Coping with Mental Illness – Winning Your Most Personal Battle
Many people are quick to thank our servicemen and women for their time in the military, but not everyone considers what that time may have cost them—and, more importantly, what it continues to cost our veterans after they return to civilian life. The truth is, life in the military is hard on both the body and the mind, and it can leave wounds, both visible and invisible, that take years to heal.
As a result, many veterans are left to deal with mental illnesses that can be difficult to overcome on their own.
Treatment for mental illness isn’t always finite; many mental health conditions are chronic and ongoing – some may even last a lifetime. As a result, living a healthy life with a mental health challenge is about understanding and incorporating the right coping mechanisms into your day-to-day routine.
The good news is, it’s still possible to lead a fulfilling, productive life in spite of psychological challenges. Despite your limitations or personal struggles, you can still overcome your most personal mental health battles.
At Telemedica, we know how challenging this journey can be. Many of us are veterans ourselves, and have dealt with mental health battles of our own. We’ve been where you are, and we’re here to help. Keep reading for our six recommendations for coping with mental health challenges in your day to day life.
1. Coming to Terms with Your Situation
Every person is different. We all have different circumstances and physical and mental conditions with which we have to contend.
Our struggles are part of the human experience. Accepting your situation requires letting go of judgments about yourself and your mental illness. Do this by educating yourself about your mental illness and connecting with individuals dealing with the same condition. This can help you overcome self-judgment and find ways to cope with the illness head-on.
2. Dive Into Hobbies
What are you good at? What activities are enjoyable to you?
Whether that’s cooking, playing chess, or embellishing a room with a new coat of paint, doing what makes you feel good can be wonderful for your mental health. Adopting a new hobby can give a boost of self-confidence and can help you get through tough times a bit easier.
If you feel comfortable, consider engaging in activities with friends and family. This can encourage you to continuously keep in touch with loved ones—relationships that are crucial to improving your mental health.
To find out more about hobbies that benefit veterans, check out this article from Forge Health. The most popular hobbies for veterans who are coping with stress include:
+ Creative art
3. Seek Treatment
Many veterans reach a point where, unable to fight the battles of the mind on their own, decide that it’s time to ask for help from qualified professionals.
Mental illnesses can often be chronic and ongoing treatment may be required. It takes a lot of strength and courage to ask for help – it is important to remember that your value as a person does not diminish because you have a mental health condition or if you seek help. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Mental health concerns are real struggles, not signs of weakness or moral failings.
“Just got the rating today for my mental health claim at 70%!! My psych provider’s IMO was the key for success and it was my only evidence provided to the VA!! Will definitely use you guys again and will refer to other veterans!!”
Sparking a discussion with a health professional about your mental illness to find ways to cope with your condition is a great place to start. Whether this involves medicine, therapy, diet and lifestyle changes, or some other form of treatment, your health care provider or therapist can help you create a long-term plan that will be beneficial for you and your lifestyle.
A great way to track your progress with a new regimen or medication (as recommended by your therapist or health care professional) is to keep a log of how you’re feeling from day to day. Keeping a journal can help you identify if a treatment is working well, and it can assist you in monitoring your progress, behavior, and mood.
Keep in mind that the path to mental wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all process. Mental health treatments can be as individual and unique as the person that they’re intended for. There are many options to choose from so don’t be afraid to try a few different treatment styles before you find the one that fits best for you.
4. Do Your Best to Not Compare Yourself to Others
“Do no underestimate yourself by comparing yourself to others. It’s our differences that make us unique and define just how special we are.”
Since mental health treatment is different for everyone, it’s important to not compare your own mental health journey to that of someone else’s. Everyone grows and heals at their own pace, and we all have different reasons for seeking out mental health care. The most important thing to remember is to give yourself grace and go easy on yourself – healing is not always linear and can take time. Celebrate the small victories and focus on doing the next right thing for you.
5. Talk about Your Feelings
Talking about your mental health can be very beneficial to your healing – that’s why talk therapy is so successful.
Regularly check in with yourself and express what you’re feeling and thinking – either with a trusted friend of family member or a therapist. Expressing emotions is a sign of strength, not weakness, and walking through your thoughts and feelings can have a profound impact on your mental health.
Your experiences are real, and they deserve to be validated; both by yourself and by those you surround yourself with.
A few ways you can express your emotions is by:
+ Talking to a trusted friend or family member: Bottling up your feelings can put physical stress on the body, produce feelings of isolation, and promote unhealthy coping mechanisms. Sit down with or call a trusted friend or family member regularly. Simply having them listen can help you feel more at ease. As you let go of some emotions, this can create space for more positive feelings.
+ Writing in a journal: Journaling is a healthy way to explore your thoughts and let go of negative thought patterns and unwanted feelings. Don’t overthink your entries—just write whatever comes to mind. You may also want to write out words of affirmation to help you stay positive and focused.
6. Stay Active
Exercise can elevate the brain’s serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels, offering mental clarity and enhanced mood and energy.
Taking time to get some form of physical activity each day can be highly beneficial.
Start slow, if needed. You might begin by taking a stroll through your local park for 15 minutes. When you feel comfortable enough, increase the duration to 30 minutes.
If one activity starts to feel dull or repetitive, switch to a new one, or begin diversifying your exercise routine. Or, consider listening to podcasts or audiobooks to keep yourself mentally engaged during activities. You can also bring someone along with you, both to enjoy pleasant conversation and to keep yourself accountable.
The goal of staying active should be to move your body, get some sunshine, and get the blood flowing. Being active can help you feel better in mind, body, and spirit.
If you are a veteran dealing with mental illness, schedule a Telemedica evaluation. Our team at Telemedica offers psych evaluations through telehealth appointments. We offer Nexus Letters, Mental Health Evaluations, and Telemedicine Evaluations (first-time diagnoses) so veterans can receive the benefits they deserve and take another step forward on their path to mental and physical wellbeing.
If you are a veteran in need of recurring therapy tailored to your specific needs, you can sign up for our recurring therapy mailing list to be notified when we launch this service (coming soon in 2022).