living with mental illness

How to Actually “Live Well” with Serious Mental Illness Care

When you’re diagnosed with a serious mental illness, or SMI, it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions. On the one hand, you’re glad to have a diagnosis. On the other hand, you now have a serious mental illness to cope with. 

Mental illnesses are disorders that affect a person’s thinking, mood and/or behavior. As with other conditions, mental illnesses can range from mild to severe. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, one in five Americans lives with a mental illness

Getting a diagnosis is the first step in healing. Once you know what you have, you can work with your treatment team to determine the right balance of therapy, counseling and medication. Life skills and coping skills are also important. Let’s learn more about how to live well when you have a serious mental illness. 

Establish Your Care Team 

The first step is to create a care team that includes the medical professionals you need, such as a psychiatrist, therapist, social worker and general practitioner. Some people choose to start with an outpatient treatment center, because they can access a wide range of treatment professionals all under one roof. 

For instance, Awakenings Treatment Center is an outpatient mental health facility with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, family therapists, spiritual counselors and more on staff. This allows our clients to access a team of trained professionals who work together. 

Stick to Your Treatment Plan 

Your treatment plan is not set in stone. It changes based on your progress, goals and challenges. But, it’s important to stick to the treatment plan, so that you can see what’s working and what needs tweaking. If you need adjustments with your medication, talk to your doctor first.

And, even if you are feeling better, continue to follow your treatment plan. Feeling better is a good thing – it means treatment is working! Too often, people assume they are cured and stop taking their medications, only to find they return to where they were. 

Educate Yourself and Others 

Take time to educate yourself on your SMI. Not only will this help you understand your condition, but you can also address misperceptions that you or others might have about mental illness.

For example, having a serious mental illness is not a choice, a weakness or a character flaw. It’s not something that you can just snap out of, either. Brain chemistry causes mental illness, family history, and significant life events. 

Practice Self-Care 

Self-care is important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you live with a mental illness. To control stress and manage your symptoms, you’ll need to do the following: 

  • Get enough rest, ideally a minimum of 7 hours a night.
  • Eat balanced meals that include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy. 
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Some favorites include walking, biking or swimming.
  • Take time for yourself each day to decompress. Try meditation, writing in a journal, yoga or practicing gratitude. 
  • Make time for friends and family. Social connections are important! 
  • Take your medications as directed, and continue therapy and support groups.

Seek Help for Serious Mental Illness 

These are some ways to live well when you have a serious mental illness. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open between you, your loved ones and your care team. This way, if you feel something isn’t right, you can access help immediately.

To learn more about the mental health treatment services available at Awakenings Treatment Center, contact our admissions department today.