Coping with Mental Illness: Reading

Throughout the younger years of my life, I have always loved reading. It has been a tool that I have previously used as a way to cope with my mental illness, however, over the past few years I have not read at all. I have only started reading again recently, and I cannot believe that I forgot how wonderful reading can be, as well as how much it can make it easier to deal with your mental illness.

The main reason I go to reading as a way to cope with my mental illness is the fact that it is most likely the least harmful form of escapism. The typical forms of escapism that I use are often somewhat harmful, such as using substances or taking obvious risks; but this time, I am using something that is beneficial to me and my well-being in more ways than one.

I have found that nothing gets me going quite like a good story. The satisfaction and happiness I feel whilst reading is something that I rarely get to experience, yet reading allows me to do just that. Reading can be a very introspective activity, it can provide a great understanding of emotions whilst teaching empathy and compassion. It allows you to observe the emotions and emotional behaviours of those within your story, with in turn, also teaches you how to observe your own emotions and behaviours, whilst making it easier to understand why you felt or behaved in such way. Reading allows you to think differently, whilst providing you with the ability to look at things from various perspectives; books are truly wonderful things.

The imagination and creativity that are involved with reading, almost brings your mind back to a childlike state; where it is completely receptive and open to everything going on around you, therefore teaching awareness in an extremely subtle manner. Not only are imagination and creativity involved in the activity of reading, but your ability to use them are also manifested and improved; therefore making you a more imaginative and creative person.

I have previously wrote about how music can be a great way to cope with and manage a mental illness, however, it is scientifically proven that reading can reduce stress even more so than music. Reading can reduce your levels of stress by up to 68%, which is incredible. It has also been scientifically proven that reading fiction improves our ethical and empathetic skills. Reading poetry specifically has the potential to boost your memory, and any form of reading also has the potential to make you more intelligent.

Now that we know that there is every reason we should be reading, it’s time to get some books. One of my favourite things about reading, is that you can read and become in possession of books fairly easily, and with little to no cost. Libraries are full of books that you can read at no cost, however, if you live somewhere where going to a library is not applicable, there are a few more options that you can consider. At some point in a persons life, they will most likely be in possession of at least one or more books, and most of them end up on a shelf never to be read again; and that’s why gaining books from friends and family is so great. You could either borrow a book from your friends or family, or perhaps they would even be willing to give you that book permanently; and it will not cost you a thing. Another option would be to read the books that are available for free online. There are many great books by talented authors that are available on the internet, so as long as you have an internet connection, you also have the opportunity to read thousands of books. If none of the previously mentioned options have taken your fancy, then you could always go to a book store, or an online book store, and buy some books. Nowadays, a lot of books are relatively cheap, and with the internet being so widely available you can make sure that you get the best price for your purchase. As there are now electronic devices that are dedicated to books and reading such as the Amazon Kindle, the books available for these devices are often a lot cheaper because they require no physical material and are obtained through downloading the book over the internet.

I hope this article has inspired at least one of you to pick up a book and start reading again, you’ll be very surprised by all the benefits of which it could bring.

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Coping with Mental Illness: Keeping Yourself Busy and Staying Productive

I have found that keeping myself busy and staying productive is one of the keys to successfully managing my mental illness. There are many reasons for this, and there are many reasons why it can help you too. I have spoken with many people about this subject, and they all have either agreed with me or recommended it to me before I had the chance to bring it up. This technique works for so many people, and I am yet to find someone it doesn’t work for. Of course, this is no miracle cure or shortcut to recovery, but it can aid you in that process and alleviate your symptoms in the meantime.

In effect, this technique involves retraining your brain with learning how to cope and manage with difficult thoughts, feelings and impulses. It teaches you how to redirect negative energies and behaviours into something that is productive and beneficial. This will also provide you with feelings of self-accomplishment as you have successfully managed to produce something. When engaging in an activity, it gives you a distraction which will prevent your mind from wandering and focusing on your symptoms, although this may not eliminate your symptoms entirely, it can lessen the severity of those symptoms. During this process you may also find a new hobby or talent, which gives you something to have in common with others to either talk about or participate in the same activity with them, therefore improving your social life and social skills; so there really is nothing to lose.

The most difficult part of this technique, is getting started in the first place. Especially with illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety or any other illness that can cause a loss of motivation or cognitive impairment. I have mentioned these illnesses as I know how hard it can be to even pull yourself out of bed when you are suffering from depression, or how the hallucinations and delusions can be so consuming that functioning within the ‘real world’ is not quite possible, or how cognitive impairment can leave you feeling like you are not capable of accomplishing anything. However, these are simply hurdles and barriers that we can get past with a little work and perseverance.

In order to make this easier for you, start with small, simple things; and do the things that you love to do and what makes you happy. This will give you more reason to do these things, which will inevitably make you far more likely to do them, and continue doing them. You’ll find that once you begin doing something, it’s easy; and that will give you the motivation to carry on. In fact, I have found that once I begin doing something I can either become so immersed in it, that a couple of hours can pass without my notice; or I end up enjoying myself that much that I do not want to stop doing whatever it is I am doing. After you feel comfortable doing small things, step outside of your comfort zone and try doing something a little bigger.

