There’s a difference between mental health and mental illness. While everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health; not everyone has a mental illness. There have been times in the past when I have used these terms interchangeably, but it is something I am trying to be more aware of. Sometimes it seems more palatable to say mental health rather than mental illness, but that is only because of the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.
Everyone should do things that are good for their mental health, regardless of whether they have a mental illness.
Below are examples of how I take care of my mental health, and then how I take care of my mental illness.
Good for my mental health (not including humans)
Seamus has a routine every night that I make sure to take the time to appreciate. He typically gets into bed 15-30 minutes before my bedtime – he spends that time taking his evening bath. When I get into bed he waits for me to get settled under the blankets and comes over to cuddle. Each night he settles in the crook of my arm and after I turn off the light he readjusts enough to fall asleep with this head nestled under my chin. I know when he has fallen asleep when I can no longer hear or feel his purr.
Sam is also a great cuddler, he’s also the most adorable troublemaker I know. It’s always fun to see what he gets himself into (not always when he’s actually in the process of making trouble). Once he managed to get into the walls of the house – that was terrifying and we made sure to keep that door in the basement closed after that, but when he came out of the wall, he was dirty and so happy I couldn’t help but laugh.
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General health behaviors
I don’t necessarily like to exercise, but I recognize how important it can be for mental health. Due to an injury I have had to take some time away from the gym but look forward to getting back into the swing of things with exercise.
Practicing good sleep hygiene
Getting regular sleep is important for everyone. Just look at how grumpy people so often are when they don’t get enough sleep.
Taking time to relax
I enjoy reading and when I allow myself the time to do so I feel satisfied and entertained.
My husband and I enjoy cooking together and we make sure to do so several nights a week. It’s a good way to relax, talk about our day, and create something to enjoy together.
Listening to Podcasts
Listening to podcasts is a good way for me to relax. I will often listen to them while working on a cross stitch project, playing a game on my phone, or even while doing chores or commuting.
Things that are good for managing my mental illness
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It’s important to take my medications as prescribed and to report any side effects that may result in less consistent compliance.
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Attending all appointments
It’s important that I not only show up for these appointments, but that I come prepared with any questions or concerns. Sometimes I make a list of things I want to mention, and once I even made an outline that I gave a copy of to my psychiatrist with certain items marked as more or less important depending on time.
This is one that could have easily gone in for mental health just as easily as it does here in the mental illness category. The important part of therapy is that it helps you live your life well which is beneficial to everyone (mental health) but particularly beneficial to those managing a mental illness. Like with psychiatry appointments in is important to come prepared, however since these for me are weekly it is easier to come in and just talk about the past week or build on the prior session.
Taking care of mental health
Yup, everything I listed in mental health is important for managing a mental illness. Simply taking meds and attending appointments will not be sufficient if mental health is not also looked after.