Forgotten Dad's story:
Learning to trust others
Don't do it alone...
Thriving with a second chance
Having poor overall health can make recovery harder. Finding ways to take care of your health can aid your recovery and help you feel better. Get routine check-ups and visit your doctor when you're not feeling well. Sometimes, it is hard to tell whether not feeling well is due to a side-effect of your medicine, a symptom of your mental illness or a different health problem. Your doctor can sort it out.
Once you have practiced living healthy you should make a list of things that work for you to stay healthy; for instance walk my neighbor's dog, eat more apples and get enough sleep. It is also a good idea to make a list of things that you know from experience trigger unhappy moods and make symptoms worse. Making a list of the ways to live well and triggers to avoid will help you live the healthiest life possible and avoid some unnecessary health (mental and physical) complications.
Some websites (like SparkPeople and Just Keep Moving) and smart phone applications offer free calorie counters, workout trackers, and personalized diet and fitness plans. They can be a great resource to learn about stretches, healthy eating, and being active. They also allow you to track your progress and see how you are doing in reaching your goals.
Sometimes, medicine can cause you to gain weight. Other times, eating unhealthy foods can cause weight gain. Foods high in calories and saturated or "bad" fats can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol. This can increase your chances of gaining weight and having other health problems, like heart disease and diabetes.
No one knows exactly which foods promote maximum mental health. But following some basic suggestions can boost your energy, mood and overall wellness:
Consider the new food pyramid: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which builds the food pyramid, says a healthy diet.
For additional nutritional information, see mypyramid.gov. You'll find a food tracker, menu planner and other tools.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about how to have a healthy diet.
Some evidence links depression and nutrition, although some of the research is still under debate. Nutrients that may play a role in combating depression include:
Along with a healthy diet, exercise can improve your health and well-being. Exercising regularly can increase your self-esteem and confidence; reduce your feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression; improve your sleep; and help you maintain a healthy weight. Living with a mental health condition can lead to isolation and loneliness. Getting active is the antidote.
While the object is to start getting active, it's good to start gradually. When you are not well, a small amount activity can tax your energy and concentration, so it is important to pace yourself to start with. Talk with your mental health provider about how much activity to take on. Don't be hard on yourself if you can't do all that you hoped to at first. You will gain stamina and strength with time and practice.
There are lots of ways to start getting more active. Go to the library or get out to the mall. Pursue your favorite hobby or take one up. Go to a musical event; while some cost money, others are free. Check for free or low-cost activities at public recreation centers, parks and adult education programs. If there is a tuition charge or admission fee, there may be discounts for people with disabilities or seniors.
For your overall health, the American Heart Association recommends:
The Centers for Disease Control offers more detailed guidelines.
Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and talk to your doctor. You might enjoy walking, jogging, or even dancing. You don't have to go to a gym or spend money to exercise. Some suggestions include:
Inexpensive suggestions to improve strength training include:
Getting regular exercise is important. Especially if you have been inactive, it's OK to start gradually. It's a good idea to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor, especially if you have health conditions or are older.
However you choose to get active, it's always better if you can get a friend to join you or find a friendly place for your activity. Look for adult education classes, activities where you worship, community centers, and senior centers. Local newspapers and their websites often feature weekly calendars of upcoming events.
Sleep can affect your mood as well as your body and is important to your recovery. Not getting the right amount of sleep can make day-to-day functioning and recovery harder. For tips on how to sleep better, contact the National Sleep Foundation at 202-347-3471 or visit the World Sleep Foundation blog.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiological Catchment Area study, "the risk of developing new major depression was much higher...compared to those without insomnia". Furthermore in their study of about 8,000 participants, 40% of those with insomnia and 46.5% of those with hypersomnia (sleeping too much) had a mental illness. The relationship between getting enough rest and reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses is strong.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they lose sleep because of stress. That's especially unfortunate because sleep combats some of the fallout of stress, and poor sleep has been linked to significant problems, including:
To sleep longer - and better - consider these suggestions:
If you find yourself drinking or using drugs to cope, it is time to seek help. Although using drugs and alcohol may seem to help you cope, substance use can make your symptoms worse, delay your treatment and complicate recovery. It can also cause abuse or addiction problems. To find help now, call 800-662-HELP or visit http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.
