Self-Care Practices and Recovering From Mental Illness (pt. 1)

November 13, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

When you are first diagnosed with a mental illness you are told--probably within the same five minutes--that self-care is crucial when working to become stabilized.

What is Self-Care and Why is It Important?

For the purpose of this blog, I'm going to narrow down self-care to that which is often presented to us when we are first diagnosed with a mental illness. To summarize, self-care means the steps we need to take in order to take care of our bodies and minds to recover from mental illness.

Exercise on a Regular Basis

Exercise is important for everyone--just ask your family doctor why and he or she will give you ten pamphlets on it. And that's great, even helpful, having literature at our disposal but when you live with a mental illness, exercise is important for different reasons.

Exercise releases our bodies natural 'happy' drug--dopamine. When a person is experiencing a clinical depression, their level of dopamine and its best bud, serotonin, are low. Antidepressants work to move these levels up to 'normal' but exercise has an immediate effect.

Even twenty minutes of daily activity increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Nourish Our Bodies Properly

Again, there are tons of literature on the importance of eating and drinking water on a regular basis but when living with a mental illness, we need to take this research and its practicality seriously. We need to integrate it into our daily lives, yes, every single day.

I'm certainly not a shining example of this. When I become depressed, I could less about food or drinking any damn water. I just want to sleep and sleep and...well, sleep some more. That aside, in order for medication to work as it should, our bodies need food and water to regulate it. If we want to regulate our mood, we must regulate our body.

It can be easier said than it is done. If you're finding it difficult--impossible---invest in some high calorie energy drinks that contain many of the vitamins and minerals we need to function at our best.

Develop a Regular Sleep Pattern

Ah, yes, the illusive sleep! I believe this is as important as taking the medication that is prescribed to us. Without sleep, we simply cannot recover. I am probably correct in writing that once we have been diagnosed with a mental illness, our lives were pretty hectic before the diagnosis. Our bodies and our minds are tired! If our body could speak, it would probably scream at us telling us to slow down or to move from bed. In other words, we wouldn't want to have the conversation.

When we develop a 'normal', healthy, sleep pattern, we can use this as a guide to when we might be faltering. In my life, my sleep pattern alerts me to relapse before anything else does. I could lose my appetite for a week and not notice, but if I am up all night for a couple of nights, well, that means it's time to seek help.

Self-care practices are important when recovering from mental illness and using them to our advantage ensures we stay stable. My next blog will focus on other important self-care practices.

Remember: Yes, it can be difficult being so vigilant about our health, but in order to stay recovered for a sustained period of time, it's worth it.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, November 13). Self-Care Practices and Recovering From Mental Illness (pt. 1), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

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