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- Mental Health
Can't Afford Therapy? These 4 Things Will Boost Your Mental Health Right Now
When therapy is out of reach, you can use these simple tactics to manage your mental health in the meantime.
- Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
When living with symptoms of depression or anxiety, seeking therapy can help you work through them and establish a treatment plan. But what are you supposed to do if you can't afford it? Even with sliding scale payments, therapy is expensive. Online therapy services like BetterHelp and Talkspace make it more affordable, at around $60 to $90 per session. However, that's still not in the budget for many people.
Therapy will always be the gold standard for mental health treatment. Though circumstances can make it temporarily impossible. These four strategies improve your mental health without spending any money.
Also, see how to naturally treat depression and anxiety and ways you can give yourself a happiness boost each day.
1. Use mental health apps to track daily progress
Mental health apps offer resources to people who otherwise couldn't get them. While they're not a substitute for therapy and can't diagnose conditions, mental health apps like Moodfit and Sanvello are great tools to use on your mental wellness journey. The best mental health apps will help you relieve stress and anxiety and teach you how to manage symptoms in the future.
There's a lot of variety in what these apps offer and the features that are built in. Many offer a great catalog of educational resources to help you learn about conditions and adapt coping strategies to manage them daily.
Mental health apps can also be a reminder to check in on yourself. Most send push notifications throughout the day, which can be used as an indicator to stop and assess how you're feeling.
2. Implement cognitive behavioral therapy strategies on your own
Cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat depression , anxiety and addiction. CBT strategies and tools are intended to be taken outside of therapy sessions and used in daily life.
It's called self-directed therapy . Again, it isn't a replacement for traditional therapy with a professional, but it can supplement your mental health efforts when you don't have access to talk therapy. This self-help strategy is best reserved for those with moderate symptoms that don't affect daily tasks.
A systematic review of 33 studies found that self-help treatments can decrease anxiety and depression. Self-directed therapy results were "moderate," according to the review. So people didn't feel 100% better, but they reported feeling less anxious or depressed. If you're interested in self-directed therapy strategies to improve your mental well-being, we recommend checking out the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies' list of books . The books on the list have received a "seal of merit."
Common self-directed therapy techniques:
- Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings and reflecting on them can help you identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns. Once you're aware, you can take meaningful steps toward making changes.
- Guided courses : With self-directed therapy, you have to start somewhere. Guided courses can help you learn methods and tactics for daily management. You can consult the National Alliance on Mental Illness for its mental health education directory .
- Mental health apps: Many mental health apps use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to reduce anxiety and help manage symptoms .
3. Stay connected to others
It's important to connect with other people, especially those experiencing similar things. Studies show that connecting to others can provide a sense of meaning and purpose and decrease loneliness . Group therapy or support groups are typically led by a mental health professional or group leader and can be low-cost or free. Whether it be friends, family or strangers, sharing your feelings and experiences is essential.
You also can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website to locate community resources near you.
Connections with people aren't the only ones that can help improve your mental health. Pets and animals can reduce stress and anxiety levels. Take some intentional time to hang out with your pet -- play with your dog, hug your cat. If you don't have a pet, you can volunteer at a local animal shelter or humane society. Fostering or pet-sitting animals is also an option.
4. Practice mindfulness and meditation
Meditation has a history that stretches back thousands of years, but it's become an extremely popular stress-relieving practice in the last few. Mindfulness helps you become more attuned to what you're feeling and thinking, which helps you manage your thoughts and emotions more effectively, rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. Mindfulness uses techniques like meditation and breathwork to improve your mental health .
Mindfulness can help you manage symptoms of anxiety and other mental health disorders by helping you understand and cope with what you're feeling . Studies show that meditation can help reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety and help you sleep. The focus is on mind and body integration, which can help you enhance your mental well-being.
You can also use meditation apps to reduce stress and help maintain your mindfulness regimen. These free or low-cost apps are great for beginners.
