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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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Your Whole Health

Health encompasses several facets of life, not just the physical, or emotional, or mental aspect. Having just a healthy body, or just healthy emotions, will not create the full and healthy life that most of us desire and thrive on. Living a well-rounded life is vital to overall health and well-being, and some of the other aspects of yours which may be important are within the spiritual, social, and vocational realm. Individuals with mental illness may indeed have some additional challenges to living a balanced lifestyle, but it takes work for every human being to put in the time and energy to achieve this. In this pamphlet, I will touch on each facet in some detail, and hope that you might find motivation and inspiration to get into great shape and round out your life, to ensure that you have the best recovery from your mental illness, and your best future.

Your body:

Most people desire to be  in shape ; to be fit, energetic, feel nice in their clothes, and know that their numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc) are within normal limits. Colorado happens to be near the top of the curve where fitness is concerned, still, it is a major struggle for many. Side effects of some medications can add to the challenge that already exists for many of us. I have never met a person who hasn't struggled with motivation at one point or another, and most Americans have been over their desired weight at least once in their lifetime. If you find it daunting to drop pounds or to get out there and engage in the exercise that you know would be good for you, do not feel that you have an unusual problem and try to not to be too hard on yourself because you are not alone. But do know that exercise is imperative for physical health, fitness, and weight management. Some other benefits, besides the obvious are:

What it does for your mood

When engaging in exercise, there are increases in certain brain chemicals, including endorphins, and these have a natural mood-lifting effect. Often times, after the initial difficulty of starting an exercise routine, people notice that they are in a more pleasant mood naturally, and more consistently. They will even go so far as to say they notice a decline in their mood when they stop exercising due to an injury or vacation, etc.

What it does for your brain

Due to the increase in blood flow to all areas of your body, including your brain, you may find that you are sharper, more alert, and have better concentration when you re engaging in regular exercise. This is not easy to attain sometimes in this busy and chaotic world, and we can all use the help where we can get it, healthfully.

Some other benefits of exercise:

Improved immune system
Better skin
Stronger bones
Improved confidence comes with feeling better in your clothes and liking your reflection in the mirror. This confidence will radiate far
beyond just your physical appearance.

Your Emotions:

There are things you can do in addition to taking antidepressants and/or mood stabilizers to regulate your emotions. Feeling an overall pleasure of life is so important. Life can be very challenging, and difficult. For each person who has a genetic predisposition that affects them, and for each who has experienced such difficulties in life that happiness seems a far cry, there are several who have learned some tactics that help them to maintain a consistent level of happiness. So can you! Here are just a few of those tactics:

Gratefulness:

For many people, spending some time each day reflecting on things they do have, instead of the things they do not have, can really make a difference in their outlook. Whether it is friendship, good health, money, a sunny afternoon, a smile from a stranger, or a comfortable bed to sleep in at night, it can just be refreshing to remember the good things you can enjoy in life. Simple, but true and effective.

Fresh air and sunshine:

Getting exposure to the outdoors is essential for many. Of course, protecting yourself from the elements (weather and sun exposure) is important, but getting out there and breathing in fresh air and enjoying the activities offered to us and the beauty of Colorado is a healthy, mood-lifting thing to do.

Fully participating in your treatment:

If you are receiving mental health treatment, addiction treatment, or any type of treatment for that matter, please remain an active participant. Clients who are invested and active in their treatment do best, not only as it applies to their illness, but also generally speaking, they are then more motivated to do well in these other areas in life.

Laughter:

Try to find the humor in life, as it is abundant. If we take everything too seriously, living can feel stressful and mundane. Allow yourself to just let go sometimes.

Your Spirituality:

This may not be an area of life that you feel pertains to you at all, and that is totally fine. It is mentioned here because people who practice their authentic version of spirituality, whatever that may be, are happier overall. Give some thought to what matters most to you, your philosophies, your beliefs, and examine any avenues you would like to tap into, whether that be a gathering of like-minded people (ie church or any other type of ), or learn or practice meditation if it appeals to you. Maybe reading, or prayer is your avenue, or maybe you would rather not participate at all. Whatever feels right, is right.

Your Social Life:

Time with supportive friends or family is so healing. It is true that some people lack social supports. This area is so important that if that is your situation, this would be a great time to work toward changing it. Seek out those who you feel good around; those who are healthy to spend time with. Spend time at least weekly with someone who sees the good in you. If you do not have nearby family or friends, it is a great opportunity to find new additions to your life. Choose an activity that you enjoy (skiing, bowling, knitting, attending concerts, coffee shop scene) and think of ways to find others who like the same things. Try to go out of your comfort zone and invite people into your life. You might be surprised what you find!

Your Job or Classes:

Studies show that there is a direct correlation between employment (whether paid or volunteer) and a sense of confidence, which results in more satisfaction with life. Maybe education as opposed to employment works for you! Whatever the case, even though it seems daunting for some to get out there and seek a job, it is worth it in the end, when you feel the sense of purpose, your contribution to society, and of course the paycheck! The socializing with coworkers may or may not be a plus for you, but it sure is for many. The pat on the back you might occasionally get at work doesn't hurt either. Even though many of us wish we had more freedom or feel the stress of our work sometimes, most would agree that working is, in fact, a fulfilling part of our lives and identity.

In Summary:

I like to think of having a fulfilling life as filling an egg carton. Visualize each of those empty spaces as the spaces you d like to fill with the things that mean a lot to you, such as some things we've already discussed, plus more. Individualize it. Examples: physical, emotional, family, friends, spirituality, hobbies, love, working, learning, the list could be endless. Recognize you are worth it, and take the time to think about what changes or improvements you can make in your life to make it your best life! You are a diverse and multi-dimensional person. Reflect on you, your strengths, your needs, your desires; those spaces of yours that need filling, and start filling
them!