I strongly believe that everyone can receive help from the use of positive coping skills. My diagnosis requires that the majority of my treatment is the use of coping skills; some are incorporated into my daily routine and some are only used on those really bad days. I created a personal daily coping skills/self-care checklist to ensure my continued success in recovery that consists of meditation, a positive affirmation/devotion/prayer, diet/nutrition, physical movement, at least one positive social interaction, a fun activity and sleep hygiene. No matter what diagnosis or walk of life, I am confident you’ll take away at least one new tool for your tool belt after this article.
Meditation is practiced in many forms, and all forms can have a healing effect. My meditation can last anywhere from five to thirty minutes. During the shorter sessions I take time out in a quiet, comfortable place of solitude, and allow my mind to relax. My goal is to not think, and to allow every cell of my being to rest. If there is a thought in my mind that I cannot let go of I address it after my mediation. Whatever that thought or thoughts are I journal about them, and if needed, talk them over with someone in my support system. For the longer meditations I normally listen to an online ‘chakra cleansing’ or ‘guided meditation’ video. I also like to light candles, burn incense and turn the lights off during my meditations. I attempt to practice this coping skill daily, but I tend to use a more in-depth meditation on the harder days.
I have positive affirmations posted all over my room that consist of quotes, bible verses and fun statements. I also like to use dry erase markers and write new ones on my mirror as I look into it every day, and that guarantees I’ll read the affirmation at least once. One of the most influential affirmations I’ve used was given to me by a therapist and states: “My Worth Does Not Depend on What Others Think of Me.” I have a picture in my room that says: “Dance Like No One is Watching’ and another that states: “Worry Less, Pray More.” My devotion is randomly chosen from my religious book of choice, I read a chapter or so and ponder on its significance in my life. No matter your beliefs, a positive reading and contemplation can be pulled from a multitude of religious and inspirational readings.
I have by no means perfected the diet/nutrition aspect, however, I have a basic plan that works for me. This plan includes eating small meals throughout the day, tracking my caloric intake to ensure I do not overeat or under eat, and trying to incorporate healthy food and vitamins into my meals. If my eating habits change, it is normally a good indicator that I need to do some extra self-care. If I blow my diet, I just start over the next day. We all need to food spoil ourselves sometimes…chocolate is my weakness! I’ll always love myself no matter what size I am. Overall, I know it is easy for me to include a balanced diet on the days I feel my best.
I also track my physical movement. This can be as simple as working towards my step count goal or as extreme as kickboxing. I have a personal goal of 9,000 steps per day. Kickboxing is my newest coping skill; Kickboxing allows me to release any built-up energy in a safe space, create healthy relationships with those at the gym, and it creates a positive activity that I attend regularly. I also like hiking; Outdoor activities, especially including sunlight, are known to boost serotonin levels. Whatever the physical movement, exercise has been proven to stimulate our minds and create positive benefits for those recovering from a mental illness.
Ensuring I have a least one positive social interaction a day helps me to counteract the negative self-talk and helps me to avoid isolation (which I have a tendency of when I am not at my best). This can be as simple as a phone call or a positive interaction with someone at work. It can also include going out and catching up with a friend or attending a community event. I really have to push myself on this one on those really bad days. If I feel myself wanting to isolate, I make plans with a friend to go out and grab something to eat as soon as our schedules coordinate. This aligns with doing a fun activity as well, which can be any healthy activity that brings you joy.
I normally accomplish this with someone else, however, I’m not always able to. When my spare time is limited, or my friends are busy, I tend to play an online game or cuddle up and watch one of my favorite shows. Both of these encourage positive actions and positive thinking, which leads us to have a more positive outlook as we continue on our journey of recovery.
Last but not least, sleep hygiene is crucial for me to stay healthy. My mother has always determined that I am overtired if I am not feeling well. I aim to get eight hours of sleep a night, with a minimum of seven. Thanks to technology I am able to automatically track this with an app, but any method of recording works. I coordinate activities and utilize time managements skills to allow the proper time for sleep every night. If I am not able to get at least seven hours that night, I plan to take a nap or make up for it the next night. My app also sends me a weekly summary with my average hours of sleep per night. The recommended sleep needed can vary, but I am confident you will see a positive change in your mood by just simply practicing this coping skill.
I hope that this article has helped anyone reading it gain a few coping skills or has possibly sparked some ideas for new ones. I encourage trying these out and finding personal variations, as all our journeys are different. We are individuals and we need individualized coping skills. Mental illness or not, these tools can benefit anyone and assist us is living healthy lives. I wish you the best in your recovery, and never give up hope!
Courtney Maupin is a proud advocate of NAMI. She has been a part of NAMI Colorado since 2010; She started out attending NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups during her own journey to recovery. She later went on to become a Connections Facilitator and is presently an ‘In Our Own Voice’ presenter. Courtney works in sales, and in her free time she loves to write, model and kick-box.