I am struggling with my mental health and what I am doing isn’t working. I am OK, but I am not OK. What can I do to feel better?

Mental Health

Your nerdy mental health clinician is here to talk about this one 🫖.

You are not alone. We hear this very often and it usually sounds something like this: I know that more people are talking about mental health, but I: 1) Feel like I can’t get the help I need, 2) Want to make some small changes on my own and see if they help, and/or 3) Just don’t seem to be getting better even with therapy and medication.

⬇️ Read on for what YOU can do to help your mental health ⬇️

1-What to do when I feel like I can’t get the help I need.

We have talked a little bit about how to find help before here.

Here is a quick summary: ☎️ If you want to find a mental health therapist, call the back of your insurance card to see who accepts your insurance or search reputable directories like Psychology Today in the U.S. There are many growing online platforms where you can look for clinicians who take insurance or are low cost too. Open Path Collective and GrowTherapy.com are just a few. Even if it seems like the cost will be high, some clinicians do offer a sliding scale and/or paperwork to help you get reimbursed. If you don’t have insurance, you may be able to get mental health care at a Federally Qualified Health Center. If you need help immediately, you should get to the nearest crisis center or ER and/or call 988 in the US (see the bottom of the post for expanded information).

And therapy isn’t the only way. Going to groups for support, getting peer support, and physical activity can be a huge boost for mental health.

2-What to do when I want to make changes on my own and see if they help.

Focus on the basics of mental wellness. Many of us have heard them before, but keep in mind that these strategies have been studied and can help when done consistently.

📅 Start by keeping a routine. Create your day around things. Work on a schedule and create events that you know will happen every day. This can be getting the mail, calling a friend, or even scheduling your walk.

🌟Focus on your why. Everyone needs a purpose. That can be taking care of a pet, going to work, taking care of another person or anything else. There needs to be a reason to get out of bed every day and have something to do. If you don’t have a job, focus on resources to help you get started or change careers. You might try vocational support or talking to others who have made recent transitions.

🍓🥕Try to eat healthy meals. While we have no recommendations for a specific diet, regular meals including fruits and vegetables as well as a good balance of complex carbohydrates and proteins are great. Drinking enough water is also important. This ensures you have the energy levels you need and that you aren’t deficient in any nutrients (and if you ask the nutritionist, they will tell you to eat! No need for supplements unless you have a specific condition that causes a deficiency.)

💤 Focus on sleep and digital detox. The #1 thing that keeps us from sleeping is our screens. See if you can reduce the amount of time you spend staring at a screen and especially avoid them before bedtime. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. And use good sleep hygiene (some help from the Sleep Foundation here).

🌳Get outside. Many people know that exposure to sunlight is good for us, but so is seeing green space. Some therapists even prescribe ecotherapy to increase the mental health benefits of being outdoors. As a rule of thumb, try to get outside for at least 10 minutes a day.

🧹 Clean up your physical space. We don’t only have to do it when it’s spring cleaning time. When we aren’t feeling our best, we stop paying attention to what is around us. By clearing some physical space, you can help create some organization around you and create positive feelings around accomplishing a task.

🗑️Write down your thoughts, try to practice being thankful for a few things, and take some time to do nothing each day. Get the stuff out of your head. Lots of times we keep our thoughts in and this makes it hard to process. Write it down. Write it down and tear it up. Record it. Just get it out of your head. You can also write down things that you are thankful for (gratitude can help improve mood), and let your brain rest by doing at least 10 minutes of nothing every day (no TV!).

3-What to do when I don’t seem to be getting better, even with therapy and medications.

😔If you aren’t getting better, talk to your clinician. There may be things you can do to support your therapy or medication other than what we have mentioned. You may need a different type of therapy, a new therapist or prescriber, or even a different type of medication.

💊Supplement only if recommended by your clinician. We mention this because there is not much evidence for supplementation with over the counter vitamins, minerals, or other supplements. But many people often seek supplements when what they are doing isn’t working. If you are planning to try supplementation, then the two that have the most evidence are Omega-3 and Vitamin D. Omega-3 has some evidence in higher doses (EPA formulations) alongside medication (not as a standalone treatment) and Vitamin D supplementation has limited evidence to improve mood.

🫶Focus on creating the additional human support you need. Have a friend or two on call in case you need to talk. Even talking to someone on the phone can help with how you feel. Have your therapist or clinician’s contact number easy to access. Try to create opportunities to be with others when outside, through faith based organizations, clubs, or other social activities to help increase your network of support.

✔️Make sure that you understand the symptoms you are experiencing and get the right help for you. You can do this by reviewing what you are going through with your clinician. Or, if you think you might be experiencing a specific condition, you can take a screening test here that can help point you to the right resources.

The bottom line: You are not alone. There is not one way to feel better if you are having mental health symptoms. Focusing on getting help, sleep, nutrition, exercise, getting outside, self-practices, and trying new strategies if you aren’t getting better can help. Try some of these simple and powerful tools and know that with support you can get better.

If you found this helpful, please share it with your family and friends.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Please note: If you or a loved one are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 OR 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Additional Sources and Resources:

31 Tips for Improving your Mental Health

Mental Health America 2023 Guide to Mental Health Awareness Month

State Warm-lines for Seeking Help

Study on Effects of Nature on Mental and Physical Health

Supplementation in mental health

Wellness Resources for People in Recovery

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