DIY Healthcare - By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
If you’re like me, you can totally remember being a ten year old kid - literally as if it were yesterday. In the midst of budgeting and bills, or reminiscent conversations about high school that you suddenly recognize was 10 YEARS AGO, or reading bizarre tweets from “45” at 2am you realize, life is coming at you fast. It can hit you any time; the feeling of being unprepared, ill-equipped, or overwhelmed by everything that seems to be happening all at once and to be honest, it’s a lot to deal with.
With simultaneous emotional stimulation happening constantly it’s easy to feel tired in a way that requires something more than sleep and to top it all off, unless you are fortunate enough to afford healthcare, seeking help may become an added stress. Society’s attitude towards mental health in addition to the government’s ignorance of the true scope of mental health, makes having a mental health issue feel like what we used to call a “personal problem”.
As someone who has said to myself on plenty of occasions “I am definitely not okay.” and has also not been able to access certain resources to support my mental health, here are a few ways to provide your own mental healthcare for little to no money!
1. MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE
I can admit (and most of my friends will agree) I have a tendency to exaggerate and intensify certain things with extreme sarcasm to describe intense feelings, emotions and experiences. While these feelings and emotions are real, the magnitude of my description doesn’t match the mild degree of those feelings. One of the first things you can do to treat your mental health issue is to accurately assess your symptoms. This does not count as a diagnosis. Once you have assessed your symptoms please seek professional help for an official diagnosis.
If you’re experiencing a change in your thoughts, behaviors, or moods that interferes with your work or relationships for longer than 2 weeks, you may have a mental health issue. If you have doubts about your mental health, reach out to your doctor, a mental health professional, or a trusted loved one for help. Since there is no one test for mental health conditions, your doctor, nurse, or a mental health professional may ask you about your symptoms and experiences and how long you’ve had them. If you suspect that you have a mental health issue, keep track of any feelings and behaviors that occur out of the “ordinary”. For example, if you wake up during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper. Some symptoms of a mental health condition can be:
A lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy
Lack of motivation
Inability to concentrate
Significant changes in your eating or sleeping patterns
An inability to cope with problems or daily activities
More anxiety than usual over events or situations
Feelings of hopelessness
Sudden changes in your personality for no reason
An inability to stop thinking about certain ideas or memories
Sadness for longer than 2 weeks
Thoughts about suicide (call 911 if you are in immediate danger)
Drug or alcohol abuse or illegal use of prescription drugs
Extreme mood swings
Violent behavior or a lot of anger or hostility
Hearing voices or seeing things that other people don’t hear or see
2. PICK YOUR PLAN
Treatment for a mental health condition depends on the condition and its severity. You may be prescribed medicine, referred to therapy, or recommended to do both. If you have health insurance, this type of healthcare might be covered under “behavioral health” by your insurance plan.
There are different types of therapy for different types of mental health conditions. Certain types of therapy can teach you to retrain your thoughts and behaviors, while others provide support that can help you develop life skills, teach you how to manage your thoughts, establish healthy eating and exercise habits, and even help you find a new community or support group.
Most health insurance plans cover mental health treatment in the same ways they cover medical or surgical treatments. If you have insurance, you can check with your insurance provider to find out what treatment options are available through your plan. If you have insurance through your employer, you may be able to get help through an employee assistance program (EAP) to get short-term counseling for stress, mental health symptoms, and substance abuse. If you have Medicaid, your plan will provide some mental health services and plans that offer substance use disorder services. If you have Medicare, your plan may help cover your mental health services, including hospital stays, visits to a therapist, and medicines.
TALK IS CHEAP.
In the case of going to traditional therapy talking can actually by be time-consuming and expensive if you don’t have insurance or reasonable resources. That’s why online therapy and mental health support is such an exciting development. bringing mental and emotional support right at your fingertips.
Talkspace, at $49 a month the biggest online traditional therapy program with over 1 million users. They have over 3,000 licensed therapists who are background checked and trained to help with anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health issues, and unlike other programs, you can also schedule video chats with your therapist.
What's Up, is a free mood and behavior tracker. The app uses CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and ACT (acceptance commitment therapy) to help guide you through your emotions through forums, guides on staying connected, and even breathing techniques.
Stigma is free a journal app that produces a word cloud that visually displays words that help you track your state of mind and what's going on in your life. It's a great for thought reflection and helps develop a plan to break patterns and fill your cloud with positive words.
Anxiety Reliever, will help you identify anxiety triggers and track your thought patterns. It also has audio sessions to help you overcome anxiety, stress, and even insomnia. If you subscribe to the app, you will also get tips and supportive messages from the Anxiety Reliever team that are based on the rate of your anxiety.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
Malnutrition and dehydration are two of the simplest causes of stress and fatigue to remedy. The foods we eat and what we drink all provide what’s necessary for us to properly function. Both can have a direct effect on the body’s energy levels and our mood. Getting the right balance of nutrients, including enough fiber and water, can help your mood stay stable as opposed to sugary, processed foods that increase your blood sugar then make you feel tired and irritable when your blood sugar levels drop. Drinks with caffeine can make it harder for you to sleep, which can make some mental health conditions worse.Certain vitamins and minerals like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc can help with the symptoms of depression. Eating nutritious foods may not cure a mental health condition, but eating healthy is a good way to start feeling better. Ask your doctor or nurse for more information about the right foods to eat to help keep your mind and body healthy.
To quote my mom’s favorite movie, Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins... Endorphins make you happy..” Your body makes certain chemicals, called endorphins, during and after your workout. Endorphins relieve stress and make you feel calmer and can boost your mood. Creating a routine can help you stay motivated and build a habit of getting regular exercise and getting physical activity during the day can make it easier to sleep at night which can contribute to achieving restfulness and productivity.
GO TO SLEEP.
Speaking of rest, exhaustion also has a big effect on mental health and stability. The quality of your sleep directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your life, including your productivity, emotional, brain, and heart health, your immune system, creativity, and even your weight. While you sleep, your brain performs biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition the next day. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you’re unable to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Losing even one hour of sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function at their best.
You can support your mental health by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends until you’ve developed a sleep schedule that works for you. Optimize your sleep environment by keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and reserve your bed for sleeping. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine, wind down and calm your mind by taking a warm bath, reading by a dim light, or practicing a relaxation technique to prepare for sleep. A chilled glass of water by my bed, Spotify’s Deep Sleep playlist and a few slow breaths knock me right out!
ACCEPT WHAT’S HAPPENING NATURALLY
In Wanda Sykes’ recently released Netflix special NOT NORMAL, she hilariously explains how as women get older, their bodies produce less estrogen, a hormone in women ultimately responsible for emotions like compassion, empathy and the like. As you age, your body and brain change. These changes can affect your physical and mental health. In the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause which occurs more so in women in their mid to late 40’s ), women may experience shifts in mood because of hormone changes. They can also experience hot flashes, problems sleeping, and other symptoms that can affect their mental health. Again, this mostly occurs for women in their 40’s but everyone’s bodies are different so it doesn’t hurt to consider a hormonal cause.
By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
Writer, Editor and Language Artist.