As a young boy, I experienced pain in my leg, and my mother took me to the doctor as soon as I told her something felt off. The doctor assured me it was a sprain, and I went on my way. When we experience physical pain, this is often taken seriously with a visit to the doctor’s office if, for nothing else, just to make sure that everything is, in fact, okay. This is, sadly, not the case with mental pain, or feeling as if something is off in your brain. When somebody feels “off” in their brain, others may tell them to “brush it off!” or “wait for it to pass,” instead of actively seeking treatment.
Each year, 18.1% of Americans 18 and over experience anxiety. Although anxiety is highly treatable, only 36.9% of those who suffer receive help. In 2017, 7.1% of American adults 18 and over had experienced depression in a given year. On average, two out of three people suffering from depression do not actively seek treatment. The reasons are many, and can include a fear of stigma or judgment, lack of access to proper resources, or a lack of knowledge of treatment options available.
When somebody living with a mental health condition hears “treatment,” they might immediately begin thinking of the worst: doctors not listening to them, bad medication side effects, exercise regimens taking too long to produce a lasting effect, and similar unfortunate scenarios. Treatment, though, can be thought of as whatever makes you feel better; it doesn’t have to be a doctor’s office, a psychiatrist’s chair, or a pharmacy, although these are three valid, important, and respectable ways to receive treatment. Treatment can be in groups or by yourself, can include changing your thinking habits or your physical habits, and can even be done in person or on a phone application. When choosing treatment options, it is important to choose what makes you feel comfortable and safe. Your treatment option should feel right for you.
Finding your treatment routine can take time, but is well worth the effort. There’s a good chance that you already know what you like to do, and this is a good starting point. In my case, I love writing. When I was thinking about my personal treatment routine to manage my anxiety and depression, I decided writing had to be an integral part. Part of my personal treatment routine now is journaling. If you are struggling to find something that you like to do, ask your family or a close friend to help you out. Sometimes, our friends know us better than we seem to know ourselves, and can suggest something that might be helpful in making us feel better. Although I loved to read, it was not until a friend mentioned that he always saw me reading that I realized how important it was to me. Each day, as part of my personal treatment, I read for fifteen minutes.
Here are some other ideas that may factor into your treatment routine:
- Repeating positive affirmations
- Experiencing nature
- Playing with animals
In many ways, treatment means getting back in touch with what makes you, you!
When we take in the good of what life has to offer to us, we often feel good in return, which is a good outcome of a successful treatment regime. A person living with a mental health condition may find it difficult to see the good in their day-to-day lives. One idea that might help to intensify and dedicate the practice taking in the good as part of a treatment regimen, proposed by Rick Hanson (2014), is to HEAL:
- Have a positive experience (This can be as simple as driving to work safely.)
- Enrich it (Notice scents, sights, and feelings associated with the experience.)
- Absorb it (Take the time to sit with your feeling and experience.)
- Link it to positive and negative material (Like positive or negative experiences or expectations.)
This practice, coupled with other practices that make you feel happy, can be combined to develop a personalized approach to treatment, one that exists on your terms – and with your own personally-defined outcome in mind.