Coping mechanisms are strategies that people use or develop in order to deal with, or avoid dealing with, difficult and stressful emotions or situations. Whilst some people may use exercise, a healthy diet or meditation as a way to process difficult feelings, it can be very easy to fall into unhealthy habits instead, especially if we have pre-existing mental health conditions.
For example, those who have suffered with eating disorders may automatically fall back into restrictive eating habits or fall into a pattern of binge eating when life gets difficult. Whilst we can easily beat ourselves up for not ‘handling things’ in a healthy and productive manner, it’s important to remember that coping mechanisms serve an instinctive purpose. In times of stress, we seek comfort and safety. On a biochemical level, unhealthy coping mechanisms are serving that purpose.
That doesn’t mean we should allow them to continue, however. Part of overcoming mental illness is learning how to cope in healthy ways that serve a higher purpose for you long term. Here, we will take a closer look at how mental illness can affect our coping mechanisms, and how you can learn to shift your unhealthy coping habits into more helpful ones.
Why mental illness makes us vulnerable
Mental illnesses come in a wide variety, and each person will experience them slightly differently to the next. But essentially, mental illness means that our brains aren’t working exactly how they should. This can warp our perception, and make us feel more anxious, stressed, insecure and prone to depression than we would be otherwise.
When we are stressed, we seek instant comfort. Our brains instinctively drive us to seek the quickest fix and push us to run away from our cause of stress. This is why when you are really, really hungry, all you want to do is eat sugary foods such as chocolate – your body knows that’s the quickest fix for its hunger, even though you know consciously that it’s not the healthiest option.
For people with mental illness, this stress response can trigger a repetition of a familiar pattern of negative behaviour that instantly soothes or avoids the initial problem, but also creates bigger issues long term.
Recognise your behaviour
It’s important to recognise when we are relying on unhelpful coping mechanisms to avoid facing stress, as they can lead to more serious mental and physical problems. If you are fixating on something that is not going to help you long term, such as obsessive cleaning, isolating yourself from family and friends, or abusing alcohol, you need to consciously recognise the signs that your habits are not serving you.
You may find it helpful to write down the root causes of your negative habits, and commit to facing the problems head on instead of allowing them to cause you further problems. Talking to someone you trust can be a massive help and relief, and can help you springboard yourself into a better place mentally.
Make small changes
Often when our mental health is low, we can feel overwhelmed by the thought of fixing everything. Remember, your perception is magnified when you are struggling mentally, so everything will seem worse and harder than it truly is. Being kind to yourself and committing to changing just one small habit at a time can be really helpful in focusing on what you can achieve – one step at a time.
Speaking to a health professional can be an intimidating thought, but sometimes it is necessary in order for us to make profound changes to our health and wellbeing. There is no shame in asking for help, and you are not alone. By recognising when our coping mechanisms are beginning to be less than healthy, we can make the choice to improve them.
Thanks to our friends at Vuelio, who not only ranked as again as a Top 10 UK Mental Health blog which is amazing- but included this little blog in the top 5!!
This is our highest ranking and I am so honoured. Thanks to all the writers and business/brands we work with too for their hard work in creating content.
This blog is in its 7th year now and can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. This is particularly special as this week is Mental Health Awareness Week too. The aim of this blog is to provide information to help people feel less alone and to dispell any myths of stigmas around mental illness.
Well done to all on this list and all the fab mental health bloggers out there.
Today is World Bipolar Day and for those of us living with bipolar disorder we know that living with it every day, year round is more accurate. However today is our day to talk about life with mental illness and to try and eradicate the stigma around the illness… ‘crazy lady’ ‘nuts’ ‘drama queen’.
World Bipolar Day is designed to raise awareness worldwide of bipolar conditions and to work to eliminate social stigma whilst providing information to educate and help people understand the condition.
Even though I live in remission/recovery with the illness, I am medicated daily to be this way, and I have undergone years of therapy and learnt coping methods too, with support from family.
Well, before I found medication that stabilises my bipolar highs and lows, life looked very different.
There were times I couldn’t work. I was so depressed I lay in bed in all day, only getting up to eat. I was scared to have a shower and wash my hair.
Life looked bleak. All I wanted was my duvet and oblivion. I had intrusive thoughts about ending my life, I was in a lot of emotional pain and this would last for weeks, sometimes months on end.
