5 Small, Realistic Mental Health Tips Therapists Actually Recommend to Patients

Updated 11/29/17
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Despite the fact that one in five American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year, access to mental health care is still limited. Therapy, in particular, can run a person anywhere from $100 to $300+ per session, making it an unrealistic option for many. Armed with that knowledge, Self reached out to a variety of mental health professionals to get their "most impactful, least intimidating" strategies that they actually offer to patients. "Most of the work of therapy happens outside the consultation room," said licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark to the magazine.

"The best progress happens when you apply what you've learned outside that setting, in your real life."

Read up on what Clark and others had to offer below.

Actually Write Down Your Thoughts

This one comes from David Klow, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the upcoming book You Are Not Crazy. "Venting is awesome for a reason—it helps you get out your frustrations," he told the publication. "That's one of the reasons why it can be helpful to keep a mental health journal."

Take Daily Low-Key Walks

One way to quiet a busy mind is to channel that energy into something physical. "Getting out into the world and connecting with life is usually healing, as is the rhythmic nature of walking," said Klow. "It can help get you out of your head and into the world." He recommends taking a walk first thing in the morning, after dinner, or even scheduling a 20-minute walk during the workday.

When Anxious, Ask Yourself "And Then What?"

When ruminating on something, asking yourself this simple question can help "elucidate thoughts that are reasonable, probable, or sometimes even rational," explains Clark. She gives the example of worrying about losing your job. "Ask yourself what would happen if that were the case," she explains. "That might seem terrifying at first … [but] eventually, your thoughts should come around to reasonable solutions to your biggest worries. You might even realize that these scenarios—while certainly anxiety-inducing—are highly unlikely to come to pass."

Make a List of "Your People"

"By building a list of people that you trust, with whom you can talk to in times of need, you allow yourself a strong sense of not being alone," explains Klow. "The next time you're struggling, check out your list and reach out to someone on it. Then, work your way down if someone you love isn't free to talk."

Counter Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones

It is possible to take life's negative moments and find a silver lining in them. "The sensation of pressure doesn't have to be negative—it can be a positive challenge and motivating," says Clark. "For example, if you're stressed because you're up against an intense work deadline, think about how that stress is actually helping to push you to get it done." If stress reaches a chronic point, "consider viewing that as a welcome warning sign that you need to find ways to scale back before you burn out."

Head over to Self for more, and read up on how to stay positive when surrounded by negative people next.

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