Substance abuse affects an estimated 25 million Americans. When accounting for the people who are affected indirectly such as families of abusers and those injured or killed by intoxicated drivers, an additional 40 million people are affected.
There are many symptoms and warning signs of substance abuse including:
Treatment of substance abuse is geared towards abstinence and includes a variety of therapies. Psychotherapy aids patients in understanding behavior and motivations and in developing self-esteem and coping with stress. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Dual Recovery Anonymous are very effective in helping the patient establish a support network. In some cases medications may be used with some success.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. Smoking puts you at risk for problems like heart disease and cancer. For more information about quitting, call 800-QUIT-NOW or visit http://www.becomeanex.org/ and http://smokefree.gov/.
If you are experiencing trouble getting motivated or need additional support visit http://www.njchoices.org/ to learn tips to quit smoking and read people's stories about being smokers and having mental health conditions.
To read more about the dual diagnosis of addictions and mental health conditions read the section on addictions and visit Mental Health America's factsheets on co-occurring disorders.
Do you use smoking, drugs, or alcohol to cope? - Click here to access a short checklist.
Everyone has stress. It is a normal part of life. You can feel stress in your body when you have too much to do or when you haven't slept well. You can also feel stress when you worry about your job, money, relationships, or a friend or family member who is ill or in crisis. Stress can make you feel run down. It can also cause your mind to race and make it hard to focus on the things you need to do. If you have a mental illness, lots of stress can make you feel worse and make it harder to function.
There has been considerable research done that proves that stress exacerbates mental health conditions. Studies indicate that work and family stress are associated with mental health conditions and loss of productivity at work and in normal day-to-day functions. One study conducted by an Australian researcher found work stress to be a significant risk factor for developing mental health conditions and decreased work productivity. To read the full study click here: http://www.ijmhs.com/content/3/1/4. Further research has been done on many specialized populations (migrant workers, army personnel, dentists, teachers, et cetera) demonstrating that stress leads to an increased likelihood of developing or worsening a mental health condition.
How do I know if I am suffering from stress?
Still unsure if you are suffering from too much stress?
Take this quiz at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/llw/stressquiz.html. Remember that stress can also lead to serious mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorders.
If you are feeling stressed, there are steps you can take to feel better:
Negative thinking can often drag you and others around you down. There are many different types of negative thinking and you may not even realize that you are doing it. It is an important part of living well to overcome and change the negative thinking. Some ways of overcoming the negative thinking include replacing the negative thought with a positive one, repeating positive statements, and seeking professional therapy from a cognitive-behavioral therapist. Common types of negative thinking are:
Magnification and Minimization - this is placing a bigger importance on the negative events while ignoring the positive ones. When you start thinking in always, never, everyone, nobody, et cetera, then you are thinking too much about the negatives and using those to over-generalize. This is also called "all or nothing" thinking. An example of this would be: I always embarrass myself, nobody likes me.
Emotional Reasoning - this is drawing conclusions based on emotions and ignoring the facts. An example of this would be: I am angry with you so you must be wrong and the source of my problems.
Should Statements - this is relying on the absoluteness of "should" statements. "Should" statements cause the thinker to create rigid rules for themselves and others that need to be followed without flexibility. An example of this would be: I should always avoid talking about my personal issues with others. Or even: I should always wear black shoes after Labor Day.
Labeling and Mislabeling - this is the constant applying of labels on people. Often the labels are inaccurate or negative as you never know all the information. An example of this would be: She is promiscuous because she flirts a lot. Or even: He must be an alcoholic because he has had three glasses of beer to drink.
Personalization - this is blaming yourself for things you do not have control over, causing unnecessary stress. This could be thinking that it is your fault that the train came late or that it is your fault that your teenager likes suggestive rap music. An example of this would be: I am the reason that my insurance denied payment for medication.
If you find yourself caught in the loop of negative thinking, sit down and identify three strengths or things you do well. For instance you could be a good listener, in good physical shape, good with animals, or remember names easily.
Get routine check-ups and visit your doctor when you're not feeling well. It may be due to your medicine or a symptom of your mental illness. But it could also be a different health problem. Create a Family Health Portrait of the diseases and illnesses your family has faced and take it to your doctor to discuss your risks and what you should be looking out for.
Of course you don't have to be in crisis to seek help. Why wait until you're really in pain? Even if you're not sure you'd benefit from help, it can't hurt to explore the possibility.