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Coping with Mental Illness

Individual differences also play a role in how people cope. Some individuals are naturally more resilient and may find it easier to adapt and manage their symptoms.

Navigation: How to Cope with Mental Illness, Take Care of Your Body, Build a Solid Support Network, Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms, Try Relaxation Techniques, Avoid Substance Abuse, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


For some people, coping with mental illness can be extremely challenging, while others may find it more manageable. This is influenced by several factors and may vary from person to person.

For example, the severity and type of mental illness can significantly impact how challenging it is to cope. Some conditions are more acute and may require intensive treatment and support, while others may be milder and more manageable.

Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder are some of the most common mental health conditions, but these may also vary in terms of intensity and severity. Some people have severe depression, while others have milder symptoms.

Individual differences also play a role in how people cope. Some individuals are naturally more resilient and may find it easier to adapt and manage their symptoms.

Having a strong support system, including friends, family, and mental health professionals, can make a significant difference in coping. Having people who understand, empathize, and provide practical help can be invaluable. Ultimately, coping with mental illness is a complex and personal journey.

According to Mental Health America (MHA), other mental health organizations, and human services, seeking professional help for a mental illness is the best way to deal with serious mental illnesses. But there are other strategies and coping techniques that you can use to improve your condition while you receive proper treatment.

Here we will talk about various ways people can cope with their mental health conditions.


How to Cope with Mental Illness

Having a serious mental illness can be challenging, but there are several steps you can take—aside from seeking support from healthcare providers—to help manage your symptoms. Just keep in mind that these are only suggestions and should not replace professional advice.

Generally speaking, if you are dealing with a mental illness, you want to limit your stressors as much as possible. Identify and reduce sources of stress in your life. This might involve setting boundaries, saying no when necessary, and creating a more balanced schedule.

Learning more about your specific mental illness can also empower you to better understand your experiences and treatment options. It can even reassure you that you are not alone in this struggle.

Be patient with yourself. Recovery takes time. Acknowledge that setbacks are a normal part of the process, and that you can still live a fulfilling life once you have recovered from your mental health disorder.


Take Care of Your Body

First things first, you need to take care of yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and respect, avoiding self-criticism. You are not your condition.

Broaden your horizons by pursuing new hobbies and things that can take your mind off of your stressors. Make time for activities you enjoy. Do a crossword puzzle or take dance lessons. Placing value in yourself can go a long way in coping with a mental illness.

While you’re doing that, make sure you take care of your body. Your physical health is linked with your mental health. Taking care of your body is crucial when coping with mental illness because the mind and body are interconnected. The state of your physical health can significantly impact your mental well-being, and vice versa.

By eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and getting enough sleep, you are protecting your body—and your mind, by extension.

Physical activity has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, so stay active. Engaging in regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise also reduces stress, improves quality of sleep, and improves cognitive function.

Overall, it can even enhance your body image and boost your self-esteem. These things are usually damaged by mental health conditions, so engaging in activities that make you feel capable and confident can improve your overall self-perception.

Taking care of your body through regular exercise, balanced nutrition, sufficient sleep, and other healthy habits is an essential component of coping with mental illness.

Build a Solid Support Network

You don’t have to face these mental health challenges alone. Surround yourself with good people. Those with strong social connections tend to be healthier than those who lack a support network.

When dealing with mental illness, it’s common to question the legitimacy of your feelings. A support network can provide validation, confirming that your struggles are real and valid.

You can surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or even join a support group. Talking about your experiences with people you trust can provide emotional relief and lessen feelings of isolation.

Dealing with mental illness can be emotionally taxing. Having people who genuinely care about you and are willing to listen can provide a safe space to express your feelings and fears without judgment.

Your social support network doesn’t have to be big: it can be just a single family member or a close friend who is willing to listen to you. Quality matters more than quantity.

If you’re comfortable with expanding your network, you can include other family members, people from your support group, etc. A support network helps combat feelings of isolation, reminding you that you’re not alone and that there are people who understand and are there for you.

