In our first post, we explored what mental health self-management is. Basically, it’s an approach that helps you take care of yourself by adopting behaviours that improve your quality of life.
In this second post in our series on mental health self-management, we’ll talk about its benefits. Not only does mental health self-management lessen your symptoms and prevent relapses, it can also help you feel better on a day-to-day basis―whether you’re already dealing with a mental health issue or trying to prevent one.
mental health self-management lessens your symptoms
The effectiveness of self-management has been extensively documented for chronic physical diseases such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis. Self-management behaviours such as exercising and eating healthy can help, for example, to reduce the symptoms of diabetes, to the point that Ontario’s Ministry of Health has designed a self-management program as a key component of its diabetes strategy.
The same goes for mental health. More and more studies over the past few years have focused on the benefits of mental health self-management.
A recent study showed that self-management reduces symptoms even for disorders such as major depression and bipolarity.
Another study involving 46 participants in one of our self-management workshops revealed a significant decrease in symptoms of depression.
But the benefits of self-management extend far beyond simply reducing the symptoms. Because good mental health is much more than that.
mental health self-management helps you feel better on a daily basis
Mental health is multidimensional, and the benefit of self-management is that it lets you address the many different dimensions to help you feel better:
- the clinical dimension (symptoms);
- the functional dimension (work, housing, etc.);
- the physical dimension (diet, exercise, etc.);
- the social dimension (family, friends, activities, etc.);
- the existential dimension (hope, autonomy, etc.).
So, self-management helps not only from a clinical standpoint (reducing symptoms), but also from a personal one.
Actively and consciously taking care of yourself on a daily basis, for example, can be tremendously satisfying. You can see the changes taking shape before your eyes, and the tools and information you learned help you to feel more confident and in control of your mental health.
Among many other things, mental health self-management teaches you to:
- get to know and understand yourself and your disorder better;
- recognize the signs and avoid the situations that tend to trigger your symptoms;
- prevent relapses and react better when they do happen;
- lean on your support network;
- develop healthy lifestyle habits.
Because mental health is a process. It’s not something you can check off your to-do list―especially knowing the relapse rate is 20-40% one year post-recovery from major depression and 24% in the two years following an episode of anxiety disorder.
So, it’s important to learn to live with it on a daily basis. And mental health self-management is a great way to do this.
how can I increase the benefits of mental health self-management?
Some people mistakenly believe that mental health self-management is a substitute for psychotherapy and medication. Self-management is not a treatment in and of itself, but rather a complementary approach.
In other words, mental health self-management can be combined with medication or sessions with your psychologist. And it’s even more beneficial when accompanied by more intense treatments such as a therapy.
Studies have also shown that mental health self-management is more effective when a person living with anxiety, depression or bipolarity is followed by a mental health worker or professional. This is what’s known as self-management support.
Mental health workers and professionals are there to guide you and give you the tools you need—not to tell you what to do. You are ultimately responsible for how you decide to take care of yourself.
Because you know better than anyone else what makes you feel good—and what’s bad for your mental health.
Does this approach make sense to you? Check out our 5 self-management workshops to learn how to live with anxiety, depression or bipolarity, or to improve your self-esteem or achieve better balance at work.
Relief would like to acknowledge the contribution of Charles Saliba-Couture to this post.