Life can have ups and downs. But how can you tell if it’s normal — or something more?
It can feel nice to get into a groove. Once you’re accustomed to doing something one way, it can be really helpful — like the route you take home, or the way you cook a certain meal.
Those routines can help our lives run more efficiently without using up all our precious mental resources.
However, just as these routines can do us a favor in certain areas of our lives, there are times when they can get stale, too — getting us stuck in a bit of a rut.
Once you’re there, it can be difficult to get out of the habits that are no longer serving you, let alone notice them.
One such area of our lives where we can get into a rut is in our mental health treatment plan.
We can get into the habit of taking the same medicine, using the same strategies, and dealing with the same old symptoms year in and year out.
One of the most damaging parts is that because our routines feel normal to us, we may take too long to recognize it for the hindrance it is and get back to thriving.
If you’ve been doing the same things to manage your mental health for a long time, it’s important for you to know when it’s time for you to refresh your mental health treatment plan!
Noticing something is up can be tricky, though. So let’s talk about some of the signs to look for.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to feel joy all the time to be effectively treating your mental health conditions, but you don’t need to feel glum and grey.
When we’re treating ourselves for our mental health, it’s easier to brush symptoms off as a bad day when it could actually be cause for concern.
Be mindful of how long your bad moods are lasting — and your energy levels, too.
Knowing these will help you know when it’s time to reach out for help.
No treatment plan is perfect — but it shouldn’t be kept in play if it’s ineffective.
If you’ve been working on the same treatment plan for 90 days or longer and your symptoms are still there or not drastically reduced, it’s time to take another look.
This doesn’t mean that your symptoms have to be completely gone all the time! Just know that it’s important to keep a watchful eye for worsening or persistent symptoms.
One sleepless night does not an issue make.
Not sleeping over the course of weeks? You need to talk to your therapist or your doctor, or better yet both!
Not sleeping can be a sign that something more serious is going on (for example, a manic episode for someone with bipolar disorder, or insomnia due to anxiety or depression), and sleep deprivation is likely to worsen existing symptoms. For that reason, it’s really important not to sweep this under the rug.
We’re often too quick to brush off a few sleepless nights as par for the course because we have a mental illness. But sleep is often the canary in the coal mine!
Lack of sleep could be your body trying to tell you that something is amiss. Don’t miss the warning signs.
This is another big one. If you’re not really eating, there could be something more going on.
Is it worsening anxiety or depression? Could it be the side effects of the medication you’re taking? Or could there be something else to explain your lack of appetite, like an eating disorder?
This is another symptom that we’re quick to brush off. But if you ignore it, lack of eating could develop into other problems.
Not eating could cause unwanted weight loss, bad fatigue, and a worsening of the depression symptoms you’re already working so hard to fight.
If you notice a serious decrease in your appetite, don’t take that sign lightly. Talk to your doctor and see what their opinion is about the next steps to take.
Are you fighting with friends? How is your marriage right now? Is there a family feud ongoing? Sometimes when we’re on the outs with everyone, it’s not them — it’s us.
Once, when I was in an extremely toxic relationship, I looked up and found that one by one, many of my friends had disappeared.
It was only then that I realized I had allowed my mental health to suffer as a result of that relationship, and my friends went out the door along with my mental wellness plan.
Remember, though: It’s never too late to fix things and rebuild bridges.
Crying is an easy way to tell where you’re at emotionally. The evidence is literally running down your face!
Do you find yourself feeling more weepy than normal? Are things touching your heart, or are you crying from anger or sadness?
Crying can be cleansing for the soul, but when you find that you’re crying more than normal, you may need to look at how you’re managing that.
When I went through a bad breakup, I took a very long time to process it. As I was working my way through those emotions, I found myself crying constantly. I couldn’t make it through more than an hour without crying. I needed to get some help, and I needed it fast.
There’s no shame in reaching out for extra support when circumstances change and our mental health regimen is no longer holding up.
Everyone is different, and the signs of worsening mental illness aren’t the same for us all.
This is when it becomes really important for you to know yourself. What signs do you look out for to know that you aren’t feeling your best?
Are you sleeping all day? Are you eating too much rather than not enough? Do you feel numb and unable to feel emotion versus crying?
All of these can be indicators that it’s time to sit down with your doc and talk about trying something different.
Don’t suffer for weeks or months when help is available to you! Medications and routines can be adjusted, schedules flipped around. Our mental health is too important for us to put it on the back burner.
Don’t forget, in the business of everyday life what matters most is your mental health and well-being.
Check in with yourself and be proactive when you notice something is amiss. Your brain will thank you later.
René Brooks has been a typical person living with ADHD for as long as she can remember. She loses keys, books, essays, her homework, and her glasses. She started her blog, Black Girl, Lost Keys, to share her experiences as someone living with ADHD and depression.