My Top Tips On How to Live Successfully With Your Mental Health Problems
To keep in with the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’ and I believe with the right tools anyone can succeed and be successful in getting what they want from life despite problems caused by mental health conditions.
This is a topic very close to our own hearts being that 4 of our 5 family members have been diagnosed with Mental Health conditions.
I am Autistic and I have other comorbid conditions that are also mental health conditions. This is what is described as “complex needs” which is when one or more conditions are present and each adds its own complications. I also have ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and Anxiety. All of these conditions are deemed Mental Health conditions.
We also have Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (aka developmental coordination disorder) and Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in the family.
So as you can imagine over the years we have found a number of ways to support the needs within our home and here for this year’s world mental health day I have decided to open up and share how we support our needs within our home.
Learn about your Mental health!
This has to be the most important tip, Each illness regardless of invisible or with Physical disabilities will come with its own restrictions and one of the best ways to find specific advice would be to learn about how your specific illness affects you.
You need to know what are your…
Learning these will allow you to learn what you are able to do within your bodies limits.
If you have depression, it is important to know what your triggers are. If you have anxiety, it is important to learn how to control attacks and understand what the early signs are.
Everyone has a limit. It doesn’t matter how strong, healthy or fit you are there is a limit. The limit is different for everyone, but most people have warning signs when they are close to theirs.
The problem is not the fact most people find their limit, but that for most people they don’t find it until after they’ve been pushed past it.
- push yourself past your limit.
- push yourself so hard that you go over the limit.
- feel bad for taking time to do something relaxing to unwind or even do nothing. One of the worse parts of living with a Mental illness is mental burnout.
Talk to those around you and learn your warning signs and Set yourself boundaries to ensure you don’t push past your limit.
One of the things that can wreak havoc on your self-care is boundary violations. Know your limits and enforce them Do NOT let anyone overstep them including yourself. Boundaries are there to protect us so protect them.
Don’t feel bad for taking time to do something relaxing to unwind or even do nothing at all to reset yourself.
How to set Boundaries
Set yourself boundaries which include achievable daily goals.
By achievable, I mean make Goals based on your worse day these are the minimum you know you can achieve when your mood, Pain or symptoms are at their worse. (without them completely incapacitating you). This means it could just be achieving basic needs but that’s ok.
By setting your new days goals by your worse day you will get an amazing boost when you are able to achieve more.
It’s so important for people with chronic illnesses to take care of themselves in ways that work for them. And it’s hard because no two people with the same illness will have the same way of fighting it. But when we know our limits and listen to our bodies, we can create a schedule that will allow us to do what needs to be done while also maintaining some peace.
3. Adapting to your abilities
Awareness is the first step in the process of change. If you are struggling in an area of your life see if you can adapt to lessen the burden in that area?
Once you are aware of where your illness impacts your life you can then adjust or adapt. If you are struggling in an area of your life see if you can adapt to lessen the burden in that area?
Asking for help from those around you:
Another of the most important parts of managing any mental health problem is your Support Network. A support network is the people around you who help support you. depending on what your mental health condition’s problems lie will depend on what this looks like but ideally, most people require
- A listening Ear – Someone who will listen to you and take it in (this could also be someone to go to doctors or other meetings with you, someone who can help you understand the information you recieve during these appointments.
- Chit Chat – someone you can regularly chat to, a person who you know you can just call for a chat.
- shoulder to lean on – someone to help shoulder some of the burdens on the days you aren’t able to do it yourself.
- Exercise friend – that friend who will help energise you into some fitness fun (wii fit, a gentle stroll something within your limits)
- Cheerleader – here you want someone who cheers you up and boosts your confident, someone who sees the best of you and will help you seek your potential.
- Family – this maynot be someone you are related too but it is someone who loves you unconditionally as only family can be that a partner, best friend who you feel like you have known forever.
- Carer – the person who watches out for you especially when you forget to look out for yourself.
More often than not one person will perform more than one role. This could all be found in one person in your life but it is better for them if there are others to take on some of the roles or you have multiple options for some.