Bipolar isn’t just a bit high or a bit low…. its depression and mania, suicidal ideation and psychosis, self harm thoughts, hypersexuality, hyper activity, believing delusions that aren’t real…..SO much. Its episodic but it can ruin your life. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, sex to cope. Some hear voices too.
I have been in hospital twice for fairly long stays. I have been sectioned under the mental health act and held in a hospital unit against my will. I have been injected with sedatives to calm my mind and body when I couldn’t consent. I have met people in hospital who were suicidal, anxious, depressed, high on drugs, in psychosis. I lived on a ward where I heard people being restrained.
So, not much fun really. Luckily this month I am celebrating 9 years of remission out of hospital! I also came out of hospital as a nervous wreck and thankfully, therapy has helped.
This blog is inspired by one of my followers who asked me what was my ‘Aha’ moment in recovery.
As well as finding the medicine Lithium, a salt that controls the mood fluctuations, the biggest thing I did for my own healing was go through therapy for my panic attacks and PTSD like symptoms. This was done with the support of my husband and family and because I has been on an NHS waiting list for 2 years, I needed help. My therapist and I have done EMDR trauma therapy which has helped me to process things.
In fact, I still do get anxiety attacks – just less. I have been in a very good place generally in the past year. Finding support at home, at work and from friends and family has been the most stabilising part.
I have had bipolar since I was 15, I am 34 and can tell you that this has not always been the case and my mental health has and will fluctuate.
I learnt recently that bipolar brains are neurodiverse, meaning our brain chemicals act differently to a neurotypical brain. Always good to understand the biology behind it too as this illness can be inherited and run in families- my Dad and I and other relatives have it.
On World Bipolar Day I hope:
-Employers adhere to the disability act and make reasonable adjustments to help those of us with bipolar to work in a better way for them, including hybrid working.
-People with mental illness aren’t fired because they can’t get to a physical workplace.
-Mental health services need better funding, so that people with bipolar can get a correct diagnosis sooner and get the help they need.
-People not in the Western world will get access to mental health medication and therapies that they desperately need.
Job hunting is never easy, and it can be especially challenging in this current climate. With more people competing for fewer jobs, the pressure to find a job can really take its toll on your mental health and morale. But there are steps you can take to help keep your spirits up during your job search. Here are six tips to help you maintain a positive outlook while job hunting.
Maintain Your Physical Health
Ensure you eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself physically will give you the energy and strength you need to stay motivated throughout your job search process. Plus, the dopamine you get from exercising helps stabilise your mental health.
Set Realistic Expectations
Setting goals for yourself when job searching is important, but it’s also important to set realistic expectations for what you want out of the process. Setting unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and disappointment when things don’t go as planned. Keeping realistic timelines, salary goals, and more in check will help you in this process.
Stay Connected with Friends and Family
Reaching out to friends and family during your job search can provide much-needed support and helpful advice from those who know you best. Staying connected with people who care about you will boost your morale and remind you that people in your corner are rooting for you.
Develop Networking Skills
Networking is key when it comes to finding a new job, so focus on building strong relationships with those in your industry or field. You never know who might have connections or insights into potential opportunities that could be perfect for you. Attend conventions, group meetups, or whatever is available to you to further your network.
Keeping track of all the applications, resumes, emails, interviews, etc., can be overwhelming at times. Make sure you stay organized throughout the process by creating systems that work for you. This could include keeping notes in documents, making spreadsheets tracking your progress, or whatever works for you. Having things in order will help reduce stress levels associated with searching for a new job significantly.
While it’s important to remain focused on finding a new position, taking some time off every now and then is essential as well – even if it’s just one day per week where all you do is relax and enjoy some much-needed “me time.” Taking regular breaks from the search allows time for reflection which may lead to fresh ideas and perspectives on how best to tackle the next step in your journey.
Searching for a new job can be stressful at times, but these six tips should help keep your spirits high. Remember that taking care of yourself physically, setting realistic expectations, staying connected with friends/family members, developing strong networking skills, staying organised, and taking regular breaks should put up in good stead throughout this journey – so don’t give up.
On the 1st March 2016, I started this blog as a way to provide therapy for myself- as I was going through panic attacks, (caused by trauma). Can you believe that was 7 years ago?! I can’t! Since then I have had several years of therapy and my life changed so much too for the better- I met my husband, we got married and moved to our first home.
