Therapy can be any form of reflection that includes another person. It is the mental health equivalent to having a personal trainer who helps you develop new ways of understanding how your internal world works or a physio who is helping you get back in to shape after an injury.
Your once a week therapeutic hour needs to be a private place where you can be honest, open and vulnerable without judgment. It is a safe place to practice doing things differently.
Therapy alternatives include and are not limited to, one:one psychotherapy, group therapies, fellowship meetings, holistic healing, appropriate peer support, and online therapeutic forums.
Changes in how we socialize are often the first noticeable sign of a change in your mental wellbeing. Whether you are introverted, extroverted or ambiverted, having two social events in your planner per week will allow you to notice changes in your emotional wellbeing quicker and more accurately than in isolation.
Social events not only act as a diagnostic tool, they also give you an opportunity to work on your self-esteem, practice boundaries and challenge unhelpful developments in your ego. They help you figure out where your vulnerabilities are and what you need to focus on. They can draw your attention to what you need to reflect on in therapy and most importantly will hold you accountable to others and keep you responsible and committed to yourself.
Cardiovascular exercise consistently comes out on top as a way to manage mental health hygiene and help stabilise your mood. Exercise can, in fact, be as good an intervention for mental health difficulties as time-limited psychotherapy.
When you exercise your biochemistry fires off in a way that allows you to reduce psychological pain and promote happy feelings. In this space you are more able to process challenging emotional events and receive positive messaging about yourself, thus adjusting those negative core beliefs. It also increases your capacity to remember things and acts as an excellent relapse prevention tool.
In addition, exercise has a direct effect on your relationship with your body. When you exercise out of love for yourself you give your body the message that you care for it and do not want to punish or harm it. Excellent for those working on body image issues.
3 x per week for 30 minutes is a good place to start.
Self-Care as a mental health workout comes in two parts, 2 x EXTERNAL self-care, and 2 x INTERNAL self-care per week:
External self-care activities are the things that make you feel nice, the treats, the pampering, the time out, etc. All these things give you an opportunity to self soothe and reset your nervous system. Stopping here only gives yourself the message that something external will fix what is bothering you. Use external self-care to create the space and time for you to also do the internal work.
Internal self-care involves listening in to yourself, being honest, brave and kind, changing the way you talk to yourself when you make mistakes and forgiving yourself for the things you have done in an attempt to cope.
Using self-care as a tool gives you the message that you are worthwhile and therefore helps improve self-esteem from within.