myself heading towards a panic attack and I am able to stop it before it starts, or just need a moment to breath.  

4. Went to bed earlier, and woke up earlier. 

We noticed a pattern with my binge eating disorder that it happened most often late at night when I could sneak food away from everyone and eat copious amounts without judgement. So I made it a goal that I would go to bed earlier, this way I couldn’t stay up and overthink. My overthinking and feeling “empty” is what would lead me to eat more and more food. If I was asleep, I couldn’t stay up to think and I couldn’t stay up to binge eat. Waking up early also meant that I could eat breakfast at a normal time which meant less binge eating in the middle of the day. 

5. Started journaling.

I would write anything and everything down, if I was upset, anxious, overwhelmed, scared, or even just happy I would write it down. Depending on what I’m feeling that day, I will journal in the morning or right before bed. Sometimes I’ll even use a guided journal to write about other things than just my feelings. I also read once I’m done journaling, especially if I journal at night. Looking at something other than a screen right before bed has helped for a better sleep which ultimately leads to a better mood the next day. 

6. Started being more open. 

I always kept a lot of my emotions and struggles to myself that way I wouldn’t have to “burden” anyone else. I learned that I needed to be open that way people could also look out for me and know when I’m feeling anxious or upset. I started talking to my mom more and more about what I have been going through in the past three years, some of which she had never known about. I also was being more open with food. Binge eating was always something I hid and was ashamed of. I ran to my room away from my parents or away from my roommate when I was at school, but slowly I started to eat more and more in front of people and let people know what I’m eating even if it is bad just to hold myself more accountable with my food. 

7. Started meditating. 

I listened to a podcast called “10% Happier” by Dan Harris, a Good Morning America news anchor. The podcast is about Dan’s struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and how meditation helped him calm himself and find balance. I related to a lot of what he was going through before he found meditation so I was intrigued to try it. I’m definitely not an expert but I do try to do at least 5-10 minutes of meditation before bed, usually I just look up a guided meditation on YouTube and try that.

8. Cared more about myself. Related image

I spent more time thinking about me and how decisions could affect my anxiety or overall mental health. I also spent lots of time taking more “me time” and doing self-care. I know it sounds dumb and it wouldn’t help, which it won’t if it’s the only thing you are doing, but adding in small things to care for myself really did help me. 

9. Picked up new hobbies. 

Lots of my issues involved needing my hands to be busy (binge eating, anxiously picking the zits on my face, etc.) so my therapist recommended picking up hobbies like crocheting, knitting, drawing, writing, bullet journaling, or coloring. Basically I do anything that keeps both my mind and hands busy. 

10. Started to understand myself more. 

It took a long time but I’m now able to pick up on things about myself, like when I’m starting to feel anxious or triggered to binge eat, and now I know how to control those parts of myself. It takes a lot of effort and steps but caring for your mental and physical health is so important, you won’t regret doing these things, and you’ll probably end up feeling the best you’ve ever felt.

 

Image 1 from: https://online.jefferson.edu/behavioral-and-health-services/mental-healt...

Image 2 from: https://metro.co.uk/2017/05/29/7-great-things-that-happened-when-i-opene...