Being told by your doctor that you have a mental illness can be frightening and confusing. There is often a period of despair following the diagnosis of a mental illness and the associated negative expectations arising from community stereotypes.
One of the keys to living with a mental illness involves having an awareness of your own signs and symptoms, your own triggers for declining mental wellness and learning to be vigilant in developing an Optimal Health Care Plan to respond to these changes in a timely manner. Taking charge of your health by making healthy lifestyle choices and understanding the journey of recovery will assist you in achieving understanding and acceptance with a renewed sense of hope and to be able to move forward to actively participate in life again.
Recovery doesn’t happen in one giant leap but it is rather about taking small concrete steps, recognising your individual capacity to recover, claim and transform your life while focussing on your strengths and skills.
To increase your awareness of your own mental illness it may be beneficial to jot down your sensitivities and triggers that you recognise in your life and may contribute to the symptoms of your mental illness.
We have developed the following template which can help you work through your sensitivities and triggers:
- I recognise I have sensitivities and trigger areas that can increase symptoms of my mental illness, these include (list in the space below):
2. Early warning signs of declining mental health
The importance of recognising early warning signs of declining mental health cannot be underestimated. Early warning signs will be different for everyone but may include things such as, difficulty in getting out of bed in the mornings, staying at home and avoiding social situations, any change in eating patterns or sleeping, increase in irritability or sensitivity, any change in mood etc.
In the space below write down your early warning signs that you are aware of:
3. What are your coping strategies if you notice some early warning signs of declining mental health?
This may include strategies such as; following your Optimal Health Care Plan, making an appointment to see your doctor, reducing alcohol or caffeine intake, increasing your exercise levels, practicing Mindfulness; Talking to a friend/family member; Relaxation or meditation; Journalling your thoughts–write in a note book; Use positive affirmations; Have a balanced diet; Get extra rest/early nights; Take prescribed medication; Attend a support group; Wear something that makes you feel good; Make a list of your accomplishments; Do something that makes you laugh; Get some little things done; Take a warm bath; Listen to favourite music; Take time off from work etc.
In the space below write down your own coping strategies:
It is important that you develop an individualised Optimal Health Care Plan which looks at what you can do on a daily basis to achieve on going good health. This may involve actions such as eating 3 meals a day, maintaining routines around sleep and waking times, writing a daily journal or keeping a mood diary.
HSS has a team of specialist Health Coaches who can assist you through this process and help get you on the path to better health. Alternatively, speak with your GP or alternative Health Care Professional if you feel you need help.