It’s Ok to ask for help
This is also one I personally find very hard and took me years to learn. However, you need to learn to communicate efficiently with those who support you. Especially when you need help.
Unfortunately, people don’t mind readers and don’t know you are struggling, especially if you mask or hide what’s going on and Masking is a habit many with mental health issues learn. Depression and Anxiety are hidden by their sufferers much in the same way as Autism and ADHD are.
So ensure you have the support you need, it’s important to be able to communicate your needs are with those who can support you.
aides that help you cope with mental health problems:
These come in a range of different sorts depending on how your illness affects you. Here are a few we use within our household.
These can be anything that provides a visual aid to remind you of something so it could be a large calendar on the wall, Sequencing displays to remind you to do things in a set order or even what extras to add to your orders, it can be flashcards with words or pictures on or even a handwritten card left in a place to remind you of something you still have to do.
These come under visual aides however they have a very particular use and are extremely effective in helping you keep on track and ensure you don’t miss appointments. Especially of linked to your home assistant devices so they can tell you what you have on any day and set alarm and reminders to help you remember them.
I love my lists! chore lists, To-do lists, pro and con lists for purchases, Missing inventory lists at work, Household repair lists and many more. I find them a useful way to keep track of things I need to do or remember.
Smart Home devices
These come in all shapes and sizes and can benefit those with Mental Health problems in a number of ways
Ring Camera doorbell – Great for Anxiety as you can see who it is before you go to the door.
Security Cameras – Being able to check your home when away from home really helps me with my Anxiety and
Home Assistant Devices
Home assistant devices are fantastic too we have both Google and Alexa devices in our house. We use these for a range of reasons such as:
- Reminds us to eat (annoucements)
- remember to leave for appointments (google bell)
- practice our instruments (annoucements)
- Broadcast messages across the house (dinner time, Lunchtime, Time to leave, bed time)
- play music across the house
- Play audiobooks to help Emily sleep (she sleeps as long as Stephen fry reads to her from Sherlock Holmes and all the Harry Potters and all the greek myths and winnie the pooh in between!)
- Jessica uses hers to help her sleep with her favourite music, Thomas uses his Alexa for sleep meditation stories and we have thunderstorms running on our device.
They can do all sorts of different useful functions
- read you what you have on your calender each morning
- read you the news highlights
- answer those random questions that pop into your head no more wondering “do bee have knees?”
- control lights (HUE)
- control heating and hot water (HIVE)
- Turn Smart switches on and off
- play music
- customise annoucements
- set timers
- read out recipes as you make them
- Make lists and notes
- listen podcasts
- Routines (set lights to dim, play certain music etc)
- broadcast messages across the house or to individual devices
- give you reminders (feed the dogs, breakfast, lunch, dinner, music practice etc)
- Read audio books
- shopping list
The Alarms app on most phones, Tablets and smartwatches is also great for remembering appointments. There tend to be two different types of alarms you can use:
-Regular alarms are based on a specific time.
-Irregular alarms are based on the day of the week.
Sticky notes are a really helpful visual aid my top uses are probably to remind me to not leave the house without something I may need. for instance, taking dogs to vets for vaccinations the night before will stick a sticky note on my car keys saying “vaccination cards”
Keep me on task when using my laptop – If it is a bad concentration day I will stick what I am meant to be doing on a sticky note and place it in the corner of my screen (IE Blog post!)
on the coffee machine to remind me to take my lunch with me to work and on my lunch to remind me of my drink!
I use timers a lot mainly the timer function on my watch.
They are great for helping to keep me on track and ensure I don’t waste time. Especially at work.
I have a set length of time to clean a lodge so I have set times I need to achieve different jobs. I rarely get through without timers unless I am on a massive over-allocation and the time is very pushed being ADHD I thrive off the adrenaline that comes with racing against the clock.
