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How To Be Independent When Having Mental Illness

Sep 1, 2008
No one wants to be a burden on their families, or others. We all want to leave independent and productive lives. Just because you have been diagnosed with a mental illness does not change that for you, and it is possible. You can live your own life and have independence if you plan well and take care of yourself.

Plan out your days.
It will be important to hold down a job in order to maintain your independence unless you are collecting government benefits. It is possible for many sufferers of mental illnesses to continue to work and hold down jobs if they are very careful to acknowledge the difficulties and plan for them.
Whether it is at work, or at home, careful planning will help to alleviate the stress and worry of the unknown and provide the needed comfort of having a detailed plan set out to accomplish your daily tasks. The day will not seem as insurmountable if you have a list of smaller items that add up to a successful day. As you complete each smaller task you can feel good about having made it through it and will begin to develop self-esteem for having accomplished each one.

Knowing that finishing each item on the list will give you a full and happy day is a great feeling. This is a helpful tip for anyone whether they have a mental illness or not.

Keep your stress to a minimum
One of the biggest triggers for many sufferers of mental illness is stress and anxiety. Learn to know what types of events are likely to trigger such emotions and avoid them at all costs. When things begin to feel overwhelming, stop, relax, and take a deep breath. If necessary take a walk to clear your mind, or take a nap. Sleep is a great way to reduce stress. This is not to be confused with the trouble sign of too much sleeping. Deciding to take a nap to relax isn't the same thing as not being able to get out of bed. Beware of trouble signs, but at the same time don't allow yourself to become too run down.

Take care of your body
Physical activities are wonderful ways to reduce stress, help your body stay in shape, and feel better about yourself. Get moving. If you feel upset or depressed, take a nice long walk. Set a regular schedule to work out in a gym, or at home with some simple exercise equipment, or sign up for an aerobics class. Yoga is another great class to take. It is very relaxing while working the body at the same time.

Know the signs of relapse
Know what to look for and contact your health care professional immediately if you experience any of the signs of crisis such as depression, difficulty eating or sleeping, increased appetite, or too much sleep, difficulty making decisions, or scattered thoughts, or the general feeling of being over-burdened. Keeping an eye out for trouble before it becomes too serious can make dealing with it easier. Usually a quick trip to your doctor can stop the trouble from escalating and interfering with your life and ability to handle your own affairs.

Accept the love of your family and friends
No matter how much we all need to feel independent, we also all need a shoulder now and then. Don't push away your family and friends when they want to help, or listen to your troubles. Accept their love and support with the knowledge that they are not trying to hold you down, they are trying to bolster you up. Let them help, and know that you are doing all that you can possibly do to live a long, happy, healthy life, and you will be on your way to greater independence in your life.
About the Author
Ronen David is the chairman of "Malam" (an Israeli organization supporting and representing those dealing with mental disabilities). He is the author of the "How to Cope With Psychosis & Schizophrenia Self Help Handbook".
Visit his web site and learn Coping With Mental Illness
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