Mental illness will either make or break you, to put it frankly. Knowing this is key to moving forward and pushing through it, rather than succumbing to its controlling tendencies—like I did, for a long time.
If this isn't you, and you haven't suffered in this way, these tips are still important for you in order to incorporate a healthier way of living, and ultimately, be at better odds of avoiding mental illness.
Before we dive in, let me be clear that these habits are very difficult to achieve, especially for the depressed but let me tell you this: it's very much possible, and will very much make a dramatic change in your life if you persevere. I still slip up often in doing these things myself; but when I genuinely focus on the small but important factors of my lifestyle that I need to preserve better, I find the big things settle into place too. You've got this, and you have a chance to feel better—take it from a primary source.
Here we go.
#1 Have less friends.
...and every psychologist in the room simultaneously has heart failure.
Now, look, quality over quantity always wins, and people can suck (sorry to be the downer here). Investing time into people who do not build you up as a person are not worth it. With mental illness in particular, doing anything can be very draining and difficult. Don't waste your limited energy on people who don't deserve it.
"You have five friends, the rest is landscape." This Portuguese saying—it’s everything. Some people can really drag us down, it may be through only seeking our attention when it benefits them, for their own image or their own happiness. You need to make relationships where the giving is equal to the taking, and with people you feel you can ask for help.
When you narrow down your friend circle, you see who matters and who you should invest more time into. When you put time and effort into the right people, things blossom and you begin to have a lot more to look forward to in life. Adventure and plan with people who have common interests, and want nothing more than to see you flourish.
#2 Steer clear of the lovey-dovey type of relationships.
*Vomits at the thought of cringe-worthy affection*
Don't start up anything new, unless you are completely and utterly sure about it. If you are insecure and suffering mental illness, it can be very difficult to dive into that—you need to learn to care for yourself and respect yourself first, before allowing anybody else the privilege of that. You need to discover for yourself what it feels like to be loved, because if you depend on the wrong person to do that for you, it can screw you up and give you a very poor perception of how you deserve to be treated.
Don't throw yourself into thing after thing hoping that this will be the one, because sadly, the reality is you have come to a delusional mindset of believing that a partner will fix your discontentment with planet Earth. Believing in Santa is probably the only safe man you can trust in now.
#3 Eat, sleep, don't rave, repeat.
Sorry to be a party pooper-—you aren't going to like these points, but mental illness and physical illness go hand in hand, and for the most part- you have control over your physical health, so grab that with both hands because you can. Mental illness can have a very big impact on physical health, and then the circle continues because our physical health then influences out mental health.
- Sleep—Get eight to nine hours a night. Yes, some people function on six and crazy people may go for even less, but it's better being fully rested. Get into a good routine and wind down at the same time every night and be asleep religiously at the chosen time. Be up at a good time too. I know, with depression this task can be painfully difficult, but there are ways around it. Firstly, winding down and reducing screen-time before bed is a big hit. If you still have no success gaining your forty winks, head to the local GP and see what they can give you to help. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body requires to make you feel tired and you are probably in deficit of it, and you can get little tablets that will boost it up a little—it works miracles. Set your alarm once, and hide it somewhere at the far side of the room. That way, to turn it off you are forcing yourself to get up.
- Eat—You know what I'm about to say: eat regularly, healthily, and don't overeat. Avoid junk and opt for high fibre and slow energy releasing carbs i.e. porridge, brown rice and wholemeal bread.
- Don't rave—Steer clear of alcohol or drugs, never self-medicate. Maybe it feels good once or twice but trust me, it isn't worth it when you have an emotional breakdown at 4 AM in front of your parents because your jeans won't come off as a result of being fat, despite the real reason being you forgot to undo the button. Not cool.
- Repeat—Form kick-ass habits by being persistent.
In my first year or two of depression, when I was naïve (I mean, less naïve,) and very self-absorbed, I thought playlists of particularly sad songs that I felt I could relate to were my saviour. In reality, it was making me worse and feeding my illness. Music is a hammer—it can be used for either building, or smashing things to pieces. Uplifting, positive music is brilliant for those who struggle through the day. If you are anxious when out and about—cram in those headphones and throw on some Bruno Mars. If you are really struggling to get yourself up and ready in the morning, then put on a light-hearted acoustic playlist. Some upbeat indie always gets me going.
#5 Get some mad kick-ass adventures under your belt.
Sports are good—the dopamine released and all them good hormones are a big yes, but the gym can kinda suck. Don't stick to boring and tedious routines. Do new things, different and kind of out of your comfort zone. Adrenaline is your best friend. She's always there for you when you want to feel less numb. Whether its from the rush of paragliding, or breaking your leg in the landing—you're gonna feel it. Do exercise, but in different ways. Conquer a mountain or two with friends, have a bonfire on the beach, go horse-riding or rock climbing, the list is endless. There is so much out there still for you to explore and discover, so go for it and fall in love with the world and yourself in the process.
So, all the best. Work hard at these—especially point three. Like I said, sort the little things in life and the big things will naturally become easier and smaller themselves. Never be discouraged.
Failure is a necessary step towards success.