On my worse days, I set timers for a set length of time (10 minutes) then I will tell myself by the time this timer has gone off I need to have stripped the beds. I find by keeping the timer set 10 minutes keeps me aware of how quickly
On my OK days, I will set them based on the time the job should take (30 minutes to clean the kitchen) and then try to beat the timer (being ADHD I need deadlines so challenge myself with them)
I apply this at home too. When Emily has her 5 or 10 minute break from schoolwork between subjects. I challenge myself to complete a job (change washing over, clear the floor, Clean the bath or sink and loo etc) Emily has her 5 minutes of rest before getting back to work and I get to keep up with home ed, house, blog and Marketplaces.
These are vital to me 90% of the time they start an hour before I need to leave the house
The first one is the ok you need to go out in an hour. (make lists for going out)
second need to get dressed to go out of the house (into good clothes from “house” clothes) Ensure children are dressed (45 minutes before I need to leave)
third one Kids need to start getting ready, Give them their lists of things they need to work through (30 minutes before leaving the house)
the last one gather lists tick things off as they get put into the car and work through the house locking up list (15 minutes before leaving the house)
When I need to leave the alarm will go off on my phone normally by this time we are sat in the car strapped in but sometimes the engine is running and I have had to send Jess in for that last-minute forgotten item!
I find this therapeutic as much as I find it useful. Mine tracks what I have on any week, our meal planning, Home ed planning, health and hygiene tracking as well as household chore tracking.
I have mentioned my Bullet journal multiple times throughout the years but for me, it does really help.
Work – Rest – Listen
This is a simple concept that helps some people regulate themselves to prevent them from overdoing things. Work for 15 minutes,
Rest for 15 minutes
Meditate for 5 minutes
Ways to reduce Executive Dysfuntion with Large jobs
Do you have tasks that need to be done regularly? Things to do around the house, at work, or in your personal life?
Break these larger tasks into smaller chunks. List them out on a piece of paper and create a task list that is broken into manageable chunks. For example, to clean a bedroom can become:
- pick up rubbish/empty bin
- Strip the bed
- Pick up washing
- Make the bed
- clear the floor (personally we box items to sort at the end)
- Wash bedding
- put one thing from box away
- Dry bedding
- put one thing from box away
One big job becomes a list of smaller jobs with the completion of each of these smaller jobs will help you to want to do the next
This way it’s easier to see what needs to be done Learn to stop looking at the whole picture and instead have handy ques for bad days to help your brain get over it.
Do you know someone else with a similar issue? if so ask them to try body doubling. This can work two ways
Way 1: Either one day they come to yours and you are both in the same room helping you by being there so you can get on with getting chores done either by talking to you or just being there next day you do the same for them.
Way 2: Phone this friend both get on with your own tasks while talking to one another, encouraging when needed, Talking random stuff to help distract the mind or even by just having the line open.
My best friend and I spend hours on the phone doing this, Jessica and her best friend also use this technique not that either of them has discovered this is what they are doing!
To find out more check out here
One of the biggest drawbacks to mental health conditions is that you lose faith in yourself. Because of this one of the biggest forms of support can be your own personal cheerleader. Someone who believes in you despite your conditions especially when you yourself can’t.
For me, I am grateful to have many of these. It started with my mum who never gave up and never let me give up either, then Duncan and as my children have got older we have all become each other’s cheerleaders.
I also have a best friend and have a group of supportive work friends all of whom support me in some way in this too. This support could be:
- Someone to turn to when you are unsure of your own abilities who knows you and can help you say you’ve got this or know you will need help and act upon it without you having to ask exactly what help you need.
- It could be someone to just verbally remind you that you have got this to help calm down your own self-doubts
- Someone to listen to your ramblings so you can get your own mind straight
- Someone who recognises your stregths and happily reminds you of them.
I cannot stress this enough decluttering and keeping your home clear of unnecessary clutter reduces your workload. Every item in your home requires regular attention and cleaning less you have the less demand on your time.
When decluttering you need to ask yourself
- Is it needed?
- Have you used it in the last year?
- Does it bring you joy?
- Is there something else that means more for the same Reason?
If the answer is No to the first three and Yes for the last then let it go.
If you would like to learn more about how us or our lives you can find our Journal here.