When you’ve received a mental health diagnosis, it can be a relief to give a name to what you’ve been experiencing. But beyond a diagnosis, it’s essential to develop a holistic health management strategy, which often includes a medication component.
To give yourself the best chance at success, you need to do more than just take your medication as prescribed. Your mental wellness influences the entirety of your life. Give your diagnosis, your care plan, and yourself the attention, time, and care they deserve. Honor your needs so you can enjoy life, pursue your goals, and show up as your best self.
1. Understand How Your Medication Works
You may have an impression of a commonly prescribed medication for mental health treatment, but do you know how it works? Brand names, cultural familiarity, and pop-culture mentions may have created an idea in your mind of your new prescription. While you should feel confident in your prescriber’s recommended dosage and frequency, it’s also important to know how the drug functions.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, work to increase serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, in the brain. This type of medication is commonly used to improve mood and alleviate symptoms in individuals experiencing depression and anxiety. By understanding how your medication works as part of your mental health treatment plan, you can more closely monitor its effectiveness.
Review the information provided by your prescriber regarding how soon it should begin working. Some medications become effective within hours, and others take time to work at their best. Take notes on how your symptoms improve while using your medication as prescribed. If you ever suspect that a dosage adjustment or a different medication is warranted, reach out to your prescriber.
2. Complement Your Prescription With Behavioral Adjustments
Medications can make a significant impact on your mental health symptoms. However, medication alone is not always the most effective way to manage your condition and improve your overall health. Seek to understand your diagnosis, its sources, and what lifestyle improvements you can make to manage it. If there are situations that put you into overdrive, consider how you can reduce or avoid them. Navigate your life with your needs in mind and articulate them as often as you can.
Talk therapy is often recommended, as many mental health conditions have been undiagnosed or ignored for years. Speaking with a professional can help individuals unearth repressed feelings whose acknowledgment can improve mental health outcomes. Research potential providers based on your diagnosis, needs, and preferences. Your insurance may cover therapy at a reduced cost, while your employer’s employee assistance program may offer free sessions.
Many people find that certain foods and movement activities improve or hinder their mental health. Magnesium-rich leafy greens have been shown to have a calming effect in addition to their widely acknowledged fiber benefit. Add the anxiety-soothing power of zinc to your diet through egg yolks, oysters, cashews, and beef. Integrate exercise into your regimen, and you’ll reap the rewards of post-exercise endorphins that can carry on through your day. Assess your health factors and medication restrictions before you commit to an activity and select one that you’ll enjoy.
3. Use Journaling to Track Your Progress and Identify Potential Improvements
Getting in touch with your emotions and discussing them with a therapist may already feel like a big ask. But reflecting on your emotional state, how you relate to the world, and what steps you’re taking is important. You’re putting in a lot of work to improve your mental health and, in turn, your entire life experience. It’s work that’s deserving of your focused effort before, during, and after you implement something new.
At a minimum, it’s important to track how your body is responding to any new medications, food, and lifestyle changes. The human body is adaptable, but when you introduce medications or activities, details matter. Before you implement significant changes, review potential interactions with your medications. Keep a food and activity journal to track your daily activities, making note of your mood.
After a few weeks of tracking, you should be able to identify the days where you feel your best. Review what was similar across those days and consider integrating those practices into your daily routine. If your anxiety is reduced when you wake early, exercise, and eat a nutrient-rich breakfast, aim to do so regularly. Maintaining a journal can help you learn more about your body and mind and how they experience the world. You’ll be able to identify opportunities for improvements or when to have a conversation about your medication with your provider.
Share Your Mental Health Journey With Others
Historically, mental health has been a taboo topic, and that fact often discouraged people from seeking help. Fortunately, it’s now more commonly known that mental health is just as important as physical health. Today, perspectives have shifted toward an emphasis on whole-self health and wellness.
As you become more comfortable with your treatment plan, consider sharing your journey with those close to you. By articulating your needs among family, friends, and colleagues, you’ll gain a support system invested in your success. Your mental health journey is one without an end date — undertaking it with support can make all the difference.