The blog has turned into a book Bring me to Light (with Trigger), writing for Metro.co.uk, Glamour, the Telegraph, Happiful, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and other incredible organisations, I have partnered with large and small brands, charities, businesses, writers to create content that battles stigma on mental health. We have been awarded as a Top 10 UK blog by Vuelio since 2018 (thank you) and I love to share my story to help others and educate people about bipolar, anxiety, panic disorders, psychosis, mania and mental health in the workplace (amongst other mental health topics!). I have also recorded podcasts and have begun speaking in the community about bipolar with my Dad.
I cannot believe it has been 7 years since I opened up my computer to write- I was struggling. a lot. Writing has been such a therapy and a saviour to me.. and I hope this blog helps you too!
As always, I want to thank all my contributors and brands (sponsored or not), as well as the digital agencies and freelance writers who provide content too.
This year March 22- 23 we have featured (where it says my name, I wrote it!)
Happy new year everyone! Gosh its nearly the end of January and I havn’t written a blog for a while so thought I would share some things that have been happening here and talk a bit about mental health stuff too.
Firstly, my mental health is fairly stable at the moment, as has been the case for a number of years. I don’t get typical bipolar depressive or manic episodes on my medications and this year is my 9th year out of hospital , which is always a positive. However, I still suffer with anxiety and stress and get overwhelmed so have to pace myself! I have bad days too where things feel too much but thankfully they don’t escalate into a depression.
So for the positives- I have achieved some huge anxiety wins for me. Since November, I have been on the tube (first time in 3 years), I have gone up to the West End with Rob to the theatre using public transport, my panic attacks have been lessening, I have been able to see more people in person and I also passed my probation at work and have been made permanent (huge win!). I am someone who struggles with agarophobia when I feel more anxious and stressed and going out alone can still be a challenge.
I have been allowing myself to venture into previously anxiety provoking situations- for example, I get cabs alone home from work. I had to start doing this last year and it helped me get back into the world again. It wasn’t easy due to many fears I had but I have been able to do it, slowly. My job is also hybrid so I can work from home too- but getting back out into the world and having kind work colleagues at an office has been such a vital part of my recovery too. My therapist has been so helpful in dealing with the panic attacks and anxiety and I do still get triggered but at the moment on a lesser scale. I still find blood tests, hospitals and general health stuff scary because of what I have been through. I really recommend therapy.
I sometimes do have to cancel arrangements when things feel too much so am sorry to anyone I have had to postpone… its not easy and I hate doing it as I feel bad… but I am learning the balance of looking after me and socialising too. I don’t always get it right but I am trying.
Then, my friend in Bushey, Lee, texted me a few weeks back and asked if I would like to speak in my childhood community for the Jami (Jewish charity) Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. I hadn’t done public speaking about my story since before Covid in 2019, when I spoke with my Dad Mike at Limmud and at Chigwell shul (synagogue, my husbands community). I have had drama training so for me speaking publicly as someone else is OK, but when I have to stand up and share my own story, I get nervous as its so personal. The first time I was asked to speak in a shul at Belsize Square, I made it to the community but my Dad had to give the talk by himself as i was too panicked to attend the service. I managed in time to dip my toe in slowly, always with the support of my Dad and my therapist.
This talk in Bushey felt significant. It’s the Jewish community I grew up in and was a part of until I was 23. I felt like I was going home. The Bushey team told me they had two other speakers, but would I like to speak and share my story with bipolar disorder?
I thought to myself… I am ready, my panic attacks and social anxiety are more under control. To me being asked to come home to Bushey shul was a sign. My Grandpa Harry passed away in 2021 from Covid- and he and Grandma had lived in Bushey since the 1990s, when we were little. Our family lived in both Bushey and Bushey Heath and I studied at Immanuel College, across the road from our home and my grandparents. The area contains so many happy memories for me. I knew the new senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen, as he had officiated at my grandparents funerals and was so kind to our family. My Dad is also still a member of the shul and I still know a lot of people who live in the community too. Its a very special community and one I am proud to be from (and still feel.a small part of despite not being a local anymore).
So, I decided, with my Dad and Rob’s support on the day (and anxiety meds), that I could stand up in shul and speak with the other two speakers on the Shabbat (sabbath) morning. My Mum and step dad were supporting from afar and looking after our guineapigs.
The senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen hosted us for the Friday night which was wonderful as we got to meet lots of new couples and see the Ketts, the other Rabbi and Rebbetzen! For lunch after the service, we went to Lee’s house, which was very special as she was my batmitzvah teacher and is a good family friend.
