So lately I had a talk with a loved one who shared with me that during a difficult time in her life when therapy was simply unaffordable a podcast became her sanctuary. In her words, she would listen to the tips and implement them as much as possible and even listen to episodes on repeat and found it to be very helpful. Now I am someone who has benefited greatly from psychotherapy and if you ask me I believe it is the greatest investment I made to myself and a valuable gift that keeps on giving. Nevertheless, myself as well has benefited from 'self-healing' techniques and has found relief in podcasts, books and small practices. And this conversation kind of made me think again about the power of self-guided healing and some basic tools you can use when professional help isn't immediately accessible.
The power of foundations
Start with the basics. Examine your sleep patterns, your exposure to sunlight, what you're eating, how often you're moving your body, and the quality of your social interactions. These basics might sound trivial, but they're the bedrock of mental wellness. If your lifestyle is skewed - think sporadic sleep, sedentary days, unhealthy eating, or minimal daylight exposure - it's like building a house on shaky ground. The first step is to fortify these foundations, being brutally honest with yourself about where improvements are needed. And trust me when I say these seemingly ‘trivial’ habits and lifestyle changes can have a huge impact in your mental health.
Journaling: Your free therapist
Journaling is free, easy and doesn't require much from you. This simple but essential practice allows you a moment of introspection and clarity. Whether you're simply venting your frustrations, fears, anger, or acknowledging your successes and challenges you've overcome, journaling is a haven and safe space where your thoughts can flow freely, aiding in emotional regulation and self-discovery. And if you are scared that it might fall into the wrong hands. …write it down and then burn or tear it.
The Art of Gratitude and Self-Recognition
Every day, make it a habit to jot down what you're getting right. Acknowledge the positives in your life, your wins no matter how small. Celebrate yourself for anything you achieved even if for some days that is getting out of bed, smiling, showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. No one knows what it feels like being you. Thank yourself for all the work you do and after that reflect on what you'd like to adjust moving forward. This practice is not just about positive thinking. It's about grounding yourself in the present and the reality of your own potential and achievements.
Use mental health apps
While they cannot replace treatment and cannot diagnose conditions, Mental health apps like Moodfit and Sanvello can offer a wealth of resources and daily coping strategies, important for those times when professional help isn't available. One of the best features of these apps is their ability to remind you to pause and think. Through notifications, they put you in the process of evaluating your feelings and thoughts. It's like having a friend who regularly checks in on you, asking, "How are you really feeling today?" This simple act of self-check-in can be a stepping stone to greater self-awareness and emotional regulation. Plus the combination of knowledge and awareness, literally at your fingertips, can become a powerful ally in managing and understanding your mental health.
Thought Records: The Heart of CBT
Thought records are for me one of the best tools of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and are surprisingly simple to practice on your own. By methodically examining your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you can discover your patterns and begin to change them. This practice is especially good in times of anxiety or doubt, offering a structured way of challenging negative thoughts and promoting a more balanced perspective. Here's how you can approach it:
- Record the Situation: Describe the event that triggered the feelings you are experiencing
- Track Your Moods: Identify your emotions and rate their intensity.
- Note the Automatic Thoughts: What thoughts are racing through your mind? Write them down.
- Evidence Supporting the Thought: This is where you challenge those thoughts with facts. Is what you thought really true? There is evidence to suggest otherwise
- Thought Replacement: Replace your initial thoughts with more balanced and rational ones. This is where you really broaden your perspective.
- Check your emotional state again: How do you feel now?
If this seems like a bit too much to you, you can try the Self Therapy Digital Journal that I have created, based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The journal includes a detailed list of emotions and cognitive distortions and through guided questions it essentially guides you through the above process and helps you identify and reframe dysfunctional thoughts in a more functional and healthy way.
The Value of Therapy
That being said, while these tools are valuable, I wholeheartedly believe there's an irreplaceable power in therapy. And if you feel you need help I want to encourage you not to view it as a last resort but as a proactive step towards deeper self-understanding and healing. As someone who studied Psychology (never practiced it) I can assure you that reading and learning something in theory is far different from experiencing it. I realize that for many the cost or access to a trusted therapist can be a deterrent and to you I want to say that it doesn't have to be. You can find affordable treatment options, especially if you book a package of sessions in advance or see your therapist once or twice a month. Trust me it's better than nothing. And with that in mind, I want to introduce you to an amazing platform called Hiwell.
Hiwell is an online platform with more than 800 certified and qualified therapists (licensed and selected after a long process) that helps you do psychotherapy wherever and whenever you want. It has a fixed price across all specialists and all sessions are exclusive between therapist and client. Enter hiwellapp.com, choose the language in which you want the psychotherapy to take place, fill out a short survey that will allow the platform to understand your needs and the algorithm matches you with the most suitable specialists.
You can do free 15-minute sessions to see if it works for you or who works for you (keeping in mind that much of the work is done through the therapeutic relationship and it's good to 'match' your therapist) and at then get a package of 1,2,4 or 8 sessions or look for a new specialist.
In our quest for mental wellness, it's important to remember that while professional therapy is invaluable, there are times when it might not be within reach. During these periods, the power to initiate change and healing still lies within you. The tools I've shared are more than just stopgaps; they are practical steps towards self-empowerment and mental resilience. So, if you're at a crossroads where therapy isn't an option, consider these strategies as your allies. Remember, the journey of self-improvement is ongoing, and every step, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Here's to your journey of self-discovery and healing.