Don’t Go It Alone
Many areas have local support groups. I run a mental health support group called Living Grace at my church. There are also Fresh Hope groups, Celebrate Recovery programs (which helps people with all sorts of challenges, not just substance abuse), and NAMI offers many local support groups as well.
Attending a support group reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. Even better, many give us additional tips and skills that help de-escalate our intense emotions and manage our symptoms.
While face-to-face groups are ideal, there are additional online resources we can utilize, as well. I run the Wounded Birds Ministry for Mental Health group on Facebook. There are also great hashtags you can follow on Twitter and Instagram, and Pinterest boards with inspiring messages.
These are all great ways to get additional support between visits. Best yet, they are always open!
Journaling Is the Cheapest Therapy
My therapist, Mike, asked me to start a journaling practice as a way to manage my experiences between sessions. He called it “the cheapest form of therapy.”
He was right.
Daily journaling helps me further process situations and stories that come up during therapy sessions. Also, I’ve gained insights about myself that accelerated my recovery and achieve stability with my bipolar disorder.
While I typically journal once a day, some days (especially early in my recovery journey) I journal several times. To encourage my journal writing, I found that I needed (yes, needed) a journal that excited me. I now have a shelf full of leather-bound, decorative journals that I love to open and write in.
Track Your Moods
Get the most out of the therapy sessions you have with your therapist by coming in prepared. Mood trackers help us get a bigger picture of how we are doing overall. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to base our progress on how we are feeling in the moment.
I love this mood tracker because tracking my scores shows me how much my mental health improved over the four years I’ve been in recovery. I started at a high crisis score, and now I consistently float near the bottom of the range.
Bullet journals are another great way to track moods, and there are Facebook groups specifically focused on building mental health tracking mechanisms.
Mood trackers also help your psychiatrist identify how your medication(s) are working and how they’re impacting your mood. Your doctor can make smarter choices and better recommendations when you arm him or her with data.