Mental Health Hygiene

Cut Your Therapy Bill In Half!

Psychotherapists can do so much to improve mental health.  They can provide information, teach you skills you need to learn to cope better with stress, handle panic attacks, or fight fair without damaging your intimate partnership. You can work through your issues in a safe, nurturing relationship where you are respected. But there is a lot that you can do on your own, outside of or before you get to the therapy room, to get the most out of your therapy sessions, It might even cut your therapy bill in half!

Think Like a Dentist

If you never brushed your teeth, or did so only every once in a while, can you imagine what your next dental visit might be like?  Uncomfortable?  Painful?  Maybe you’ll have to stay longer or come back for more work. We are all very familiar with the term “dental hygiene,” the steps you take on a regular basis to keep your teeth and gums in good health. But how many of us are familiar with the term “mental health hygiene?”

Mental Health Hygiene

Of course, there’s a big difference in dental and mental health hygiene…almost everyone has been taught how to brush and floss their teeth from the time they were very young.  Not everyone has been taught how to correctly take care of your mental and emotional health…this is one of the areas where your family, your community, and your society may have let you down, and you are seeing the consequences.

It’s Never Too Late to Learn The Basics

For some of the more difficult work of therapy, like recovering from abuse or trauma, treating severe depression, anxiety disorders, or OCD, definitely work with a licensed psychotherapist. It’s like turning on a light to find your keys. But here is what YOU can be doing on a regular basis to improve your mental health, and what your therapist is going to probably assign you as homework so they become habits, anyway.

1.  Mental Health Toothbrushing

The 3 things that every person needs to figure out in their lives is how to get adequate nutrition, how to incorporate activity or exercise into daily life, and how to ensure that you are getting enough sleep. These are truly the basics… this is the equivalent of the toothbrush in the mental health hygiene routine.  Skip them or skimp on them, and you’re going to develop symptoms or exacerbate them.

2.  Mental Health Floss

Just as toothbrushing only takes care of the “big pieces,” and you need floss to get into the places the toothbrush can’t reach… you need some habits that do the same thing for your mental and emotional health. Your mental health floss includes having a routine that involves introspection.  That’s the process of “going within” so you can take a look at what you’re feeling, why you might be feeling that, and reflecting on what to do.

You can do this by setting aside time to reflect by journaling, sitting in meditation or getting out into nature to be alone with yourself. If you currently do not have a regular routine for introspection, your therapist will probably ask you to develop one that works for you.

3.  Mental Health Fluoride Rinse

Fluoride rinses are that extra dose of protection for your teeth and their enamel, strengthening and preventing decay.  It’s like insurance for your teeth.  And the mental health equivalent is being with other people you like and trust, doing things you enjoy. Developing friendships and relationships with others so you can learn new things, enjoy doing activities that involve others, and combat feelings of loneliness is like your mental health insurance.

You are going to need friends to help you get through some tough times in life, and you want that policy already written out before you really need it!  So, pay the premiums…make a point to spend time with other people you like…or think you will like!

When was the last time you had fun?

If you can answer that question easily, awesome! If you can’t remember the last time you had fun, you’ve got some extra work to do…the fun kind! You have to make it a habit to do something every week that falls in the category of FUN. That’s also like a fluoride rinse for your brain!

Do It Now, or Pay Later

Being emotionally stable and able to manage stress well requires that you do these things… there is no easy way out of it.  It takes time, energy, and resources to eat healthfully, exercise daily, get good sleep, introspect on a regular basis, make friends, and have fun. If you need to work with a therapist in order to get these basics figured out in your life, please do it!  It’ll be the best investment you make for your mental health.  If you can do them without that, your time in therapy will be used more effectively…or you may be able to avoid seeing a shrink altogether.

Which would cut your therapy bill out completely!!!  🙂

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist

For more information and Resources: The Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

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