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My Mental Health Care Plan

A while back, I wrote a post about what I do to help manage my depression and anxiety. I called it my “Mental Health Care Kit”. It’s a great post about how to take care of yourself mentally and keep things in check. But what do you do when you start feeling yourself go underwater and how do you keep from drowning? In our private Facebook group, someone asked a question that prompted me to share my Mental Health Care plan. This is a plan I execute as soon as I start feeling myself slip into that black hole. It seemed to resonate with a few people in the group, so I thought I’d share it more broadly in hopes it inspires others to make their own Mental Health Care plan.

Step One: Tell a loved one

Instead of suffering alone and making yourself feel even more isolated, tell someone how you’re feeling. It doesn’t have to be complicated. When I know I’m not feeling well mentally, I go to my loved one (which is my husband) and I simply say “Hey, I’m not feeling great mentally. I think I’m starting to go to that dark place.”

Sasha with her husband and daughter after running a race.
Sasha with husband and daughter.

Now the important part is, he knows that this is not the time for him to “fix it.” A lot of times when we share about something that is bothering us, our loved ones just want to fix it. That is all fine and dandy in other circumstances, but this is not the time or place to fix a depressive episode. Your loved one just needs to understand where your head is at, and that you need them to check on you to see how you are. (AND offer assistance if you ask for it).

Step Two: Call My Therapist and/or Psychiatrist

I’ve lived with depression long enough to know that when I’m feeling down for no reason, something is off and I will continue to spiral if I don’t do anything. So Step Two for me is to make an appointment with my therapist and/or psychiatrist. Sometimes the situation warrants a change in my medication and sometimes I just need to talk to my therapist about the thoughts I’m having. Those of us with depression are sometimes inundated with negative thoughts about ourselves that just aren’t true and we believe everything is awful and hopeless. Depression causes us to see life through this negative lens and we just need someone to help see life through a more realistic and positive lens. That’s where a therapist comes in. They can help with those thoughts by talking through them and suggest a few mental health exercises or activities to help. If your therapist does assign you something to do, Step Two A is to tell your loved one about it. They can be the one to hold you accountable to your task. The thing about talk therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is that you need to put in the work in order to help yourself climb out of the pit of despair. A loved one can help you with that.

Step Three: Do the Work

This is sometimes the hardest part of the plan. If your therapist gives you an assignment, you have to do it. A while back, my therapist suggested that every time I said something negative about myself, I needed to follow it up immediately with something positive. Now, that might sound easy, but when you have depression and you’re in the thick of it, this is an impossible task. After a while, it started getting easier though. My brain was like a muscle I had to exercise in order to train it to think more positively about myself. Positive thoughts about myself come so much easier now. I literally had to work my brain like a muscle so that I didn’t go to a negative place about myself so much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard, but it is a hell of a lot easier when I’m “exercising” my brain muscles like I should.

Step Four: Create a Running Plan

As I mentioned before, my Mental Health Care kit consists of three things: Therapy, Medication, and Running. For me, the act of running helps SO much. But, what do you do when it’s hard to get out of bed? How do you run when that is literally the LAST thing you want to do? My way to work around this is to create a 3-week running plan for myself. For some reason, if it’s planned out and written out on a calendar, I am more likely to commit to the run. I take it easy on myself when I make the plan though. Even though I’m a marathoner and can conquer any distance, I need easy when I’m in the fog of depression. Sometimes my running plan looks like this: Week 1

  1. Monday – Rest

  2. Tuesday – 20-minute walk

  3. Wednesday – Rest

  4. Thursday – 10-minute walk, 10-minute run

  5. Friday – Rest

  6. Saturday – 2 miles run/walk

  7. Sunday – Rest

Week 2

  1. Monday – 20-minute walk/run

  2. Tuesday – 20-minute walk

  3. Wednesday – Rest

  4. Thursday – 25 min walk/run

  5. Friday – Rest

  6. Saturday – 3-mile run

  7. Sunday – Rest

Week 3

  1. Monday – 30-minute walk/run

  2. Tuesday – 25 minutes walk/run

  3. Wednesday – Rest

  4. Thursday – 45-minute walk/run

  5. Friday – Rest

  6. Saturday – 60-minute walk/run

  7. Sunday – Rest

I usually feel that by week three I’ve established a good enough running routine to start resuming a normal schedule. I also notice by that time, that getting out of bed for a run is easier. As a bonus, to help you stick to your plan, share it with a running friend. Us runners are a caring group and we’re more than happy to run whatever pace and distance with you to help get you back on your feet!!!

Brother and sister hugging
Sasha with her brother.

Building a Plan

The plan I detailed above is one that works just for me and it probably won’t work for everyone. Not so surprisingly, I came up with this four-part plan after a therapy session where my therapist told me to put one together. Thanks to her, I have a plan that my loved one knows about and can help me execute. I encourage you to come up with your own plan whether it includes running, therapy, yoga, a hot bath, Netflix, etc. The only thing I do recommend though is that it contains a mix of accountability, things you enjoy, and professional help. And remember, no matter what you do, just be sure to give yourself a little grace. You’re an incredible person.


By Sasha Wolff

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