If you continue this process you will find that you are capable of doing anything that your mind can think of, whilst bettering yourself and how you manage your illness simultaneously.

Tips on Staying Productive

Many people struggle with their levels of productivity, including those with and without a mental illness. This is something that I have struggled with, and still do, although I have improved my levels of productivity greatly by doing a few small and simple things. The following are some things that you can do in order to increase your productivity:

Do your most important work first

Many people do not realise that avoiding doing the most important or most dreaded piece of work can lead to distracting you from performing your other tasks with guilt. Once you begin procrastinating or avoiding work, it can become a never ending cycle. So break that cycle, complete your piece of work, and continue with your other tasks and the rest of the day. Then bathe in the light of satisfaction, the hardest part of your day is over.

Multitask appropriately

Multitasking can be very useful, or it can be very harmful to your productivity. I would usually recommend focusing on one task, completing it, and then move onto the next; but sometimes, that just isn’t plausible. If you need to multitask, make sure you are multitasking effectively. By this I mean that if you are working on multiple articles, pieces of work or whatever else, make sure they are either closely related or at least somewhat relevant to each other. Although you are multitasking, it allows your brain to focus on one subject, which should allow you to produce and perform better.

Remove or block out distractions

One of the main reasons that I struggle with productivity, and one of the most common reasons that others suffer with productivity, is distractions. In today’s technological world, there are more distractions and possibilities for interruption than there ever has been. This can make it virtually impossible to concentrate on a task and maintain that level of concentration. Therefore, when you are working or aiming to be productive, create a space with little or no distractions for you to work within. I have found that merely blocking out distractions cannot be enough, and that it is better to remove them completely, or to change your workspace to one that has no distractions.

Wake up earlier / Get a head start

An extra few hours in the morning, could make or break your day. The busier your day, the more time you are going to need. However, you may find that waking up earlier can be quite difficult, therefore I recommend starting with small steps, such as waking up 15 minutes earlier each day whilst gradually increasing the time until you reach the time you are aiming for. If waking up earlier isn’t an option, getting a head start on what you need to do is another great way to increase productivity. This may mean taking an extra bit of time out of your day, to start on the work and tasks you need to do tomorrow.

Use technology as an effective tool to increase productivity

Although technology can be a distraction, it can also be used to increase your productivity. In the modern world, smart phones are capable of almost everything your computer is capable of. There are also a wide range of apps specifically aimed at people who wish to increase their levels of productivity. This may include applications and programs such as Dropbox, the Cloud, and Google Drive for storing your files online, allowing you to access them at any given time from multiple devices. Trello is a great tool for keeping track of projects and deadlines, along with Basecamp which is wonderful for project management. You may also find tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to be useful as they are capable of scheduling social media posts, meaning that you can spend less time on social media, and more time being productive.

Take breaks

As crazy as it may sound, taking breaks is an important part of increasing your levels of productivity. This is because no matter how busy you are, or how devoted you are to completing your work, as humans, there is a limit on what we can do. When we are working or being productive, we are diminishing our levels of energy. Eventually, physical or mental fatigue will begin to increase and as a result, it will start to impair your effectiveness and the quality of your work. Therefore it is important to schedule regular breaks, even during your most task-filled days. This will allow you to refresh yourself both mentally and physically, whilst allowing you to be more productive without effecting the quality of your work.

As you can see, keeping yourself busy and staying productive can be quite the task, however, it can also be extremely beneficial. This technique can and will improve your life, so go be productive and create some awesome stuff which you can be proud of. Good luck.

Coping with Mental Illness: Music

As I’ve previously mentioned there are a variety of ways to manage mental illness with or without medication, leading to a happier and more successful life. One tool I’ve previously mentioned using, is Art Therapy. Although music is one of the arts, I think it definitely deserves its own article due to its effectiveness and the amount of people that do rely on music to cope, including those with a mental illness, and without.

From a scientific perspective, research has shown that music causes dopamine (the feel-good chemical in your brain) to be released. This is scientific proof that music improves your mental wellbeing. There is also evidence that suggests negative themed music creates a positive reaction in the brain, causing you to redirect your energy into a more positive manner and become more productive and motivated. Although all forms of music do this. There are many other benefits of music proven by science, these include:

  • Providing a person with a sense of control
  • Releasing endorphins
  • Relaxes a person by slowing both their breathing and heart rate
  • Enhances higher brain function
  • Improves concentration and attention
  • Improve a person’s mood and reduce the effects of depression
  • Reduces stress
  • Can help a person fall asleep
  • Reduces feelings of fatigue, increasing energy and productivity levels in a person

As you can see there are a variety of benefits to be gained through using music as a way to improve both your physical and mental wellbeing that have been proved through extensive research and the use of science.

