Tried And True Techniques For Managing Mental Health

When you're feeling particularly down, just keep these things in mind to help lift your mood!
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taking care of your mental health
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We all have bad days, but a bad day can be exacerbated when you are already struggling with depression and anxiety. I have struggled with my own mental illness for many years, and in the list that follows are the techniques I use on a regular basis to help me manage my emotions and ward off depressing thoughts.  If you're ever having trouble keeping your head up, just read through this list of ways to make it through even the darkest of days.

Here are the techniques for managing your mental health when you are feeling down.

1. Do something that makes you happy

This might sound like a no-brainer, but so often when we feel down, we forget to engage in activities that normally make us happy.  Get out your sketchpad, or your notebook, or your music mixer, and just get creative. 

Google some sketching ideas for bored artists, or go to your local coffee shop and write a background story for a passing stranger. Record a new set of vocals and save them for later use in an album you are working on.  Whatever your hobby is, get your creative juices flowing and beat this bad day.  

Personally, I love to draw when I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I am an extreme overthinker, so when my thoughts are too much, I use drawing as a way to slow myself down.  Some of my favorite sketches were done on days I felt depressed since I pushed myself to be extra creative.  You never know what you might create!

sketching to improve your mood
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2. Get outside to stay active

Even if you aren't an outdoorsy person, getting some Vitamin D is sure to help boost your mood.  I get it, sometimes you won't feel like being active.  Yet studies have shown that getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D can greatly reduce depressive symptoms and improves overall mood. 

My parents had to force me to go outside when I got depressed.  They would bribe me with the promise of sweets later or encourage me with soft words.  As reluctant as I was to leave my bed, I always felt better after my walk. 

Try strolling around your neighborhood and smell the neighbor's flowers, or sit on your back porch in a comfy chair and curl up with a good book.  However you go about getting it, the sunlight is guaranteed to help.

get outside to stay active
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3. Spend time with your pets

Recently I got a puppy, and at first, the adjustment was stressful, but now I can't imagine life without her.  She makes every small task seem much more exciting, watching her tail wag so hard her whole body shakes.  

Whether I'm gone for three hours or three days, the reaction is the same.  Use your furry friends' enthusiasm to cheer yourself up by calling your pet over and spending some quality time with them. 

Seeing your pup wag its tail, or hearing your cat purr always cheers up pet owners. Even if you have a different kind of pet, like a rabbit or a gecko, let them out of their enclosure and take some time to just enjoy their company. 

Studies have shown that playing with your pet elevates your serotonin and dopamine levels and reduces blood pressure. What better way to combat your depression and/or anxiety is by releasing some sweet, sweet dopamine?

spending time with pets
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4. Practice mindfulness

It's no secret that our phones distract us. Social media alone is a huge time waster and a perpetrator of self-esteem issues, so putting your phone on does not disturb and focusing on being in the moment is a great way to free your mind. 

Set up a soft mat on the floor to meditate, or pull out a coloring book and turn on some relaxing instrumentals.  Anytime your mind begins to wander, draw your attention back to the task at hand.  All of those distractions can wait, right now the focus is you!  

For me, drawing is one of my mindfulness techniques, but sometimes I like to meditate as well.  Meditating can be hard, so if you aren't great at it just yet, don't beat yourself up. I like to focus on my breathing, or how the carpet rubs against my bare arms. Practicing this a little every day can really help improve your self-control, not only bringing you out of your funk but also preparing you for any future depressed days.

practicing mindfulness
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5. Journaling your emotions down on a paper

A great way to organize your thoughts and process your emotions is to get them down on paper.  When we only talk to ourselves in our head, sometimes we can lose sight of important details, or miss things we might have noticed had we written about it. 

Journaling is also a great technique for those of you who are not natural external processors.  Keeping everything balled up inside is never healthy, and journaling is a great way to get more comfortable expressing yourself through words.

Despite being a writer, I have struggled with journaling.  Mainly because I'm extremely forgetful and just don't remember to do it regularly.  However, on the days I do journal, I always feel lighter afterward. 

Confiding in a bound stack of paper is surprisingly freeing; there's no judgment, no fear of offending anyone.  It's just you and your raw, unfiltered thoughts.

journaling
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6. Set small goals for yourself

The easiest way to feel better about yourself is to set a mini-goal that you can easily accomplish. Whether it be trying a new recipe, or testing out a new hiking trail, or even making a list of your larger goals, make sure you can easily complete it. Not only will this give you a huge confidence booster, but it might also motivate you to knock more things off of your to-do list!

Small goals are especially handy when you have an impending project or assignment looming over your head.  I use this strategy all the time in my school life.  Break down the larger task into mini ones that can be completed an hour at a time. 

I do this for all of my term papers and end-of-semester presentations, that way I won't feel discouraged and overwhelmed.  Utilizing this technique has helped me write multiple-page papers in a timely manner and lowered my overall stress levels.

7. List Your Truths

This is something else I've learned throughout my time coping with my own mental wellbeing, and it has become quite invaluable to me.  Whenever I am in the midst of a breakdown, I often catastrophize situations and exaggerate the facts in my head. 

Not only does this stress me out, thus making the breakdown worse, but it's also a bad habit that is hard to break.  In these instances, I force myself to write a list of things I know are true.  Start with small things, for example,  "My dog loves me." 

Work up to the bigger things such as, "I am worth loving."  It may sound ridiculous, or seem hard to believe at that moment, but by practicing telling yourself these things out loud, you will train your brain to automatically remember them.  Not only will this help you get through this particularly tough day, but it's great for any scenario where you begin to doubt yourself.

8. Spend quality time with your loved ones

Spending time with my friends and family has been one of my go-to's for years.  Life can get super busy and hectic, and it's important to always remind ourselves that we are loved and valued. Depression can make you forget that, and what better way to cheer yourself up than spending time with people who love and care about you!  

Over the years as I've matured, I've gotten quite close to my mother.  Not only is she my mom, but she's my friend and number one fan. I confide in her constantly, and she's always there to give me hugs when I need them. 

Whether it is a parent, guardian, sibling, aunt, uncle, or best friend, just being in their presence can boost your overall mood. Try scheduling a shopping spree together, or get tickets to the fun new movie.  

spend quality time with family
image source: parenting

9. Find someone to talk it out

Related to number 8, this one is more than just spending time with loved ones.  While doing fun activities together is certainly therapeutic, if you are able to voice what's bothering you and feel comfortable speaking about it, please do. 

While journaling can help alleviate some of the internal stress your mind has put on your body, talking about it to another person has immeasurable benefits.  You can get advice, and the other person has enough distance from the problem that they can help you put things into perspective. 

Both of my parents help me out a lot in this aspect because they point out my irrational train of thought and steer it in a healthier direction. Even if the person you confide in doesn't have advice for the situation, just having your feelings acknowledged and validated will help you feel a lot better.

talk to therapist

10. Take a deep breath

Anytime your depression and/or anxiety has got you feeling a little extra down, just revisit this article to come up with an easy and fun way to boost your spirits. Feel free to make your own list to refer back to as well, anything to help you cheer up and take care of your mental health.

relax and take a deep breath
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Remember this, it's ok if you don't have it all figured out just yet, each day is a new chance to start over. Maybe today just isn't your day, but don't beat yourself up over it. Love yourself and remember that the important thing is that you don't give up.  Take some deep breaths and pat yourself on the back. You will make it through this bad day, and each day after.

An aspiring writer with a passion for coffee and dogs. If she's not playing video games she can be found napping with her own dog.

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