how coping strategies benefit my mental health
Based in Milton Keynes, Simon started Thrive - a mental health and wellbeing company - in January 2020.
While we love writing these blogs, you will often find that the content is raw, simply our thoughts and feelings pouring out of our head and onto the page.
Within that rawness, you will also find our vulnerability and hopefully our honesty.
This is one such blog post.
Depression is a big word with many meanings, and different feelings for anyone that reads it. It’s come to encompass so much. And if you add the prefix “stress-related” then its meaning changes again.
That was me, that’s what I was diagnosed with – stress-related depression. Or in the words of the wonderful GP that saw me on 27th September 2016, “mild depression”. But depression, nonetheless.
To cut a long blog short – it happened, I started the long road to recovery, and I often talk about how I got better, or at least how I managed to feel as though I was as good as I could be.
As with any journey, it must have a beginning, that first step forward. But unlike, say, a holiday destination, with a mental health journey you don’t necessarily reach the end. You just keep travelling.
How do coping strategies help me?
That brings me to the crux of this blog – how do you keep travelling? How do you keep plodding on, making inroads into making yourself better?
I relied very heavily on friends, family, websites, apps, books etc to help me on that first stage to what felt like was a march up Everest with very little kit. What I quickly realised is that scaling a mountain takes a certain amount of experience, maybe some protective clothing, and also a guide.
Coming out of a depressive episode, is like getting your head above the clouds. Maybe you could liken this to being at base camp. You are looking up into a clear sky that has hitherto been cloudy. The problem is that you have already been yomping for a while and you are tired, and now you can see the size and scale of where you still need to get to. So naturally, you sit down.
But what comes next? What do I need to help me get from base camp to the summit? Well, I try to bear in mind that at the beginning, the goal isn’t necessarily to reach the summit. The goal is to get as high up the mountain as possible and reach a place that you feel happy with.
The problem with climbing up a mountain is the weather gets stormy, there are avalanches and rockfalls, the going often gets pretty difficult. These are the glitches and the dips in our mental health journey. They are natural, they are to be expected. So how do we avoid them, or equally importantly, how do we make sure we can weather the storms?
Coping strategies are our equipment and coping mechanisms our shelter. These enable us to hang on when it gets stormy.
When the weather clears, they help us to climb again.
In the 5 years since my diagnosis, I have developed 15 coping strategies that are unique to me. These are the strategies that I’ve found help me the most because they’re tailored to my mental health. I utilise some of them most days – not all of them, but at least 3 or 4 every day. That doesn’t mean I feel depression every day, but I want to use these strategies proactively. I want to maintain my mental strength, and these strategies lift my spirits when I feel low, and they help build up my stress resilience.
I am on a mental health recovery journey, and I will be on that journey for the rest of my life, but boy am I enjoying the ride – and the views from up here are immense.