I was initially told the talk was going to be in a break out room- but on the day it was decided that it would be from the pulpit. Last time I ventured to that pulpit and stood up there was when I was 12 years old, sharing my batmitzva portion of the Torah. The year my Dad was very ill and diagnosed with bipolar. I became ill just 3 years later.
Now, here I was back as a married woman of 34, revealing about the mental illness that had found its way into my family and caused a lot of devastation. However, the main reasons I wanted to stand up and talk about bipolar disorder are because I know that this illness runs in families, many Jewish families struggle with it. I wanted to give the message that you can live with this illness but you can have periods of remission, recovery, you can find hope.
And as I spoke to the audience of people – many of whom I had known since my childhood, who saw me grow up and saw my family eventually leave Bushey for Edgware, I felt humbled. I felt honoured to be asked to speak and I hoped that by sharing my own journey with bipolar (being diagnosed at 16, in hospital twice, the last time in 2014 for a very serious manic episode), that I could touch someone who needed to hear it. My Dad gave me permission to tell his story too.
When I grew up in. the early 2000s, talking about mental illness and particularly in Jewish spaces, was not the norm. I hope that through sharing my own journey and my Dads (he was undiagnosed for 9 years until he was 44), that I will have helped someone.
Most importantly, I felt I had come home. The kindness and warmth shown to me by the members of the Bushey community who I have known since I was a little girl was something so incredibly special and touching. People confided in me after the service about their own struggles. Others thanked me for sharing my story. I was hugely touched by the other two speakers who spoke after me about their own journeys with mental health and their children’s. I won’t name them here in case they want to be anonymous but I learnt so much from them and their experiences.
So I want to say a huge thank you to Lee, to the Rabbis and Rebbetzens and to everyone in Bushey who I have known for years and have loved- for hosting us, for inviting me to talk about something so personal in such a special community. It touched my heart. I really hope it helps.
I genuinely did not know how I stood up there to speak to 90 odd people- what kept me going is knowing I was doing this to help eradicate the stigma of mental illness but also I hope that the words I spoke gave comfort to anyone going through mental illness, that it does get better. It can improve. You won’t be ill forever.
When I was unwell in 2014, Jonny Benjamin MBE was speaking and sharing about mental illness. He taught me that sharing your story to help others is vital. So thanks Jonny for all your support too (whether you knew you gave me the courage or not :).
I also want to thank Jami charity, Laura Bahar and Rabbi Daniel Epstein. I was part of the volunteering team that helped set up the first mental health awareness shabbat. The project has blossomed and is now annual and it is truly wonderful to see.
What I want to clarify is that although I am currently a lot better with my anxiety, it is very much a grey area, day by day thing. That can be hard for people to understand- how one day you can be great with loads of energy and the next you have to stay home and recuperate- self care. But I think knowledge of mental health is increasing now, so do check in with your friends and family and offer a safe space without judgement- its so helpful.
Thank you again for reading this if you got this far. You can do whatever you put your mind too- reach for help from medical teams, medication, therapists and never give up.
Tonight I was sat with Rob and our friends at their home, enjoying a dinner together. We ate good food and just loved being together. We then watched the beautiful fireworks on TV as Big Ben (the clock) tolled in midnight.
And as I watched the colours take off and swirl in the night sky over London, wishing our friends happy new year and looking at Rob, I thought about the year that has been.
At the end of 2021, I created a vision board for this year and what I wanted to manifest. Amazingly, a lot of it has and I am hugely grateful for so much that this year has brought (some parts though weren’t so good, and thats absolutely ok.. we are human and life isn’t always perfect).
There are some dreams that I hope will come true for 2023. Good health and happiness of course for us, family, friends and everyone at the top of the list.
2022 was a year of many ups and some downs. For now, I would like to keep my resolutions and hopes to myself until I feel ready to share them but want to wish you all a happy, healthy new year. May it bring only blessings and may all our hopes and wishes manifest for the good.
Thank you for reading and supporting this blog in 2022 and always! In March, it will be 7 years since I started blogging!
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, who led the research and is a Director of the Foundation, said: ‘Our new guide encourages us to take care of the fundamentals of life – our relationships, our experiences, our bodies and our finances.
‘The evidence shows that this is far more likely to keep us mentally healthy than the gimmicks and miracle cures promoted by some in the ‘wellness’ industry, who prey on our vulnerability.
‘The truth is, there are no quick fixes for good mental or physical health. What works is developing healthy habits in our daily lives, that help us to feel OK and able to cope with everything.
