National Mental Health Information Center
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Recovering Your Mental Health
A Self-Help Guide

Additional Things You Can Do Right Away to Help Yourself Feel Better

There are many simple, safe, inexpensive, or free things you can do to help yourself feel better. The most common ones are listed here. You may think of other things you have done to help yourself feel better.

bulletTell a good friend or family member how you feel. Talking with someone else who has had similar experiences and feelings is very helpful because they can best understand how you feel. First ask them if they have some time to listen to you. Ask them not to interrupt with any advice, criticism, or judgments. Tell them that after you get done talking you would like to discuss what to do about the situation, but that first you need to talk with no interruptions to help yourself feel better.

bulletIf you have a mental health provider you feel comfortable with, tell her or him how you are feeling and ask for advice and support. If you don’t have a health care provider and would like to see someone professionally, contact your local mental health agency. (The phone number can be found in the yellow pages of your phone book under Mental Health Services. Alternatively, contact resources identified in the back of this booklet.) Sliding scale fees and free services are often available.

bulletSpend time with people you enjoy—people who make you feel good about yourself. Avoid people who aren’t supportive. Do not allow yourself to be hurt physically or emotionally in any way. If you are being beaten, sexually abused, screamed at, or are suffering other forms of abuse, ask your health care provider or a crisis counselor to help you figure out how you can get away from whoever is abusing you or how you can make the other person stop abusing you.

bulletAsk a family member or friend to take over some or all of the things you need to do for several days—like taking care of children, household chores and work-related tasks—so you have time to do the things you need to take care of yourself.

bulletLearn about what you are experiencing. This will allow you to make good decisions about all parts of your life, like: your treatment; how and where you are going to live; who you are going to live with; how you will get and spend money; your close relationships; and parenting issues. To do this, read pamphlets you may find in your doctor’s office or health care facility; review related books, articles, video and audio tapes (the library is often a good source of these resources); talk to others who have had similar experiences and to health care professionals; search the Internet; and attend support groups, workshops or lectures. If you are having such a hard time that you cannot do this, ask a family member or friend to do it with you or for you. This may be hard for you if you don’t normally ask anyone for favors. Try to understand that others are often glad to do something for you if they know it is going to help.

bulletGet some exercise. Any movement, even slow movement, will help you feel better—climb the stairs, take a walk, sweep the floor. Don’t overdo it though.

bulletIf possible, spend at least one-half hour outdoors every day, even if it is cloudy or rainy. Let as much light into your home or work place as possible—roll up the shades, turn on the lights.

bulletEat healthy food. Limit your use of sugar, caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, soda) alcohol, and heavily salted foods. If you don’t feel like cooking, ask a family member or friend to cook for you, order take out, or have a healthy frozen dinner.

bulletEvery day, do something you really enjoy, something that makes you feel good—like working in your garden, watching a funny video, playing with your pet, buying yourself a treat like a new CD or a magazine, reading a good book, or watching a ball game. It may be a simple, free activity, such as watching the moon rise, smelling flowers, or walking barefoot in the grass. It may be a creative activity like working on a knitting, crocheting, or woodworking project, painting a picture, or playing a musical instrument. Keep the things you need for these activities on hand so they will be available when you need them. It might be useful to make a list of things you enjoy, and keep adding to it all the time.

Then refer to the list when you are feeling so badly that you can’t remember things you enjoy.

bulletRelax! Sit down in a comfortable chair, loosen any tight clothing and take several deep breaths. Starting with your toes, focus your attention on each part of your body and let it relax. When you have relaxed your whole body, notice how you feel. Then, focus your attention for a few minutes on a favorite scene, like a warm day in spring or a walk at the ocean, before returning to your other activities.

If you are having trouble sleeping, try some of the following suggestions.

bulletListen to soothing music after you lie down.
bulletEat foods high in calcium, like dairy products and leafy green vegetables, or take a calcium supplement.
bulletAvoid alcohol—it will help you get to sleep but may cause you to awaken early.
bulletAvoid sleeping late in the morning and taking long naps during the day.
bulletBefore going to bed:
bulletavoid heavy meals, strenuous activity, caffeine, and nicotine
bulletread a calming book
bullettake a warm bath
bulletdrink a glass of warm milk, eat some turkey and/or drink a cup of chamomile tea.

Keep your life as simple as possible. If it doesn’t really need to be done, don’t do it. Learn that it is alright to say “no” if you can’t or don’t want to do something, but don’t avoid responsibilities like taking good care of yourself and your children. Get help with these responsibilities if you need it.

Work on changing your negative thoughts to positive ones. Everyone has negative thoughts that they have learned, usually when they were young. When you are feeling badly, these negative thoughts can make you feel worse. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, “I will never feel better,” try saying, “I feel fine,” instead. Other common negative thoughts and positive responses:

Negative thought Positive response
No one likes me. Many people like me.
I am worthless. I am a valuable person.
I’m a loser. I’m a winner.
I can’t do anything right. I do many things right.

Repeat the positive responses over and over.

Every time you have a negative thought, replace it with a positive one.

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