Trigger Warning: Mention of mental health issues and trauma
Everyone is working through something that they don’t talk about. In university, this is particularly common. In addition to the normal stress that student life brings, the transition from adolescence to independent adulthood can impact an individual’s mental health greatly. Whether it be trauma or a mental illness, a crucial step to recovery is recognising the importance of beginning the healing process.
Everyone is different, and some steps that work well for one may be less effective for another. Self-healing methods should not be used as a replacement for trained mental health support, medical assistance or doctor-prescribed medication.
1. Understand that healing isn’t linear
The healing process, though rewarding, can be tiring and downright painful. Having to dig up repressed memories and emotions in order to work through them can elicit unexpected responses.
There will be days when recovery seems impossible, which may be accompanied by all kinds of physical and mental reactions – including relapse. After taking the appropriate steps, you may be left with feelings of guilt and regret. Although frustrating, this does not constitute a failure.
This scenario is extremely common in those attempting to recover, you are not alone! It does not minimise your acomplishments, nor does it signal an end to your attempt at recovery. Allow yourself time and space, before setting new goals and making the conscious decision to move forward with your progress.
2. Take accountability for your recovery
When we speak about taking accountability, this in no way means that you should be blamed for your mental health or what you have been through.
Taking accountability means accepting the responsibility of your own healing, attempting to stick to the routines and goals you have set for yourself and avoiding self-sabotaging behaviour. When it seems easier to stick to the comfort of old behaviours, reminding yourself of the benefits of recovery can help to keep you on the right track.
We can’t change who we are and what has happened to us, but the decision to work on getting better is ours to make.
3. Let your friends and family know
When struggling with your own issues, it’s easy to look past the impact on those close to you. If you make the decision to start working on yourself, it’s important to have a conversation with those around you. This includes what they can do to help, what they should expect and what your short-term goals are.
Remember that you do not owe anybody an explanation or a story. Sharing this information is a personal choice which, if you trust the individual, may help in the process of healing.
4. Acknowledge the problem
Finding the root of the emotions you experience can help you to understand what’s happening inside of your mind. While you may feel like running away from what causes you pain, this can cause further damage.
Confront the issue and examine the ways in which it affects you. Allow yourself to sit with the pain and grieve for what you lost and who you were before the trauma or mental health issue presented itself. Through finding out the causes of the mental states you experience, you can begin to work on how this manifests in your behaviour.
It’s easy to tell someone who is struggling with their mental health to do some exercise and gratitude practices to boost their mood, but the reality is that, on their own, these acts do little to help an on-going issue.
Self-care means something different for everyone. Sometimes it’s a face mask and a day in bed, other times it’s a therapy session. Find out what helps you specifically, and incorporate it into your routine. Try to keep a high standard of physical cleanliness and a consistent sleeping routine. An act of self-care can be as small as a five minute tidy or making a balanced meal.
Avoid consuming harmful media as part of your self-care. There is nothing worse than waking up, rolling over and opening your phone to upsetting or worrying content that sets the rest of your day in a negative tone.
Most importantly, celebrate your achievements, big or small.
If you, or someone you know needs mental health support there are helplines and listening services available. If the situation is urgent, call 999 for assistance.
Featured Image Credit: Trauma Recovery Canada