How to support mental health in a crisis according to you

May 13, 2024 | News

We asked Positive News’ readers for their advice on how to cope with difficult times. Here’s what you said

How do you cope with the inevitable lows of life? Positive News asked readers to answer this question ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week which begins today.

We were once again inundated by thoughtful responses. We were also moved by the difficult experiences of readers and their wise strategies for recovering. We read them all but were unable publish them. We apologize if yours isn’t below.

Your thoughts on how to support your mental wellbeing when times are difficult

“When I was at my worst last year and couldn’t get up, my father dragged out of the house to make me plant sunflowers. It seemed pointless at the time, but I found it incredibly cleansing to dig my hands into the soil and watch them grow. Since then, I’ve planted new wildflowers on that patch of ground, and have tended them as well as my mental health.” – Pax from York, UK

“I had a difficult postpartum. I felt lost and disconnected from the rest of the world (a feeling that is common among new mums). I felt anxious all the time and even blamed my feelings on myself. [So], I began to focus more on my present and prayed more. I consider this a form of meditation. I began visualising the outcomes I wanted in my life, and set myself small goals. Social contact is important, but I also prioritize spending time with people that make me feel good. This increases my energy levels. My therapist also gave me the best advice: to observe my mind without judgement. I began to notice unhealthy patterns, and I tried each day to find a healthy focus. I became more aware of what was going on in my mind. I began to pay attention to what I thought, ate, read, and watched. This is how Positive News came to my attention.” – Tihana in Croatia

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“I lost my soulmate for 58 years, 55 of those as my husband, nine months ago. I continued my daily routines, such as going to the gym or pool in the morning. I continued to volunteer and be a member of the clubs and societies that I was already a part of. I joined two new groups within a week of his funeral. One was a folk dancing group and the other was a practical philosophy class. Above all, I prayed, and remained grateful for all that was.” – Jennifer from Oxfordshire, UK

“I stay close to nature to help me through difficult times, such as the loss of my spouse after a long illness. I never feel lonely when I am surrounded by animals and greenery, and I live near the elements.” – Marianne, Basque Country.

“It may seem a little businesslike, but it’s important to plan for the inevitable mental downs during a period of good mental health. I have a list of strategies. It’s the same strategy list, but I have it in different places so I don’t need to search for it. Each person’s list should be unique and contain strategies that they know work for them. It should be updated (in these UP times). It should contain low-cost, free, easily accessible “tips and tricks” and (very importantly) the names and numbers of special people or organizations you know will provide you with support. My ‘tips’ and tricks’ list includes things like a breathing exercise, eating a special treat, reading a favorite poem, looking at a comfort scrapbook, etc.” – Daphne from Yorkshire, England

Many of you found strength in nature and from uplifting others. Image: Matheus Ferrero

“I began reading authors with Buddhist and secular backgrounds in a particularly difficult time last year. This led me to meditate.” It has changed my life. It helped me to emerge from a feeling of anxiety and stress. I know I will continue my practice so that my mindfulness continues deepening and expanding. “Meditation is the key to a better life.” – Rick from Canada

“As soon I feel depression coming on, I go outside and look at something beautiful. Then I turn my gaze to the sky, and then back to the ground. A bird or a cloud is always a good cue. Then I find someone else to smile at. Breathing slowly while thinking of all positive energy helps.”

“After the breakup of my 20-year relationship, I experienced enormous levels of stress, both emotionally and financially, and guilt about how it affected my family, especially my children. I was determined to make it a positive turning-point in my life. Despite my lack of sleep and appetite I continued to work and maintain a familiar routine for my children, which helped us feel secure. I asked for help whenever I needed it. I’m not very good at this. I actively built social connections by reconnecting with old friends and saying ‘yes” more often than I had in a long time. I made a list of hobbies and experiences that I would like to experience. These things gave me an enormous positive strength that enabled me to get through a very difficult time. I attended therapy sessions later to process what had happened, which was very useful.” – Emma from Dover, UK

With the help of counselling, I learned how to create healthy and respectable boundaries

“My world was shattered after my first pregnancy ended with stillbirth. I was already struggling with burnout and stress, and now I developed full-blown anxiety. In addition to the grief, I also had to deal with the physical symptoms of hypoarousal and overarousal. On the one hand, I was unable think clearly because of the brain fog and on the other, I experienced dizziness and insomnia. I tried many things in the hopes of finding a cure. Self-care is important at the most basic level: remembering to hydrate, to cook before getting too hungry, and to go to bed on time. Another strategy is to learn not to rush. I have found that slowing down and taking breaks as needed has helped me reduce my symptoms of anxiety. I try to meditate each day. Headspace’s programme for managing anxiety is very helpful. I found that tactile sensory toys helped me with brain fog. When the weather is nice and I can, I go out into nature. I try to observe the leaves, flowers, birds and then set down my worries. It’s important to not panic if the technique doesn’t work. Even if these techniques only help me sometimes, that’s still an improvement.” – Beth, Cornwall, UK

“I have depression and low self-esteem that I attribute to my ex-stepfather who has been in my life ever since I was three years old. He is a narcissist and emotionally abusive man, so I was affected by him. After I got away from him, my mental health still suffered. I overcome these challenges by reading books that I enjoy, gardening, and taking voice classes. My ex-stepdad used to make fun of me whenever I sang. I am proving him incorrect, facing my fears and starting a new activity at the same time.” Jarom, Utah.

Exercise is a common theme and has been proven to improve mental health. Image: Emma Simpson

“I was diagnosed after two rounds with scary symptoms. My uncle has lived with the same diagnosis over 30 years and his attitude has inspired me to seek more than just acceptance. You can accept the diagnosis, but you don’t need to accept the prognosis. After a period of feeling sorry about myself, I realized I wanted to do something more for my health. I started a super-healthy diet, learned to cook from scratch and came up with meals I never would have thought of. Eating healthy made me feel in control of what I feed my body. I learned mindfulness and meditation, and this led me over time to learn reiki for healing and other hobbies like outdoor swimming and yoga. One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had was attending a sound-healing session. You just let go and listen to the vibrations.

“I’ve gotten used to crying.” “As a middle-aged man, this was a big thing, but it really helped let things out.” — Ed, Wiltshire.

“I realised family trauma was holding back my ability to live my life fully. I felt guilty and obligated to maintain family relationships at the expense of my mental health. I learned how to set healthy boundaries with the help of counselling. Good fences make for good neighbors, as they say. I am now liberated and have a tool that will protect my mental health. I have also given myself permission to live the way I wanted.

Main image: Kevin Young

The NHS in the UK offers information on where to get urgent mental health help, as well other mental health-related organizations that can assist. Learn more by clicking here

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