Little Ways to Help Yourself When You Can't Get Help

The discussion around mental health over the last few years has changed. More people with illnesses or disorders are speaking up about their experiences and those without are much more willing to listen and accept that some people have an actual illness that affects their lives. Therapy is no longer a taboo subject and people even encourage each other to seek it out. However, there are still people who might not necessarily be getting the help that they need. Whether that’s because you can’t afford therapy or because you are too young to get themselves help, there are still ways that you can help yourself outside of getting therapy. These are some little tips that helped me get through my depression in the absence of a therapist. I hope they can help you, too. 

1. Stop and think

If you notice that you are upset for no reason, just take a second to stop and think. When was the last time you ate? When you drank some water? When did you last get up and walk around? How about going outside? These are all things that can get neglected when you are having a hard time caring for yourself. It's probably a good idea to make yourself a checklist of things you forget to do for yourself. Then you don’t have to recall from memory all the things you might need to do to help feel better. Eat, water, shower, walk, spend time with friends, take a mental break. It can be as simple as a note on your phone. I know this is pretty obvious advice, but just try it.

2. Come up with your own hacks

You know yourself better than anyone, and you know your illnesses better too. Don’t ever feel like doing the dishes? Buy paper plates. Don’t have the energy to shower? Face cleansing wipes and dry shampoo are your friend. Don’t like to have to look at yourself naked while you shower? Turn off the lights! I had a friend who hated breakfast food with a passion so he just wouldn’t eat it even though he knew that wasn’t very good for him. His therapist suggested he eat lunch or dinner food instead. There is nothing forcing you to do things the ‘normal’ way if that just doesn’t work for you. Create your own version of what is going to help you while your in the process of dealing with your mental state. Make life easier on yourself.

3. Communicate your needs!

You need to let people around you know what’s going on with you. Some people won’t listen,  and that sucks. It's going to suck and I’m sorry, but most people will listen, so try to focus on them. You need to let them know that sometimes you're not going to be yourself or it's going to seem like your not interested in their friendship or support, but that is the opposite of the truth. Socializing is important even when we don’t feel like doing it, so sometimes you gotta force it and be content to just sit in other people’s presence. Just say “Hey, I’m having a rough day and don’t feel like interacting, but I would appreciate if you would come spend time with me.” This helps loads. Your people don’t feel pressured to make you feel better and you still get the benefit of having another person to spend time with.

4. It's ok to wallow… sometimes

You can have a few days or even a week where you are just feeling your feels, and that can be a good thing. If you don’t take the time to really just feel your emotions without trying to process them or understand them, it can be pretty hard to move past it. Just taking time to feel things helps you be able to think objectively about your emotions and allow you to problem solve and move past them. The important thing is that you don’t let yourself spiral. Pull yourself out of it as best you can and get yourself back on course. It's easier said than done, I know, and it won't always work, but never give up on yourself.

5. Surround yourself with the things you love.

You can do a surprising amount to remind yourself of the good things in life throughout the day. Set your phone screen to a picture you like. It doesn’t have to be people, it could be art you find beautiful, places that you’ve been, places you’d like to go, anything that makes you happy. Change your phone screen often! That way the image is always fresh and something you pay attention to. I notice that when I keep my pictures the same, I stop noticing the picture after a while. Put pictures all over your walls. It doesn’t have to be pretty, do it however you’d like. Make a list of all the things you love and look at it when you feel the need. Update it if needed. Decorate your room with items and colors that bring you joy.

I know that some of these tips are pretty neurotypical and motivating yourself to do self-care while your depressed is literally the hardest thing you have to do, but these are things that helped me when I was severely depressed and denied a therapist. I learned that depression is an incredible challenge and I still struggle most days to keep up my established habits and keep my mental health on track. Helping yourself through a mental illness takes major work and overriding your own brain to think completely differently, but all the little things matter. Hopefully, these tips can help you make your way to a healthier you.

If you are a student of the University of Utah and are in need of counseling or therapeutic services please visit the Counseling Center located on the fourth floor of the Student Services building. As a student, you are entitled to a limited number of free counseling sessions with licensed therapists employed by the University. There are also programs designed to help you if you feel the need for further therapy or counseling. Remember, you are loved.

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