Tips to Help with Overcoming Mental Illnesses and Disorders
It's really not uncommon or 'weird' anymore to struggle with some sort of mental illness/disorder—but that doesn't make it okay, either. There's definitely different levels of suffering—like who's never experienced some sort of anxiety—but if you're to the point where it's crippling and consuming your life, you need to do something about it.
Below are some tips and steps I took that have helped me along my path toward recovery, and if you're struggling with an eating disorder, or debilitating depression, anxiety, etc. I hope that they can help you, too.
Talk to someone(s) & get support
When struggling with a serious mental illness/disorder, you can’t do it all on your own, and THAT IS OKAY. You are human; we are human. There is absolutely NO shame in getting help. I didn’t want to for the longest time. I thought that I could easily do it on my own if I really wanted to get better. WRONG. Did not work.
This step could literally be life or death, so you need a team, or at least one person on your side. Express what you’re struggling with to family members, or some close friends, significant other, a professional. The internet is your friend here, too. There’s tons of online support groups, or you can look for someone that went through something similar you’re going through. Most people are truly good & want to help, so never be afraid to reach out!
Fight for others
Ultimately, you have to want to make the change for yourself.
But sometimes it can be hard to put yourself first…I totally get that. I truly love giving to others versus getting…like nothing makes me happier than getting someone a special gift, or helping someone reach their health/fitness goals, making food/treats for people, etc. If you have that personality, like you’ll buy something expensive for someone you care about, but you couldn’t fathom buying something of the same value for yourself, then use that personality to fight your battle for others. At least at first. Do it for your partner, your family, your friends, other people struggling, all the people that didn’t win the fight. Let the ‘be stronger for them’ mentality motivate you to fight your battle.
Let go of shame
As I mentioned before, mental illnesses & disorders aren’t uncommon—so there's nothing to be ashamed about. I was overwhelmingly filled with shame and guilt over my eating disorder, and most of that came from my thoughts of ‘who the hell am I to be helping others develop healthier relationships with food and exercise when I’ve had all these inner battles with my ED!?’ I would rip myself apart over this, which didn’t help at all.
Once I decided to just own it and be more open about how it wasn’t always easy for me and that I could relate, that not only helped take away my shame, but it helped build stronger, authentic bonds with my clients or anyone asking for advice.
Letting go of the shame you're holding onto, and being open with just one person, will seriously feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest. Doing that is what's going to allow you to actually start making strides towards your recovery—at least, that's what it did for me.
Get an accountability partner
If you're struggling to the point at which I was, you NEED accountability because that illness or disorder you've been battling has been winning for *you fill in the blank* years. It's nearly impossible to just shut it off and be able to hold yourself accountable.
So, I highly recommend finding an accountability partner. Whether it be a therapist, your significant other, a close friend, etc.
But make sure it’s someone that you can truly count on that you see regularly and will keep you honest. At first, when I went to therapy for the second time, my therapist was this person for me. She gave me ‘homework’ each week and I had to show proof of it. After I stopped going and I really opened up with Eric (my husband), he became that person for me. I was really lucky to have someone like that, but it wasn’t always easy…before I started to really want to get better, it was much more toxic between us. (I won’t go into all the details—but just know, it wasn’t a fairytale-type of situation).
This person should be someone that you can fully trust and feel completely comfortable with to tell them ALL the details. You NEED to get it all out. Trust me, I kept it all to myself for the longest time, and it wasn’t until I fully exposed myself to my therapist that I finally started to make progress. If you have a therapist available and can afford it, that’s my number one recommendation, but definitely do your research and make sure that person is the right one for you!
Keep track of progress
Progress will be slow, as it takes a lot of time to change something that’s become second-nature to you. So, by keeping track of your progress, it’ll help you stay motivated and on the right path. But don’t focus on the day to day ups & downs…you're gonna have hiccups and bumps along the way—that's to be expected. Use your progress to see the long-term trend that’s going on. The long-term is what you're doing it for.
For me, I had an app called "Recovery Road", where I kept track of my food, feelings, behaviors, etc. It was linked to my therapist's profile, so she could see how I was doing and we'd go over it at my appointments. It was an open book between us, and that book fluctuated between some really good weeks, and some not-so-good weeks.
So, again, eyes on the long-term.
You can keep a journal, pictures, make notes in your phone—whatever it is that you can use to reflect on as you go.
Accept the things you can't control & focus on what you CAN
You will drive yourself insane if you get worked up about the things that aren’t in your control all of the time. Honestly, when it comes down to it, you just need a f*ck it attitude. It’s a great approach to help you be happier in the present.
You can control the way you respond to situations and the actions you consciously take every day. Focus on that & shrug off whatever is out of your control. F*ck it.
If you know your condition…anorexia, bulimia, social anxiety, depression, etc., or maybe it’s a combination of a few—research it.
Applied knowledge is power.
Learn about any of the negative behaviors, thoughts, or actions you might slip into that come with your condition, and watch out for them. Researching your condition can also serve as a big eye-opener. It definitely was for me. To be totally honest and transparent, I googled all of the horrible side affects that come from bulimia—what it can/will do to your teeth, your organs, etc., and of course we know that ultimately, it can kill you. After reading things like that, I knew I didn’t want that for myself. It can be a big reality check for you.
Start journaling & practicing gratitude
I know it's trendy now, but it truly does help. When you focus on the things you're grateful for, you're WAY more likely to have a better day and be in a better mood.
This goes for anyone.
Here's what I did, and still do every day:
I have a journal (nothing special, just your average TJMaxx find) that I dedicate solely to my gratitude practice. Every day, I write down 3 things I'm grateful for—but not typical things like "I'm grateful for my friends"—I make sure to make them 3 things that happened within the last 24 hours. That could look like "I'm grateful today for the guy in the elevator holding the door for me". Reflecting on things like that helps you to appreciate 'the little things' and honestly helps you realize that there's so much to be grateful for.
Make your mantra & manifest on it
This might be my ‘corniest’ tip, but cheers to the f*ck it mentality here.
Your mantra should be a positive affirmation that you use to motivate & inspire yourself. I personally prefer a phrase as opposed to just one word, but to each their own here.
You can find tons of examples and guides for how to make your own mantra on Google by typing in “how to create a mantra”. Yes, it's that easy.
Take the time to do this. I know it sounds so lame, but I promise it can help.
Give yourself time to really think on this and don't rush through it. Make sure it’s easy to remember, and then say it aloud or silently to yourself whenever you catch yourself either slipping into bad thoughts/behaviors & manifest on it to get back to your best self.
We're creatures of habit, and changing a habit doesn't happen overnight.
If you want to change something that's become normal to you for some time, it takes a lot of effort and hard work. You have to face your fears and challenge your bad behaviors & thoughts.
There will be some really hard, painful times throughout the process—it's inevitable. So just expect & accept that.
The good things in life usually don't come easy and take work, but the challenges you have to face that get you there are SO worth the reward.