Four things I have learned as a therapist

Passivity and helplessness are characteristic of mental illness. So, if in doubt, probably do the thing. Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Here are four things I have learned, during my time as a therapist, about how we can live better through mental illness.

#1 – IF IN DOUBT, DO THE THING

Passivity is one of the symptoms of many mental illnesses. We retreat into ourselves, and stop participating in the world. Whenever we are unsure whether to do something or not, we should stray on the side of pushing the boat out and doing it. We usually regret what we do not do.

#2 – HAVE SELF-EMPATHY

Most of us have grown up in environments which were, to some degree, unaccepting. This can lead to us being hard on ourselves in particular ways, internalising the critical voice of our early carers. We should behave towards ourselves as kind parents, with understanding and encouragement.

#3 – SOCIALISE

Even the most isolated of us need company and support – humans have millions of years of history as social creatures. We should push ourselves slightly outwards; say that hello when we feel like staying silent; say that word of encouragement when we feel a bit resentful; buy that gift, and deliver it, when we feel isolated; turn up to the event, even for a bit, when we feel ambivalent.

#4 – TALK

Talking is, of its nature, therapeutic. Not only is the act of speaking a relief in its own right, but getting a response, being listened to, enriches our mind and our emotions. Language is a beautiful gift that stops us getting stuck in a prison of our own making.

SUMMARY

There you are – four things all of us can do to protect and promote our mental health:

  1. If in doubt, do the thing.
  2. Have self-empathy.
  3. Socialise.
  4. Talk.