One commonly shared experience of mental health is that sometimes are harder to deal with than others. Maybe it is an anniversary, maybe it is a stressful period of life, maybe it is just the well-established pattern of your mental wellness. During this time, your mental health may feel more challenged and it may be harder to access and use your coping skills. While we cannot always predict when difficult times will present, we can plan for the ones we know to anticipate.
Have you noticed that when life feels particularly challenging, it is harder to manage and cope? Maybe you know that being around certain people for holidays, changes in the season, or a certain time of year at work feels overwhelming and triggering. When we are aware of patterns in our lives that impact our mental health, we can predict our potential response and plan for how we would like to respond. When we use coping skills focused on dealing with difficulty before it happens, we can feel empowered to handle difficult times more effectively.
If you are aware of an upcoming difficult time, plan on reflecting beforehand. Explore what happens for you during the challenging time, including how you feel, think, and react. Being able to identify what choices you have made in the past can present you the opportunity to more consciously make choices in the future.
Consider journaling or sitting with your internal experience to have a conversation about how you want things to go. Be sure to do this well in advance of the anticipated difficult time so that you have ample opportunity to understand your inner experience and any conflict or resistance that arises. If this feels challenging for you to facilitate, ask your therapist to help guide this reflection.
Ask yourself questions like:
· What times tend to be the most difficult?
· What techniques and skills do I already possess to help myself plan ahead for challenging times?
· What triggers do I need to prepare myself for?
· What has helped me in the past with difficult times? What would I like to happen differently this time?
Once you have had the opportunity to reflect, think about what you will need to do to plan. Do you need to speak with a professional for help? Do you need to more actively and consciously practice skills or learn a new skill? Are there boundaries that would help you feel more capable? As you approach the planning phase, use the information you gathered during your reflections to make informed decisions. Additionally, remember these tips for planning:
· There is likely more than one solution to use for planning for this difficult time
· Listen to both your head and heart as you make decisions
· Think before you act, even if time feels pressing or urgent
· Be willing to modify your plans if they are not working
Difficult times will come and go, but you do not have to feel like you are incapable of managing your mental health. If you would like assistance learning skills to help you prepare for difficult times, please contact our office today.