Forms of Mental Health Care that Don’t Involve Prescription Medication
If you’re serious about taking care of your mental health, you probably know by now that there’s more to it than just taking medication.
Even if you’re already using medication, it’s worth considering incorporating other lifestyle changes to improve your mental health. Having a multifaceted mental health care plan can help you live a fuller, richer life. That’s why many providers recommend using a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle choices.
Therapy is a mainstay of mental health care. It gives you a chance to create a trusting relationship with a therapist, open up about your feelings, unpack past experiences, process trauma, and work on bettering your life.
Meditation boosts relaxation, improves focus, and can ease anxiety. Some people dismiss meditation, thinking it sounds hokey or overly spiritual, but you can make meditation whatever you want it to be. Think of it as a chance to take a mental break from your day, re-center yourself, and get back in touch with your purpose.
Mindfulness exercises, though similar to meditation, tend to be smaller, more deliberate, and more actionable than meditation. These are great tools to whip out when you need them. You may have heard of the “5 Things” exercise, which is a popular mindfulness exercise for when you feel overwhelmed or panicky.
Natural Remedies/Herbal Supplements
Some people prefer using herbal supplements instead of prescription psychiatric medications – or they may want to supplement their medication.
Before starting an herbal supplement, talk to your doctor or mental health care provider. Herbal remedies can interact with medications in some cases, and you want to make sure what you’re taking is actually beneficial instead of just wasting your money.
Some common natural remedies for mental health include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12 (folate)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
What you eat impacts your mental health. When your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to function most effectively, that can exacerbate psychological symptoms like depression or attention issues.
Plenty of people are simply told to “eat better” to help their mental health, but you can engage your mental health care team to get advice more tailored to your situation. By taking a strategic approach, you’ll see results faster and be able to make more sustainable changes. For example, people with conditions like ADHD can benefit greatly from starting the day with a high-protein breakfast.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It can relieve tension you’re storing in your body without knowing it, and it releases feel-good chemicals that will benefit you long after you finish.
This doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym or getting into long-distance running (unless that’s what works for you). Try taking a 20-minute walk once a day to get your body moving.
Yoga is particularly effective for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD. The practice combines aerobic exercise with breathing and relaxation techniques, so it can benefit you in multiple ways at the same time.
Look for a well-trained yoga instructor, preferably one who’s accepting of all body types and tailors their practice for mental health.
Cultivating a Social Support System
Loneliness and lack of social support can exacerbate symptoms like depression. They can also make it harder for you to enact a positive lifestyle and mental health changes if you don’t have people cheering you on along the way. Therapists are great, but they’re no replacement for a close friend, family member, or partner who sees you every day.
The best part of community-building is that it doesn’t have to feel like a mental health treatment for it to be effective. But if you’re shy and looking for a push to branch out and engage with the people around you, knowing it will improve your mental health is a great reason to make it a priority.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Just as poor sleep is bad for your physical health, it also takes a toll on your mental health. Try these tips to improve your sleep:
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine in the evening
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bed
- Get physical exercise during the day
- Set a regular bedtime routine (and wake-up time)
If you’re having significant sleep disturbances, that’s worth bringing up to your mental health care provider. They may be able to offer solutions.
Replacing Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms with More Effective Ones
Unhealthy coping mechanisms can help us cope with short-term stress, but they harm us long-term. This can include:
- Impulse shopping
- Alcohol reliance
- Binge eating
Some people’s impulse is to try to stop these behaviors cold-turkey. But it’s more effective to replace them with something else. Talking to your therapist about how to replace your unhealthy coping mechanisms can make it much easier to see lasting changes.
Taking care of your mental health is a multi-faceted topic. For best results, you want to create a lifestyle that supports a healthy mindset and makes you feel supported.