A support system can even provide practical assistance. Sometimes, mental illness can make daily tasks difficult. Your friends and loved ones can offer practical assistance by helping with household chores, running errands, or even attending appointments with you.

Another important benefit of having a support system is accountability. Sometimes, people with mental illness might struggle to stick to treatment plans or engage in self-care activities. A support network can help hold you accountable for your actions and motivate you to stay on track. Building and maintaining these connections is an essential part of the journey toward managing and recovering from mental illness.

Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Stress is a part of life. It is therefore important to learn and practice healthy coping skills. We already know that physical exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep are important coping mechanisms, but there are other things you can try.

For example, keeping a journal can help you track your feelings, thoughts, and progress. It can provide insights into your triggers and patterns, and help you process your emotions.

You can also try other avenues for creative expression. Engaging in creative activities like painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, or crafting can serve as outlets for your feelings. They can even provide a sense of accomplishment.

Pursue activities you enjoy and that provide that sense of accomplishment. Engaging in hobbies can divert your focus from distressing thoughts and emotions.

Remember that different strategies work better for different individuals, and it’s important to explore and discover what works best for you.

Additionally, if you’re dealing with a mental health condition, it’s advisable to work with a mental health professional to develop a personalized coping plan. For example, joining support groups is a healthy coping mechanism that may be recommended by a treatment provider.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Sometimes it’s helpful to just quiet your mind. This is easier said than done when you have a mental health disorder, but relaxation techniques may be able to help.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you manage stress and anxiety. These techniques can increase your awareness of your thoughts and emotions, helping you respond to them more effectively.

Relaxation techniques help lower the body’s stress response, which can be especially helpful for those who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. By engaging in relaxation practices, you can reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol, leading to a sense of calm and improved mood.

Many relaxation techniques emphasize the connection between the mind and the body. This connection can help people become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Practices like mindfulness and meditation can enhance self-awareness, making it easier to identify and manage distressing thoughts and emotions.

They can even help improve the quality of your sleep. Mental illnesses often disrupt sleep patterns. Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided meditation, can promote better sleep by relaxing the body and quieting the mind, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Relaxation techniques can be valuable tools in helping individuals cope with mental illness by promoting emotional well-being, reducing stress, and enhancing overall mental health. While they are not a replacement for professional treatment, they can be used as complementary strategies to manage symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.

Avoid Substance Abuse

Avoid or minimize the use of alcohol and recreational drugs, as they can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness.

Substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, can worsen the symptoms of mental illnesses. For example, using substances like alcohol or stimulants can trigger anxiety, paranoia, and depression. By avoiding substance abuse, individuals can prevent the worsening of their mental health symptoms.

Substance use can also interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate emotions. For those who have mental illnesses, this can lead to heightened mood swings, irritability, and decreased emotional resilience. Avoiding substances can contribute to more stable emotional regulation.

Many medications used to treat mental illnesses may interact negatively with substances. Alcohol and certain drugs can diminish the effectiveness of prescribed medications, making it harder to manage the symptoms of the mental illness. By staying sober, recovering individuals can optimize the effects of their treatment plan.

By avoiding substance abuse, you will also be avoiding the risk of drug dependence and addiction. Mental illnesses and addiction tend to co-occur. This is called a dual diagnosis. Managing two co-occurring conditions can be extremely challenging. Avoiding substance abuse decreases the likelihood of developing a dual diagnosis and makes it easier to focus on managing the mental illness.

Remember that these coping strategies are only meant to supplement your existing mental health treatment plan. Consulting a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor, is essential. They can provide an accurate diagnosis, offer treatment options, and guide you through your recovery journey.

Various types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), mindfulness-based therapy, and talk therapy, can help you develop coping strategies, manage triggers, and build resilience.

If recommended by a mental health professional, consider medication as part of your treatment plan. Medication can help manage symptoms, but it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the right balance.

If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional, a helpline, or a crisis hotline. Look for a treatment center near you today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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