As part of Be Kind to Your Mind, we asked young people who've lived with mental illness questions about their experience. Here's what they told us.
It means not taking episodes of poor mental health ‘personally’ – it is not a failure or due to doing something ‘wrong’, it’s just something that happens. It also means taking a step back and being able to recognise when I need extra assistance (i.e. that self-help methods aren’t sufficient).
Being kind to my mind in times when my mind is unkind to me means being patient with myself, doing lots of self-care and using my inner pause button to ground myself. Sometimes it is incredibly easy for me to get lost in the negative self-talk spiral and I have to reach out to those close to me and tell them that I am having a hard time.
I like to take walks out in the bush when I am really struggling. Sometimes it can be hard for me to work up the motivation to get myself out of the house however, when I do and I find myself surrounded by nature, it seems to calm the swirling thoughts and feelings inside me.
Being kind to my mind means looking after myself physically and mentally. I try to make sure to at least eat good food, shower and dress each day. For some symptoms, such as disassociation, I use coping strategies, like sitting on something textured or counting the things I can hear, see and feel.
I remind myself that even if I don’t think so at this moment, I’m a good person, and whatever negative symptoms I’m experiencing will be over in time.
If I’m not feeling 100% I’ll ask myself: what are you feeling? What happened differently today? What can you do to make things better for yourself for the rest of the day?
I can then think about how to redirect how I am feeling for the rest of the day.
Catching myself at the moment the negative self-talk starts to happen, as if to ‘nip it at the bud’ before it spirals into something more. I also make sure that I talk about what I’m going through with someone I trust instead of bottling up the emotions and letting it completely take over me.
I am still getting used to the whole ‘be kind’ to my mind when it’s in turmoil.
What I have found though, is when I practice mindful meditation I return to my calmest self. When I engage in anything remotely distracting, it will generally have a good chance of breaking me free of the constraints that is my mind.
Going for a drive, watching documentaries or even something as simple as playing games have had a big success rate when it comes to nailing down my mind when it’s trying to float away with my stresses.
I go to my own space, write down how I’m feeling and work out a strategy from there. Even the smallest thing, like watching some tv or eating chocolate can really work wonders.
Having struggled with psychosis and other negative states of mind, it is really, really important that I call someone. For me it’s my partner, who will be able to interact with the logical side of my brain.
By talking to my partner, I gain a sense of grounding and a better sense of reality. Sometimes, you simply have to ride out the psychosis and make sure you do so with someone you trust nearby.
As a carer I think being kind to your mind means thinking about your own feelings and emotions and being accepting of them. Sometimes it’s easy to brush over feelings of frustration or tiredness because you want to be 100% for others, but if you don’t recognise those feelings they will just keep piling up.
For me, being kind to my mind is allowing it to rest, to slow down, recuperate. I schedule relaxation time into my week, prioritising my mind. This prevents me spiralling from productive busy-ness to unbridled, erratic chaos.
I think about my self-management and care as a ‘toolkit’. One tool is planning my week: seeing my commitments written down and when I can have down time or socialising really helps me maintain the balance that keeps my mood stable.
Directive thinking also helps. if I notice unhelpful thinking patterns I can identify them and then ‘exit’ away from them by mobilising my thoughts to move me into a different headspace or action.
Keeping my waking and sleep times regular makes everything run much smoother. I also know what activities work for me, whether physical, creative, analytical – I can choose to do something that helps me feel better.
Being kind to my mind means taking time out when I need it and knowing my own limits and my own boundaries around what I can and can’t take on.
It’s all about self-care and self-love for me. There are several things that I do to keep my mind well — they can be as simple as taking a walk, watching a movie, catching up with friends, speaking to a family member, going out to listen to a band or listening to my music… perhaps way too loud.
The most important strategy I have found is to keep talking and keep sharing with my close friends. I find that if I don’t share how I feel with people closest to me I tend to internalise my thoughts which makes me feel isolated from my supports.
Being kind to my mind to me is representative of taking that all-important step back, trying to separate my mental illness from my own identity, understanding that my mind is sick, I nurse it through self-care and other empowering activities in order to get it ‘healthy’ or at least healthier.
Being kind to my mind means striking a balance between activities in solitude, social activities and productive activities. Rest is essential, too.
Activities in solitude take the form of reading, writing, reflecting, listening to music or simply ‘veging out’ in front of a movie or cricket match, for example. They possess a stimulating, meditative quality I find most kind to my mind.
The two social activities I find of the most benefit are probably playing for my cricket club and spending time in good company. I find work very beneficial to one’s sense of worth or value as a member of society as well as propping up an agreeable standard of living. I find that the great benefit of study is the sense of direction it grants.
The company of a close friend or a supportive family member goes a long way to combatting negativity generated by my mind.