Mental health first aid: How to pick yourself back up
“Note to self: every time you were convinced you couldn’t go on, you did.”
Sometimes when we fall, we fall hard. It can happen for so many reasons: a fight with a friend, the death of a family member, losing a job, a bad breakup, even an amicable breakup. There’s no right or wrong reason to feel down, and it can be very difficult to pull yourself out of a serious funk.
It’s during these low periods when we learn how resilient we can be. It’s not always easy, but there are some things you can do to bounce back from a difficult experience.
Please note that these tips are not intended to be treatment for mental health conditions such as depression. If you are suffering from depression, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional.
- Establish a reset deadline
Pick a date in the near future that will act as the day you turn yourself around. Let yourself be sad or down until this day. Indulge in Netflix marathons or listen to sad songs on repeat, but when your reset deadline arrives, it’ll all have to stop. Make a conscious effort to reset your mental state and get back on track.
- Gather a support crew
You don’t have to be the only person who bears the burden of your tough times. Even though you might feel like being alone, it can help your frame of mind to spend time with someone you trust. You can reach out to a group of friends or just one person; it doesn’t matter. Start small by going for a coffee or a walk, and see how it affects your thoughts.
It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but lace up your trainers and get moving. Exercise has proven benefits for physical and mental health, and it might be just what you need to get out of your head and into a more positive future. You don’t have to get out and run a marathon; just move your feet, whether it’s a brisk stroll or a dance party in the privacy of your bedroom.
Sign up to be a volunteer for a cause you believe in, whether that’s homelessness, animal welfare, education, or something else. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community, boost your self-esteem, and give you a different perspective on life.
- Rearrange your room
Change the way you look at things in your own home by moving around your furniture. Rearranging can give you a sense of purpose and productivity, plus it will help you to focus on something new. This also gives you an opportunity to rid of any negative reminders or outdated objects that no longer serve a useful or positive purpose in your life. It can also stir up your creativity, which might inspire you in other ways. Let go of the old so you can move onto the new.
- Set actionable goals
Think about the way you would like your life to look, then work backwards. Come up with a list of small, actionable goals that can bring you closer to the life you’d like to lead. It feels great to accomplish something, no matter how small. Remember, it is through small steps that we are able to achieve large goals. You may also like to try the following exercise: Picture yourself living the life you want. How does it feel? What’s your mood like? What are you wearing and how are you standing? Regularly tapping into positive thoughts can actually retrain your brain over time.
Meditation also has the ability to rewire your brain if practiced consistently, over a long period of time. It has incredible positive effects on mental health. It calms you down and slows your breathing, but did you know it can actually change the way you perceive and respond to stress? A recent study found that participants showed changes to their brains after just three days of mindfulness meditation. The best part? You only have to do it for a few minutes each day to reap the rewards.
- Make a list of things you are good at
It’s time to blow your own horn. Thinking about the areas where you excel can remind you what you’re capable of! Make a list of the things you’re good at, whether you make a mean vanilla slice or can recite the alphabet backwards faster than anyone you know. There’s no judgement here, only a personal cheerleading session.
- Seek inspiration
Finding resilience when you’re going through a hard time can seem impossible. If you’re struggling to find it in yourself, seek it in external sources. Try reading an inspirational book, listening to upbeat music, or watching a feel-good film. These experiences can summon positive emotions and help you turn things around.
Even if you think you’re not a creative person, creating can do wonders for your mood. You can paint, write, draw, do a puzzle, knit, bake, plant flowers, build a dollhouse; it doesn’t matter, as long as you are making something. Art comes in so many forms, and you don’t have to be good at something for it to help your mental health.
Bouncing back from a difficult experience can take time, and you may find that what works for your friend doesn’t work for you. The key to picking yourself up and finding your resilience is making an effort; try a few different things until you discover what works for you, and you’ll be on the path to feeling good again.