Doing What Works for You

A lot of people have strong (and often unfounded) opinions about how to tackle mental health problems. The variety and sheer number of opinions can be confusing and overwhelming, but it underlines the need for individuals to do what works for them when dealing with mental illness. Some of your personal ways of coping might seem counter-intuitive or downright weird to other people, but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is to experiment and figure out which strategies are most effective for your lifestyle and mental health issues.

I went away at the weekend, staying in a Hampshire caravan park with my three best friends. I really enjoyed it because my anxiety wasn’t aggravated by being around strangers, we brought our own food and drink (partly to keep costs down) so I wasn’t exposed to an unfamiliar bar or restaurant and when we went for a walk on the beach, although other people were around I wasn’t forced to interact with them. Perhaps most importantly, because our focus was on catching up with each other we didn’t plan any activities or sightseeing, which meant I wasn’t under any pressure. It might sound boring to other people, but I had a lot of fun and felt at ease 90% of the time. Unlike other weekends away, I came home tired (I struggle with sleeping in strange places) but not drained.

I don’t care if anyone reads this post and thinks I must be boring; though I would argue that the boring people are those who can’t entertain themselves! I don’t care if some of my methods of coping with my mental illness seem odd, like my preferring to drive because I find it much less stressful than using public transport. I think we should all aim to be understanding, instead of judging other people’s behaviour. If you come across somebody who uses an unusual coping strategy, keep an open mind and ask questions – you might discover something new which works for you

Conversely, you might find that some popular strategies don’t work for you. That’s all right: mental health treatments are varied and variable. As long as you give treatments a fair shot, it’s fine to decide it doesn’t work for you. However, I will point out that sometimes strategies that haven’t worked for you in the past will work for you in the future, so it’s worth trying them out again after six months/a year/whatever works for you. For example, many CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) techniques don’t work for me all the time; their efficacy depends on how I’m feeling and what else is going on in my life. I had to accept that despite CBT’s excellent reputation, it is not a panacea. However, if I had decided not to use any CBT techniques at any time, I would have dismissed strategies which work very well for me at some points in my life.

The bottom line is you have to do your own research. Be guided by what the authorities say, but don’t be disheartened if the most popular mental health treatments don’t work for you. Stray off the beaten track and experiment to find out whether something a little unusual or quirky works for you – as long as it’s safe to do so. Most of all, ignore other people’s opinions and do what works for you.

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