Queer Query: Self Care Tips for Mental Health

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Here is a reference guide for those who suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and self-harm. We don’t cover tips for all mental health conditions unfortunately, and we may not be the most comprehensive, but we hope to give some helpful advice regardless! We must disclaim that we are not health professionals, however, so please act with your own discretion.

First, let’s start this off by saying: It takes bravery to admit that you have an issue, and even more so to reach out. To those that are suffering: it is not your fault. My heart goes out to anyone who doesn’t have the resources they need to treat their mental illness properly.

Asking for help is braver than suffering in silence. Just remember: you are not your illness. It is a significant part of you, yes, but you are so much more than that. Here’s all of my love.

Tips for those with anxiety:

Look up coping strategies for panic attacks, and how to recognize when you’re having one. It’s usually recommended to stay where you are, focus on something non-threatening, visualize inwardly, and use breathing techniques as a coping mechanism. If you have one while driving, please pull over for your safety.

Recognize your triggers, and avoid them until you’re ready to work through them. Disassociate with anyone who forces you to confront a phobia when you’re not ready. Simply “facing the fear” head-on with no preparation won’t make it go away. This will likely traumatize another human being.

If you take medication, make sure that you take it as prescribed. If you ever find yourself panicking over medication complications, imagined or not, use Web MD’s medication complication tool to assure yourself that your doctor did not make a mistake.

Allow yourself to take breaks from your environment, as needed. Tell friends ahead of time if you have a signal, so that they can get you out of a situation that overwhelms you in public or makes you extremely uncomfortable.

Limit intake for caffeine or alcohol products, since either could trigger anxiety symptoms if taken in large amounts.

Tips for those with depression:

Make sure to take your medication as prescribed. Download apps that remind you to take pills. Even if it’s a birth control app. Do whatever you can to constantly take your medication. That’s supremely important when it comes to managing this illness.

Reward yourself verbally whenever you accomplish something, whether big or small. “Hey, I didn’t complete everything I wanted to do today, but I showered and got dressed this morning. That’s fucking awesome.” Or even: “I survived this long, and I want to see myself break the record tomorrow.” You will have bad days, but this doesn’t detract from the progress you’ve made through all of the months or years.

People with depression are more likely to suffer from insomnia. For my fellow insomniacs out there: try melatonin. If getting regular sleep is a constant battle, absolutely visit your doctor. Aim for eight hours if you can, but if not, take some power naps throughout the day!

Challenge negative thinking. Journal any negative thoughts that may overwhelm you, and challenge them with statements that affirm your positive traits. (No, seriously. Do this, folks.) Our mind plays tricks on us when we’re down in the dumps. We become convinced that the world hates us, or pities us. You mustn’t allow yourself to go down that path. Challenge your negative thoughts.

Practice relaxation techniques, and give yourself some well-deserved TLC. When you have depression, doing simple tasks or activities takes more energy to complete than someone who doesn’t suffer from it. It’s absolutely vital to unwind, and do something to clear your mind at the end of the day. Whether that’s from yoga, having bubble baths, watching cute animal videos, or anything that involves R&R for yourself, definitely do it.

Reach out to people you trust when it gets too rough. Vulnerability is terrifying, but your mental health is more important than any embarrassing discussions you may have. You’re a human being, and you exist. Don’t ever shy away from existing. You have a right to be on this planet, and you’re human like the rest of us. Reach out to someone.

Tips for those with eating disorders:

Surround yourself with body-positive images, media, and role models. Most trans people suffer from dysphoria because their gender identity doesn’t match their outward appearance, but in this case, many people with eating disorders have dysphoria that stems from their body not matching their own sense of self.

Unlike transgender issues though, transitioning to one’s desired weight cannot help someone with an eating disorder. Encouraging destructive body images will kill a human being. Challenge the negative thoughts you’ve been raised under, challenge all of the double standards society holds against your body, and learn to love it despite all of its perceived flaws.

Relapses don’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t detract from everything you’ve accomplished so far in your journey to body positivity. Have relapse prevention plans in place for the bad days, and don’t beat yourself up too badly if it happens.

If you cannot get yourself to eat three full meals, try to eat six smaller meals throughout the day. Make sure they’re nutritious, and full of fiber. Your metabolism slows down when you starve yourself, and can actually force one to gain more weight.

People don’t believe boys can have eating disorders, but that’s a fallacy. Boys, make sure you give yourself credit for all of the hurdles you face as a eating disorder survivor. We’re proud of you!

Finally, I want you all to grab a hat, a pen, and some pieces of paper. For a week, I want you to add small traits you like about yourself, silly jokes, or funny stories that have happened in the past. Then, when you’re feeling down, open it up and visualize on it.

You may not be happy with your current progress, but self-love is the purest love.

Tips for those who self-harm:
Self-harm can be a way of coping with life stresses, but it isn’t the only way. It may help you express feelings you can’t put into words, distract you from emotional pain, or release pent up emotions. But you can get there without hurting yourself, if you’re willing. If you’re ready to take the next step, read further.

From the website, www.HelpGuide.org, and their article about coping strategies:

If you cut to express pain and intense emotions: Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint. Express your feelings in a journal. Compose a poem or song to say what you feel. Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up. Listen to music.

If you cut to calm and soothe yourself: Take a bath or hot shower. Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket. Massage your neck, hands, and feet. Listen to soothing videos based on nature sounds.

If you cut because you feel disconnected and numb: Call a friend, take a cold shower, hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg, chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel. Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board.”

Finally, I want to recommend reaching out to mental health communities online, ones that focus on aiding those who suffer from similar mental conditions. Recommended websites: Psych Central forums, TrevorSpace, MentalIllnessMouse on Tumblr, and Ask Alice’s Mental Health forums. Stay brave.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Hotline: 1-866-488-7386

Jae Kanella Markis is a recent high school graduate, former homeschooler, queer writer, and aspiring novelist. Jae’s most recent project includes The Safe Closet Clothing Exchange, which you can learn more about at SafeClosetClothingExchange.Weebly.com.

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