Look, I know what it feels like to be buried under your thoughts and struggles so deep that you can’t possibly see how to deal with anxiety and depression. And that using the words hope and mental illness in the same sentence sounds completely ridiculous. And you simply just want to crawl out of your own skin and into someone
So, what I am about to propose may sound crazy.
But just hear me out first.
If at the end of this post, you still don’t believe that you can be mentally ill and happy, feel free to send me
There are plenty of things you can do to support your treatment plan. Speak with a therapist about the different coping strategies that you can use. Keep a healthy daily routine with lots of self care. Build a support system of people you can turn to when things get rough. Seek out support groups and make contact with others who share your same struggles.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health-care professional and you should not use the information in this article in place of professional medical advice or treatment. I share my experiences with mental illness challenges to inspire others and be a source of hope in an otherwise dark and unrelenting struggle.
✅ Can You Be Mentally Ill and Happy?
Yes! You CAN be mentally ill and happy! Your mental illness diagnosis doesn’t mean you are broken or that your life has less value. Too many people put those labels on themselves and it becomes part of their “negative self
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✅ How to Know if You Have Anxiety and Depression
The only way to know for certain if you suffer from anxiety and depression is to be seen and assessed by a mental healthcare professional. Your general practitioner may be the first to identify your symptoms (and may even start you on meds), but to truly get the right diagnosis (and treatment) your best bet is to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are specially trained in treating mental illness. They stay up to date on the latest research and medications. Also, since they treat patients with mental illness on a daily basis, they are more familiar with different treatment plans as well as medication side effects.
You want the best possible outcome, right?
✅ How to Get Help for Depression and Anxiety
Getting help for depression and anxiety starts with realizing there is a problem and that the symptoms you are experiencing are disrupting your life and your ability to function. Then you need to ask for help. That may mean reaching out to friends and family, calling your doctor, or calling a therapist. If your symptoms are too overwhelming for you to be your own health care advocate, then ask a friend or family member to help you take the steps of making an appointment with your doctor or therapist. The best way to get help is to be formally assessed and diagnosed by a medical professional.
The next thing you should do is to seek out a counselor or therapist who can help you work through your emotions and feelings about having a mental illness. Although medication is a vital part of your treatment plan, learning coping mechanisms and how to take care of yourself emotionally is super important as well.
✅ Coping Strategies for Depression and Anxiety
A huge aspect for me of making progress and being happy even with a mental illness is to use the coping strategies I learn from my therapist. I also read lots of book and workbooks to improve my mental health.
There are many mental health activities and strategies that can help you cope with depression and anxiety. Different coping strategies for mental illness work better for depression and some work better for anxiety. There are some coping strategies that work for both. Consult your mental health professionals (like your psychiatrist and therapist) on which strategies you should focus on.
1. Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is a coping strategy that can be used to deal with depression and anxiety. It helps you deal with a negative outlook or rumination of negative or obssesive thoughts. First, you learn to catch yourself doing it and then to control the thought(s) by telling yourself in a commanding voice “Stop!” Lastly, you switch the thoughts to something more positive. This takes practice and it is very helpful to write down your most common negative or obsessive thoughts that you often ruminate about and proactively decide how you will counter those thoughts with positive ones.
2. Use a Thought Record Chart
This is an approach to dealing with negative thoughts by using the logical analysis of those thoughts to dispute the probability of them actually happening or that those thoughts are false. Your thoughts can usually be characterized as the following: The Worrier, The Critic, The Victim, or The Perfectionist. Once you identify and analyze your thoughts, then you create a counterstatement that is more logical.
3. Reframing Coping Mechanism
In any given situation we naturally give meaning and perspective to the occurrence or circumstance. When you deal with depression and anxiety, you may more often than not assign a negative meaning or see things through a negative mindset. Using cognitive reframing exercises allows us to look at the situation and assign a different (more positive meaning.) Positive reframing exercises can be very helpful working through cognitive distortions that happen with depression and anxiety. A cognitive distortion is a way of thinking that is unhelpful or irrational. It’s important to identify which cognitive distortions you have and learn to identify them and correct those ways of thinking.
