The importance of addressing your mental health, as well as your physical health, when you have chronic illness!
Each year on October 10th is World Mental Health Day, WMHD for short. Living with chronic illness and chronic pain, naturally impacts on your mental health too. This is because there isn’t just a battle going on physically, there is also a battle going on mentally as well that comes as part of the fight against chronic pain. This is why on my blog and in my Facebook group “HELEN’S FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS & CHRONIC ILLNESS SUPPORT GROUP” I cover both physical health and mental health as the two can impact on each other so much. This WMHD post is a reminder than we can’t ignore our mental wellbeing. This post will explore addressing the mental health side of living with chronic illness and how we can help ourselves and each other in this area. After all this year’s WMHD theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL’!
Mental Health and Chronic Illness link
When it comes to our physical health, chronic pain warriors have a chest full of therapies, tips, tricks, appointments, meds, equipment etc. All to help address the symptoms of the physical illness and give our body’s the help it needs physically to cope and keep battling on. Yet do we give our mental health the same attention or support?
This isn’t a criticism, as addressing all the physical battles that come along with chronic illness is hard enough, but it is encouragement for us to pay attention to the mental battle that comes along with it. As part of our daily care plans, we need to include things to help our mental wellbeing as well as our physical needs, as a standard protocol not only something that gets addressed when we are diagnosed with depression or other mental health conditions.
Mental Health Help
Things you can do to help your mental wellbeing
There are many helpful activities and a variety of types of therapy that we can do to help us with our mental wellbeing. For some it is talking to someone of the phone, checking in with a support group, art therapy, music therapy, gratitude challenges, meditation, positive affirmations, prayer, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, etc. Or it could be taking prescribed medication and/or natural supplements known to help with mental wellbeing and serotonin levels. For many, myself included, speaking to a professional therapist can be a big help mentally too. (This is discussed more in depth later on in this blog post under the heading ‘Places to get professional help for Mental Health’.)
Whatever, it is that works for you, let this ‘World Mental Health Day’ be an encouragement to keep doing it! Not sure what works for you? Why not give some of these things a go and see how you get on. Some things suit me at certain times, yet at other times they grate on me. So it is helpful to also have a variety of therapies/exercises or ‘mind medicines’ to go to, depending on your mood at that specific time. Here are a few examples of things that help me:
Art-therapy and Music-Therapy for Mental Health
Have you read about my previous experience of celebrating WMHD at a creative therapy day? Click here to read all about how this event ran by Giano Johal from ‘I am Warrior’ project and how it used the arts (art, music, poetry, food, crafts etc) to open up dialogues about mental health and explore our own personal experiences. Maybe, this type of creative therapy is something that you would like to look into for yourself? I have many adult colouring books that have helped me escape mentally on many occasions. I even have two of my finished colourings framed on the wall!
Help for Mental Health Negative Talk
The image below is one I shared in my Facebook group HELEN’S FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS & CHRONIC ILLNESS SUPPORT GROUP, as a visual reminder of how important it is the pay attention to ‘Mental Health Negative Talk’. What voices we are listening to as well as what we are speaking internally and externally ourselves. (I did a reverse image search on Google for this cartoon image but no creator was found – if you know let me know as I think it is great!)
In my blog post “You are…” a SELF-LOVE AFFIRMATION to remind us how AMAZING we are & encouragement for speaking positively about ourselves I talk about the importance of how we speak about ourselves and speak to ourselves and the science behind it. I encourage you to have a read of that post and by acknowledging its importance we can then learn to recognise these negative words more and more and the need to reject them and learn how to practice replacing them with positive statements instead (just like inside the bubble in this image).
Mindfulness, Breathing Exercises and Relaxation Techniques for Mental Health
I have a huge collection of breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and mindfulness activities saved on my pinterest boards below. There are so many, so you can try to find the specific type that suits you personally:
Self-Care and Self-Love to help your mental wellbeing
I have written may blog posts on self-love because I know how much it has helped me with my mental wellbeing, esp finding my self-value again after a long term toxic relationship. This in turn has impacted me being nicer to myself mentally about how I fight the physical battles of chronic illness. Helping one can really help you handle the other. This just reinforced to me the balancing act we need to find between addressing our mental health and our physical health due to chronic illness. Here are some blog posts to help you if you:
- Self-care isn’t Selfish! Understanding the importance of looking after ourselves.
- “You are…” a SELF-LOVE AFFIRMATION to remind us how AMAZING we are
- How to work on self-worth & find self-value after life has knocked you down.
- HOW TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK when life makes you HARD ON YOURSELF! A free printable Affirmation, to encourage Self-Love, Forgiveness & Letting Go…
I also have a board on Pinterest if visual reminders work better for you than written words:
Blog posts of encouragement and support for your mental wellbeing
From my personal history of struggling with my mental wellbeing, seeing professional counselors etc, I share lots on my blog, Facebook support group and my social media channels about life lessons, encouragements when life is tough etc. I know I needed it and learnt lots of things along the way that I share in many places. Here are some blog posts that are most popular with my readers in this encouraging life lesson section:
- Survival Tips for when Life feels Overwhelming
- The Dangers of ‘Tunnel Vision’ & how to break down the walls to widen your perspective in life & see solutions not just the problem!
- What I’ve Learnt from over a Decade with Chronic Illness! Top 5 Life Lessons Fibromyalgia has taught me
- The Power of THANKFULNESS! Top Tips for logging GRATITUDE, to bring more happiness & inner peace into your life, through the joy of gratefulness! (Including a FREE Printable: WEEKLY GRATITUDE DIARY!)
Places to get professional help for Mental Health
One of the most important things to remember is no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone there to reach out to (you are welcome to click HERE to join my Facebook support group community). There are always professionals at hand to help, advise and support people with their mental health. You can reach out to your doctor or contact helpline numbers. Even searching in google can bring up many professional resources and signpost you to the relevant professionals too. Click HERE to go to Mental Health Foundations ‘Get Help’ page with detailed links of places to signpost you to for mental health help and information. Below is an image I shared in my support group at Christmas time:
May this post and today’s ‘World Mental Health Day’ be a reminder to all about the importance of understanding mental wellbeing and the need to look after and nurture our mental health too. As well as this being a gentle push, to getting the required attention for our mental health that we may need, just like we do for our physical health!– Helen’s Journey Blog –
– Founder of Facebook group: HELEN’S FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS & CHRONIC ILLNESS SUPPORT GROUP –
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