This is written from an American’s perspective. If you live somewhere with universal healthcare, I’d love to hear your take on things.
There’s no denying that starting therapy is a daunting task, and if you’re tight on cash or are one of the millions who lost health insurance this year, taking care of your mental health may feel like a luxury you can’t afford. However, your state of being is one of the most important foundations upon which the rest of your life is built. A shaky foundation means an unstable structure, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
You deserve to heal. Full stop.
Keep A Journal
I’ve kept a journal since I was seven years old. It’s a great way to get all the thoughts and feelings out of your head and somewhere tangible, which is usually half the battle of therapy to begin with.
The best part of journaling is that you can do whatever you want with it. If you don’t want to write about your day, then keep a mood chart. Track how many hours of sleep you get. Write it in your phone instead of on paper. It’s your journal, so you make the rules.
Additionally, journaling regularly will end up recording patterns, and actively engages the analytical parts of your brain to recognize the things that repeat themselves; you can take it a step further by challenging the ingrained mindsets you hold and asking yourself why this pattern keeps coming up. This article goes into various tips to get the most out of your journaling, and covers the science that backs up the efficacy of the practice.
My personal tips for journaling: don’t hold judgement against yourself, just write what you feel. Be honest with yourself, even (especially) when it’s uncomfortable.
Read Self-Help Books
When I was younger, I thought self-help books were useless woo-woo books to make insecure people feel better about themselves. (I was a teenager, okay?)
I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
Let me tell you, they are so much more than what I thought. I began reading The Body Keeps The Score by Dr. Van Der Kolk, and it put nearly the entirety of my PTSD and previous experiences into perspective. I know how to contextualize and verbalize the fears that plagued me, and in doing so they became less terrifying. It’s been a slow process, but that book alone has helped me through so much of my biggest issues. And it’s not the only one out there.
Are you going through a divorce? Were you raised by a narcissist? Recovering from a codependent relationship? Struggling with addiction? Trying to make sense of a new diagnosis? Depression and anxiety rates have gone through the roof this year; are you experiencing these symptoms for the first time? No matter what you’re going through, there’s a book out there for you. All it takes is a Google search, or take a look at the Books page to get some ideas.
Take Care of Your Body
This is the boring part of self-care that everyone knows about and few people like, and is often rooted in capitalism, ableism, and sexism. Rachel Wiley’s poem “The Fat Joke” holds no punches when she says:
“Fat girl walks into the doctor’s to ask about anti-depressants and gets prescribed exercise instead, because obviously her depression is because of her fat, and obviously fat bodies never exercise and stay fat.”
So I will say this: do what you are able. It doesn’t have to be huge, life-altering choices to reach unattainable goals. If you can’t afford to buy kale every week, then don’t (it tastes like cardboard, anyway). If you can’t afford a gym membership, or running in your neighborhood is dangerous, you’re still going to be okay.
It’s as simple as a glass of water first thing in the morning. Sit next to the window on sunny days. Simple stretches: reach your arms and legs, flex your wrists and ankles, wiggle your fingers and toes — whatever moves, move it a little bit. If you’re feeling up for more than that, great! Eat something regularly. Sleep whenever possible. And if you can’t full-ass any of these things, then half-ass them, because anything is better than nothing at all.
If you have a full exercise routine, that’s fantastic, and you should absolutely keep it up. But take care to prioritize rest over gains. Listen to what your body is telling you.
Here’s the thing: taking care of your body won’t solve all the issues, especially if you’re dealing with a personality disorder or a chemical imbalance. But if you don’t do what you can, you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance.
Follow Therapists on Social Media
It doesn’t have to be therapists, necessarily. Instagram is a great place to find a multitude of mental wellness accounts that can inform you about disorders, neurodivergence, basic self care, therapy for Black folx, LGBTQ+-focused wellness, disorder-specific care… It’s all out there.
Here are some Instagram accounts to get started, but this is by no means a comprehensive list:
This site also offers suggestions on therapy alternatives that involve interacting with another human.
Healing is hard, for both body and mind. A second-degree sunburn had me exhausted and in pain for a week; I’ve felt similarly after an intense therapy session. It’s work, whether you’re paying for professional help or not.
It’s okay to have slip-ups. It’s okay to have bad days, or weeks, or months. It’s okay to feel like you’re plateauing after weeks of improvement. It’s okay to be scared to be honest with yourself. As long as you honor yourself by continuing to show up, you’re going to be okay.
If you’re tackling this journey on your own, it’s going to be some extra work but you are worthy of feeling better. Progress isn’t linear even under the best circumstances.
So keep going. You can do it.
You are wonderful as you are.
You are not defined by what you do.
You deserve good things in life.
It’s okay to say “no”.
What you’re feeling is valid.
I’m proud of you, and I’m so happy you’re here.
Blessed be, lovelies.