Want INSTANT ACCESS to my FREE Mental Health Resources and Printables? Included in my Resource Library are 1) Thought Stopping Worksheet, 2) Thought Record Chart, and 3) Positive Reframing Worksheet. Just click the button below to get the super secret password and download as many as you like!
4. Anxiety Helping Techniques
These are some specific anxiety helping techniques that work well as coping strategies for those with anxiety disorders. Because anxiety disorders often have very prominent physical symptoms, you will notice that this list encompasses lost of physical activities:
- Deep Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Challenging Negative Thoughts
- Guided Visualization
- Calming Music
- Schedule Downtime
- Time Management
- Let Go of Perfectionism
- Learn to Say “No”
- Don’t Fight Panic
- Recognize the triggers for panic attacks by looking at the details of what preceded the attack
- Counteract Panic
- Positive Coping Statements
- Diversion Technique–a repetitive almost automatic action like count backward from 300, or snapping a rubber band on your wrist, count the bumps in the road while driving. A specific action you can take when you are feeling anxious, panicked, or worried.
5. Healthy Daily Routine for Depression
Since depression can cause fatigue, listlessness, hopelessness, and lack of motivation, it is often hard to get out of bed or be productive in any way. Having a healthy daily routine that you develop for times that dealing with depression is especially hard can be a great coping strategy. The daily routine you create does not have to be demanding or complicated. It could simply be composed of getting out of bed, making the bed, getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, and eating something (and of course taking your meds.) Then on those hard days, you can just follow those simple tasks and check them off a list. This way you will feel more productive and it will get your blood flowing and maybe cause you to feel like being more active by taking a walk or going to the store.
6. Free Online Support Groups for Depression and Anxiety
Many times anxiety and depression keep us from leaving our homes. Although we should always strive for in-person interaction, there are times when being a part of (free) online support groups for depression and anxiety is a very helpful coping strategy for mental illness.
Here are just a few:
- INSPIRE.com (discussion forum for several different support groups on various topics)
- FORUMS at PSYCH CENTRAL (overseen by a doctor and trained moderators)
- THE MIGHTY (offers different ways to connect with others living with the same diagnosis)
Read more about Online Support Groups, Communities, and Resources for Mental Illness in this post.
7. Build a Support System
You need to have a support system in place so that will help you deal with your anxiety and/or depression. A strong support system is built with these three foundations:
- FAMILY MEMBERS & FRIENDS (choose people you are comfortable being honest about what you need–help–a shoulder to cry on–a health advocate–someone who can recognize the need for medical help)
- HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS (psychiatrist, primary care doctor, specialists, therapist/psychologist, nurses, pharmacist
- SUPPORT GROUPS (local face-to-face groups or online support groups)
8. Creating a Self-Care Plan
It wasn’t until I was recovering from
It is the same when you are dealing with anxiety and depression. Self Care is such a powerful coping strategy for mental illness, yet most of us don’t know where to start. That is why creating a self
Need help doing that? Read “How to Start Self-Care: 7 Simple Steps to Create a Self-Care Plan.” and sign up to get FREE printable self-care worksheets!
✅ Hope and Mental Illness
So let’s get back to this idea of hope and mental illness. Are you convinced yet that you can be mentally ill and happy?
The key to being happy and having hope along with mental illness is to really all about getting the proper diagnosis and
Focus on your progress and doing what you can to improve and maintain your mental health.
Living with Bipolar 1 Disorder, for me, means I have to be persistent and give myself grace when I have setbacks. The hope I have when I wake up each day is based on knowing that I am a work in progress.
Can you be mentally ill and happy? Can you have hope with mental illness? By now, I hope you believe that the answer to both questions is a resounding YES!!
Seeking the proper treatment with a mental health care professional is your first step. You will have to give it some time to find the treatment that works best for your situation.
But don’t give up! Be patient and give yourself lots of grace. There are no instant fixes, but you are making progress as soon as you ask for help.
Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with anxiety and depression?