10 Things To Do If You’re Struggling Mentally

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It can be mighty difficult to keep yourself afloat when you’re struggling mentally. Everything may seem like it is getting worse, whether it is or not.

Mental instability can change the way you accept and navigate stresses. It may amplify bad situations into worse ones or smother good things in your life.

You may find that you can’t get your footing while you’re struggling, which just makes you struggle harder.

The following tips to navigate these struggles may or may not help. Not everything works for everyone. Sometimes, tips like these may work a little or a lot. Other times a person can be so unstable that nothing less than medical intervention will help.

But, in the meantime, let’s look at some tips that may help you if you’re struggling mentally.

1. Cut back on any substance abuse or alcohol.

Listen, I get it. Sometimes the only comforting thing that can shut up what’s going on in your mind are things you shouldn’t do. The truth is that substance abuse may or may not provide some temporary relief, but it’s almost always at the expense of long-term health.

Alcohol, for example, interacts differently in the mind of someone with a mood disorder like depression. It can amplify the depression the person is experiencing, which causes the person to drown it in more alcohol, which makes it worse, and so on.

Substance abuse is one of the worst things you can do as a maladaptive coping mechanism when struggling with your mental health. It can make things dramatically worse.

If you are abusing substances, talk to your doctor before making any changes to what you’re doing. Alcohol is especially dangerous to withdraw from if you’re dependent on it.

2. Avoid or reduce unhealthy foods and drinks.

Similar but different to the first tip, avoid or reduce unhealthy foods and drinks.

For example, it’s not healthy or good for your mental health to suck down coffee a pot at a time or live off energy drinks. That stuff can significantly amplify mental health struggles that you’re having by making you more anxious or aggravating mental health conditions you might have. And it’s not just about the up of the substance; it’s also about the crash down.

There are a lot of junk foods out there that do affect your mood and mentality. Sugary foods and foods without much nutritional value do not provide the kind of benefits that your brain and body need. Try to reduce the amount of fast and junk food you eat. Look for healthier alternatives, even if it’s not full meals.

(Author’s Note: Assuming you’re not so depressed that you can’t function at all, slow cooker meals and peanut butter with baby carrots or apple slices are good options.)

3. Reduce the amount of stress in your life, if possible.

Stress is a severe trigger and perpetrator of mental instability. In addition, it can aggravate several different mental illnesses and mental health problems. Thus, reducing the amount of stress that you have going on in your life can be instrumental in creating some peace and stability for yourself.

Granted, this is far easier said than done. Most people can’t just drop their stresses and walk away from them. Their stresses might be family, work, living situation, poverty, or some other thing that can’t just be changed or dropped.

If you can’t drop or change it, consider looking for alternative ways to manage the stress that comes with it. For example, it might help to take up some exercise like walking or yoga to help blow off some stress. Meditation can also be helpful if you feel constantly overwhelmed.

4. Try to get some consistent exercise.

Exercise provides several benefits for mental health and stability. The brain produces a lot of important chemicals for mood-balancing and emotional health when you exercise. In addition, your body isn’t made to be sedentary. It needs good movement and exercise to function properly. That’s why everyone recommends exercise to improve your physical and mental health.

Even small things can help. For example, can you take a 15-minute walk every other day? You may also want to consider signing up for some classes or the gym, which may or may not be a good idea, depending on what kind of instability you’re currently experiencing.

The key word here is consistent. Yes, we are aware that consistency is pretty damned difficult when you’re unstable. Just do the best that you can.

5. Practice mindfulness and grounding.

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, accepting the thoughts and emotions that come, and then letting them go. This can be exceptionally helpful if you are anxious about future events or depressed about all of the things that could go wrong in the future.

Grounding is a similar practice. Instead of letting your brain soar through the clouds of infinite possibilities on how everything could go wrong, you pull yourself back to the ground. You do that by focusing on the tangible things around you that you can control.

One common method is the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique.

Acknowledge 5 things around you that you can see.

Acknowledge 4 things around you that you can touch.

Acknowledge 3 things around you that you can hear.

Acknowledge 2 things around you that you can smell.

Acknowledge 1 thing around that you can taste.