Music can be used to express feelings in a healthy and controlled manner, it also allows you to express thoughts and feelings that would be hard for you to say. Many people find music helpful as it provides comfort, something in which the individual relates to and allows you to feel understood. It also improves focus and allows you to maintain attention when performing tasks. A vast amount of people find listening to music to be relaxing, or that it allows you to relax when you are experiencing thoughts and feelings that are causing distress. Another great benefit of listening to or making music is that it fosters creativity, and allows you to think about things from a different perspective.

Many people use music as a way to feel a part of something and combat loneliness. There is a huge social aspect to music, and you can make many great friendships and relationships through music. It gives you something to have in common with others and the opportunity to meet other people that like similar things to you, as well as meet people who have similar struggles as you and understand what you are going through. It’s a magnificent tool for improving your social life, and allows you to cease feelings of loneliness.

How Music Helps Me Cope with Schizoaffective Disorder

Music is my favourite way of dealing with my mental illness. Music has always been a huge part of my life, even before I became mentally ill. As I am also able to play numerous instruments, this has made my love for music grow. I would go as far to say that music is what keeps me sane.

When I experience intense emotions such as anger, sadness, paranoia or any other negative emotion, music is my immediate go to. This is because it provides an immediate distraction and allows me to focus on something else. As I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, this means that I experience hallucinations, typically auditory and visual hallucinations. Music is a great way to block out voices or at least dull the hallucinations, and make them far less bothersome. I have also found music to provide me with motivation and make me far more productive than I would be without it. I regularly use music to change my mood, if I am feeling low and depressed, music is one of the very few things that can successfully improve my mood.

I have suffered with rather severe insomnia over the past few years, and music is one way I have been able to combat this. Although it only works when my insomnia is only of slight intensity, I have found listening to music before and whilst I sleep to actually make me sleep and allow myself to sleep well. This may not work for everyone, or it may only work for me, but if you suffer from insomnia and are yet to try this, give it a shot and see if it works for you. However, music also comes in useful in another way when I am suffering from insomnia; and that is the fact that I can use it to pass time when I am awake during the early hours of the morning. It is a wonderful cure for boredom.

I have found music to be one of the most effective and useful tools in managing my mental illness, I would be completely lost without it. If you find music to be useful to you, make sure you use it, and use it as much as you can. You will be surprised by all the benefits it can bring to you.

Coping with Mental Illness: Art Therapy

There are many ways to manage your mental illness with or without medication, or in conjunction to taking medication. By doing these things you can manage your mental illness more effectively and live a happier and healthier life style. Art therapy is a wonderful tool that almost anyone is capable of, plus, it’s low in cost and requires very little effort.

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art as its primary form of expression and communication; it is used as a tool to manage and address emotional issues which may be confusing and unsettling to the individual. Music, art, dance and drama are all forms of art and are included in art therapy, you do not need any previous experience or skill in doing any of these things as the aim is to use your creations to understand yourself and your illness better rather than producing a great work of art. However, you may find that you are more than capable of doing both. Art therapists work with people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. It can be provided in either groups or individually in order to best suit the individual’s needs. Art therapy can help you come to terms with any difficult feelings, thoughts, emotions, events or memories that may be causing you problems. There are many people that use art therapy successfully and find that it does help them manage and cope with their mental illness, and in some cases, possibly even recover from their illness.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy can improve an individual’s mental, emotional and even physical states. Many people have found it to raise their quality of life and can provide a wide range of benefits. Humans are social creatures with a never ending need to express themselves and show off their creativity. Through art we are all capable of doing this, which is why art therapy is not only good for those suffering from mental illness, but also those without. It is a healthy way to express yourself and your feelings, plus the possibilities are endless; the only limit is your imagination.

Art therapy helps to channel negative energy into something creative rather than destructive, this provides a safe outlet for negative emotions and feelings such as fear, anger, guilt and pain.  Sometimes, a person may find it too difficult or distressing to talk about certain things, art therapy allows a person to communicate with their therapist through any form of art media. Allowing them to communicate with their therapist more freely and to help them feel more understood. It can also allow that person to build trust with their therapist and others in a safe environment. Art therapy is a way for an individual to gain skills and a sense of achievement, increasing their self-esteem and self-respect. It helps to provide a more objective perspective on challenges or difficult circumstances within a person’s life.

You may also find that a form of art may become a new hobby of yours, or a new found talent. This opens up the possibilities of working within the art industry or just making some extra money on the side selling the things you have created. Having a hobby or activity you enjoy helps you to meet new people and make friends, improving your social life.

Personal Experiences with Art Therapy

I do not go to an art therapist for art therapy, however I do use it as an everyday tool in order to help me manage my mental illness. This is because it is a very therapeutic way to stay productive without draining yourself or using too much energy, therefore not allowing your mind to wander and focus on negative things. Keeping myself distracted is the number one way I manage my mental illness as I have found it to be the most effective.

Art therapy is one of my favourite tools to manage mental illness, and if you’ve never thought or heard of it, I would definitely recommend trying it out. I absolutely love being able to create whatever I want for myself and others, and it really does provide insight into your illness.