Millions of Americans suffer from some type of mental health disorder, and as an experienced psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, I know that it’s all too common for people to neglect their mental health. While battling psychiatric disorders might seem hopeless, there truly is hope and I have a few basic mental health care tips that can help.
Keep in mind, that these tips are not cures, they are simply a few bits of advice that can make life a bit easier for those with depression and anxiety or those prone to mood swings due to issues such as bipolar disorder.
For any type of mental health issue, seeking treatment is essential. Just as you would go to a doctor for a broken bone or to the dentist to fill a cavity, seeking professional help is just as important for mental health issues, but the following self-care tips can be beneficial to follow.
1. Divert Your Attention
Feeling panicked or overwhelmed? Consumed with thoughts you can’t seem to control? Deep breathing exercises and mediation can help, but sometimes, simply engaging in a simple task can help reduce the anxiety and lower your stress levels.
For instance, if you are worried about an upcoming event rather than sitting and thinking about it or pacing back and forth in anxiety, get up and do something menial. Clean your bathroom, mop the floor, clean out the fridge, organize your closet or take the dog for a walk. Even petting a dog or cat for a few minutes has been shown to boost our mood, and our furry companions also benefit from this activity.
These tasks don’t require perfect concentration, but they get you moving and get your blood flowing. Exercise boosts serotonin and endorphin production and these hormones can boost your mood and can help you feel calmer and more in control.
The next time you feel overwhelmed, take five minutes and walk around the block, do some jumping jacks, water your plants, or wash some windows. Get your blood pumping and focus on something else. It doesn’t make problems disappear, but it can help give you a break from your anxiety and worry.
2. Dismiss The Social Media “Experts”
Whether it’s on Tik Tok, Facebook, YouTube or some other social media platform, there are hundreds of mental health “experts” out there that provide advice about various mental health issues. Few (if any) are legitimate doctors, but they often promise cures or treatment options with no actual scientific evidence to back up their claims.
It is highly recommended that you filter out this noise and perhaps even taking a nice long break from social media in general. In fact, sometimes, it’s a great idea to skip watching the news in general. While we never want to forget about what’s going on in the world, if you are having a particularly tough time with anxiety, depression, feelings of anger, etc., it can be wise to avoid spending a significant portion of your day scanning the headlines.
3. Small Victories Are Victories
For many people who suffer from mental illnesses, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to feel as though you aren’t accomplishing enough. You may feel as though everyone in the world accomplishes more than you do on a given day. But, the truth is, everyone is unique and even those people that seem capable to handle any task or crisis 24/7 have problems that you cannot see.
Life is not a competition, it’s a journey and sometimes the road is pretty rough. Create a to-do list for your day and week to keep you focused but keep those tasks as manageable as possible. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or handle 500 tasks in a day.
Your to-do list shouldn’t just include chores, but some relaxing activities as well. For instance, maybe you will plan to read for 20 minutes or arrange a bouquet of flowers or maybe sketch or draw.
At the end of each day, grab a gratitude journal and write down three things that you accomplished that day as well as three items that make you feel grateful. For instance, maybe you paid the bills on time, cooked a nice dinner, and walked the dog. Perhaps you feel grateful for nice weather, hearing a favorite song or having a friend touch base via phone or text.
4. Elevate Your Diet
They say you are what you eat, and there’s some truth to that. As a psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, I am a medical doctor and as such, I focus on each patient’s physical health as well as their mental health. I know that a healthy varied diet can help your body work as efficiently as possible and can even help boost your mood and ability to focus and concentrate.
If you aren’t quite sure how to change your diet or which foods are the best fit for your specific health needs, consult with a dietician and start making some changes. It can even be fun! Try out new recipes and new types of cuisine, and maybe even enroll in a healthy cooking class at your local community center or community college.
In many cases, learning something new (such as gaining new cooking skills) can help you feel better about life in general. So, in addition to learning about nutrition and improving your culinary game, consider adding a few brand-new activities to your life. Take up a new hobby or join a social group, such as a bowling league or adult softball league and try something new.
5. Create A Nighttime Routine
For many people with a mental illness, nighttime can be anything but restful, which is why it’s so important to create a calming routine that transitions you from the day into a period of restful sleep.
One routine might include turning off the TV and electronic devices and enjoying a warm bath. It can be soothing to add Epsom salt occasionally, as this may help alleviate some anxiety or reduce stress. Listen to some soothing music, light an aromatherapy candle and enjoy a cup of chamomile tea.
For some, using a white noise maker or an app with soothing sounds, such as falling rain, can help lull you to sleep after your bath. You also might use those few minutes before bedtime to make notes in your gratitude journal or read some inspiring quotes to settle your mind.
Seeking Treatment: In-Person & Telepsychiatry
While these tips can make life a bit more manageable, finding a psychiatrist and a therapist is an important step that you need to take. Even if you’ve worked with therapists or doctors in the past with little success, I encourage you to continue searching for doctors and professionals that are the best fit for you.
As a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD, I find that many doctors simply don’t spend enough time on their initial assessment and tend to miss co-occurring disorders. My goal is to treat the whole patient, not just one specific mental illness, and many of my patients have co-occurring disorders.
For instance, if you have bipolar disorder and ADHD, both of these issues need to be addressed to truly help a patient. If you have addiction, depression and chronic pain, we have to address the chronic pain and the depression, or the patient will likely fall back into using drugs and/or alcohol.
Once we reach a complete diagnosis and create a treatment plan, patients need to understand that treatment does take time. Even with medication-assisted treatment, it can take time to find the best medication and the best dosage. The key to success is having some patience and just hanging in there and working toward a better, happier life, which absolutely is attainable.
These days, many patients will seek the services of a virtual psychiatrist rather than scheduling in-person visits with a “psychiatrist near me,” as the internet search phrasing goes.
Telepsychiatry has many benefits. First, it allows you to find a psychiatrist that is the best fit for you and someone with whom you feel comfortable. Second, it can reduce anxiety because you can meet in the comfort of your own home, and, third, you won’t have to deal with driving or traffic, which can be anxiety-inducing all on their own.
Contact Dr. Jesalva Today!
Whether you need a psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, a psychiatrist in Simi Valley or anywhere in the Greater Los Angeles area, I am here to help. I also offer telepsychiatry services, which enlarges my scope beyond Ventura and L.A. counties. I offer the services of an ADHD psychiatrist, anxiety psychiatrist, bipolar psychiatrist, depression psychiatrist and more for teens and adults. Give my office a call at any time to book an appointment and move toward a happier, healthier life.
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Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.