You may also want to try holding an ice cube in your hand or sucking on an ice cube. Instead of letting your thoughts fly to wherever, you focus on the cold of the ice cube to help pull your mind back to the present.

6. Don’t practice mindfulness.

A flip side to mindfulness is that it can potentially harm people with mental health struggles. For example, sometimes you can’t just feel your feelings and let them go in the present moment. Trying to do that can lock your brain into a cycle of going over them repeatedly, which worsens your mental stability.

If you find that practicing mindfulness is not working or making you worse, try doing things to take your mind off what’s going on in your head. Do anything that will require some focused mental engagement that you can manage with your mental state. That might be something like reading a book, doing some puzzles out of a puzzle book, or watching something funny that you enjoy.

Instead of diving into the issue or letting it sit with you, try distracting yourself until it passes.

7. Don’t make any major life decisions.

Impulsiveness and poor decision-making are symptoms of mental instability that go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing quite like tearing your own life to pieces because you had an amazing idea on how to make things better, only to later find that “amazing” was actually “terrible” because your mental illness altered your perception.

Managing impulsiveness can be extremely difficult when you’re not in a good mental space. Couple that with major life decisions, and you have a recipe for disaster, broken relationships, and lost opportunities.

So, as much as you can, do everything in your power to avoid needing to make major life decisions until you get through this bout of mental instability.

Unfortunately, that may not be possible. Life doesn’t just get put on hold because you’re mentally unstable. Should you need to make a major life decision, run it through some people you trust, talk to a counselor about it, or even just get some different opinions through a support group or community.

Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily base your decision on what these people think. Still, they may be able to help you figure out what reality is and get you pointed in the right direction.

8. Reduce your contact with difficult people.

This tip is worded in a specific way for a specific reason. Far too many people label difficult people with the word “toxic” when they aren’t toxic; they’re just having a difficult time. And chances are pretty good that if you have mental health struggles, there are probably times where you have been difficult too. But it’s really not fair to label someone as “toxic” because it’s making a direct statement on who they are. In reality, they may just be someone who is struggling or making bad decisions.

However, when you are mentally unstable, being around difficult or other struggling people can make your problems significantly worse. This is a catch-22 that goes along with support groups. Yes, support groups can be a fantastic tool to not feel alone, learn a lot, and help work on your balance. But, on the other hand, it’s also true that support groups can contribute to instability or trigger unwellness. Nothing is perfect, unfortunately.

If you’re struggling mentally, you’ll want to reduce the time you spend around difficult or struggling people. Their problems will rub off on you and likely make your own instability worse.

That may include a friend you have a rocky relationship with, an unkind parent still in your life, a romantic partner who isn’t understanding about your mental illness, or someone who is just unstable.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of your mental health first and foremost. Unfortunately, no one else is going to do it for you, so you must be the one to draw boundaries and protect your space.

9. Set some small, realistic goals.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool for combating mental unwellness. It is a great way to kick off some dopamine and endorphin bursts to help ease your mental struggles. Plus, it helps you maintain forward momentum in your life instead of getting derailed by mental instability.

Do you have a bigger goal in your life? Something you really want to attain? What do you want to attain? Answer that question and reverse engineer the path to get there.

Not sure how? Luckily, you have the internet, so you can undoubtedly find information on how other people achieved a similar goal. Then, you can look at the smaller steps that will take you to that larger goal and set small goals that align with accomplishing it.

If you do that, you then have a path you can follow to keep leading you on to something better as you work to get through this instability, because it won’t last forever. You just have to give yourself time to work through it.

10. Seek professional help.

You probably knew this tip was coming, didn’t you? The truth is that mental health and mental illness are complicated matters. They affect everyone a little bit differently, and solutions can differ from person to person.

For example, suppose you’re struggling with your mental stability. In that case, there’s a good chance you’ll need help from a mental health professional to figure out what’s going on, find a way to navigate it, and then start a treatment plan.

Mental instability happens. It’s difficult to get through, but you can get through it. It will pass sooner or later. Do seek professional help if you haven’t already. And suppose you feel as though you may harm yourself. In that case, it may be best to visit local emergency services for some additional assistance.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.