5 Tips for Your Mental Health Plan—Explained

Tip: One Don't run out of your medication and take it on schedule -

Make sure that you always have enough medication until your next refill. If you order refills and receive them by postal mail make sure that you order them with adequate lead time, taking into account delivery frequency.

When traveling, be sure to take a few more pills than you think you’ll need in case your return home is delayed.

Tip Two: Use technology to remind you to order and take your medication.

Before getting a smartwatch, I used my smartphone as a reminder.

When my smartphone became too easy to ignore I used my service dog, Phoebe to remind me to take my medication.

Service dogs make great medication reminders

I gave my dog Phoebe a special treat when she automatically brought my medicine bag to me when we returned home after our morning walk. This reminded me to take my medicine.

Now I use two alarms on my smartwatch, so even in the shower one alarm says, “this is a reminder to take your Rx.”

The second alarm says, “are you sure you took your Rx?” Since my watch is always with me, even in the shower, I don’t ignore the reminder when I’m busy.

Tip Three: Get an accountability partner.

Ask someone responsible and whom you can count on to tell you the truth, to be your mental health accountability, partner.

My good friend Bernadette who’s also a veteran, and my husband Miguel, are my accountability partners.

They’re two people that I see often and I can count on and trust not to be afraid to give me solid health advice.

You're not yourself!

Our code-phrase is "you're not acting like yourself."

The agreement is when they say this to me, without disagreement I need to check in with my health care team to talk with a professional.

When I'm severely depressed I don't have the best judgment so it helps to have someone that I trust to be able to bring this to my attention in a conflict-free way.

Service dogs can also be trained to detect and alert you to changes in your mood. My service dog Phoebe is trained to provide negative thought interruptive measures like:

Get me to the nearest building exit in the event of a panic attack

Give a (doggie) hug when I’m agitated or sad

Read more about how a service dog can help with anxiety, depression and more.

Tip Three: Stay in balance.

Taking time to meditate can release natural hormones that will elevate your mood and decrease the hormones that make us feel stressed.

I meditate, chant, and pray for myself and others for thirty minutes to an hour twice a day.

I also do twelve, one-minute deep breathing exercises throughout the day that are automatically prompted by my smartwatch.

Petting a dog or other animal is another effective way to de-stress.

Tip Four: A balanced body.

Giving your body clean food—as close to the earth as possible, is a great way to keep your body in balance.

A clean diet of unprocessed foods and reducing your animal protein intake, along with 1.9 ounces (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water a day, according to the Mayo Clinic, and a daily exercise routine that includes, resistance, cardio, and flexibility can improve your mood and maintain a strong healthy body.

Don’t forget sleep! Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is important to your overall health.

Tip Five: A balanced spirit.

Without getting too new-agey, when I speak about spirit I mean whatever connects you to everything that exists.

Some people call it the universe, God, or nature for example. Having a spiritual practice and participating in it regularly can help you to maintain a connection to what is real.

It will keep you grounded and tethered to your spiritual or emotional-self. This can be an effective way to create resiliency against negative thoughts and external influences.

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story so leave a comment.

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