‘For example, in our new guide we talk about getting more from our sleep, learning to understand and manage our feelings, planning things to look forward to and getting help with money problems.’
The full list of mental health-promoting actions suggested by the new guide is as follows:
Get closer to nature
Learn to understand and manage your feelings
Talk to someone you trust for support
Be aware of using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings
Try to make the most of your money and get help with problem debts
Get more from your sleep
Be kind and help create a better world
Eat healthy food
Be curious and open-minded to new experiences
Plan things to look forward to
Most members of the public involved in the study had experienced their own, or family members’ problems with mental health, so had the benefit of hindsight when assessing what helps most with prevention.
The new guide (and the research on which it is based) acknowledges that people may be unable to follow some of its suggestions, for instance because the place they live makes it impossible to sleep well or spend time close to nature.
Dr Kousoulis added: ‘Enjoying good mental health should be an equally accessible goal for all of us, yet it is often out of reach for many. Government action is needed to create the circumstances that solve problems that are beyond individuals’ reach, and help prevent people having problems with mental health in the first place.’
Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week www.mentalhealth.org.uk
This is a non sponsored article written by the Mental Health Foundation.
I am absolutely delighted to announce that we have been listed for the 4th year running (!) in the Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog list! This means so much to me as Vuelio rank influential blogs by data and this year we are in 6th place amongst some truly amazing blogs, including my friend Cara Lisette’s!
Thank you so much to Vuelio for the support as always. I hope I can continue to blog and produce content that tackles the stigma around mental health and bipolar disorder in particular. My aim is to share others stories and to help others feel less alone.
Life is uncertain. Even in the best of times, something unexpected can happen. You may have a hard time getting out of bed or putting one foot in front of the other each day.
It can be a challenge to find the motivation to keep moving forward when you feel stuck or don’t know which way to turn. Don’t give up hope. You just need help finding your way.
You are Not Alone
Many people have faced struggles similar to yours, yet when you look at others around you, they may pretend everything is going well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone has some sort of obstacle or bump in the road. However, we have been taught to hide our feelings. We avoid asking for help. Once you understand that others are involved in a struggle like yours, it will help you to feel like you are part of a community.
You are Stronger than You Realise
You may be under the misconception that you are ‘too weak’ to take on the world. Start looking for your strengths. Sit down with a piece of paper and jot down anything positive you can think of about yourself. List your achievements. Think of problems you have resolved in the past. Ask people you trust about the best things about you.
You can boost your confidence when you focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. Focusing on your strengths may give you a sense of direction and shift your mindset.
A Helping Hand Can Make a World of Difference
Sometimes it simply takes new eyes to find the best part of you. You may be so caught up in all of your obligations that you’ve lost sight of who you want to be. You are probably like so many others who have sacrificed their own interests in order to take care of others. You may want to seek guidance or spiritual life coaching from helpful resources who can help you see yourself in a new light.
It’s time to stop letting the rest of the world get in the way of your pursuit of happiness. Discovering the gems hidden inside of you can light the way to a brighter future as you realise your full potential.
Focus on What You Can Control in Your Life
While it’s true that there are many outside influences that are completely beyond your control, you can take charge of more than you realise. Don’t limit yourself with boundaries that have been established by others. Find your way to climb your mountains. Use the tools you have that will help you to open doors in your life. Don’t dwell on anything that has already happened. You can’t go back to the past.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in the mud of the problems of today. Tackle one small problem at a time. Don’t let your thoughts hinge on what will happen tomorrow. Stay in the present moment and celebrate your victories.
Work on Being the Best You Every Day
You’re going to make mistakes. The most important thing you can do is learn from them. If there is something that went wrong in the past, try to make a positive choice now. Wake up every morning determined to be better than you were before. Make a list of goals for the day. If you don’t achieve all of them, bump them to tomorrow. You’ll always have something to keep you going when you have more items on your to-do list. However, don’t pressure yourself and pace yourself.
You are a unique, remarkable individual. There is no one else like you on the planet. Celebrate your special qualities. Remember how important you are in the grand scheme of things. Choose something to shoot for, goalwise, on a daily basis. It will give you a reason to wake up every morning.
Think about something good in your life instead of the negative. Take two steps forward. Even if you slide back one, you are still headed the right way. Explore new opportunities. You never know when something will spark a new interest. It could pave the way to who you were always meant to be.
This article was written by writer Tracie Johnson, based in the USA.