Read more: Headspace Review: Get Tools for Mindfulness, Meditation and More for Just $5 a Month
Other practical tips to improve your mental health without therapy
- Exercise : Several mental health benefits are associated with exercise , like relieving anxiety or improving your mood. Exercise also can boost your confidence and release endorphins. You don't have to jump straight into heavy lifting; any exercise can help.
- Go outside and soak up the sun: Sunlight boosts serotonin in the brain, which can improve your mood. When you don't get enough sun, your serotonin levels drop, leading to seasonal affective disorder .
- Prioritize your sleep: Poor sleep is linked to a greater risk of anxiety or depression, poor mood and higher stress levels. Prioritize your sleep by sticking to your bedtime routine -- get ready for bed by doing something relaxing, aim for the same bedtime each night and turn off your screens.
- Take a step back from social media: Constant social media use can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression . A digital detox may be warranted if you compare yourself to others online or notice a dip in your mental health. Start by limiting your time on social media . Then, try to fill that time with things you enjoy or people you like spending time with.
When should I see a therapist?
Self-directed therapy and well-being tactics are extremely useful, but they're not the be-all and end-all in mental health. Face time with a licensed therapist is essential for those with severe conditions and symptoms.
The first thing you should do is check your insurance. Employer-provided insurance and Medicaid may cover screenings, psychotherapy and counseling. Your insurance coverage will depend on your state and your health plan, but many plans include mental health coverage for in-network therapists.
Read more : How to Find the Best Therapist Near You
Your finances shouldn't stop you from getting the help you need. It may take some research into therapists and programs, but there are low-cost options.
- Sliding scale payments: Some therapists offer sliding scale fees -- you pay what you can afford. The cost will be based on your income. Not all therapists offer this, but many do.
- Low-cost or free services : Some therapists offer low-cost or free counseling for individual and group sessions. If you live near a college or university, the graduate department may offer free or discounted therapy sessions.
- Community health centers: Community mental health centers assist those in surrounding areas.
- Local and online support groups : Local organizations and volunteers in many areas offer support groups for things like grief and addiction. Use Mental Health America's list of support groups to find one that best fits your needs. You can participate in a peer-led support group through the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).
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6 Ways to Improve Mental Health Without Therapy
Affordable mental health care options outside of therapy
- Complementary Therapy
Mental Health Apps
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Frequently asked questions.
Mental illness is common in the U.S., with nearly 1 in 5 adults living with a mental illness in 2020. But only about 20% of people living with mental illness are being actively treated for their condition.
People are sometimes unable to commit to therapy or other treatments for a variety of reasons, including lack of health insurance or a shortage of care providers. There is also a recent surge of people seeking mental health services, resulting in long waiting lists.
With rising costs, issues accessing care, or long wait times, you may wish to seek alternative therapeutic options. Read on to learn more about complementary therapies and other strategies to improve mental health without counseling.
Jessie Casson / Getty Images
Complementary treatments are approaches to health that occur alongside conventional medical treatment. Studies show that complementary therapies positively impact mental health disorders, particularly anxiety and depression .
Some complementary approaches to consider include:
- Yoga : In a 2020 study, researchers found that yoga as a complementary therapy is effective in both managing and reducing anxiety and depression. Researchers suggested daily practice, but indicated more research needs to be done to determine exactly how many times per week is most effective for anxiety and depression.
- Dance : The flow of somatic (body-based) movements create additional outlets for expression and emotion, which may bring new insights that might not be as available through language-based talk therapy. Synchronizing with your own physical sensations may help your physical and mental health.
- Art : According to one study, art (particularly art therapy ) can offer significant benefits to minimize symptoms and maximize the functioning of those living with mental illness.
- Music : Research indicates that music therapy is a valuable method of support for people living with mental illness and mental disorders.
- Meditation : Evidence-based research supports that meditation reduces stress , anxiety, depression, insomnia , and cardiovascular risk.
- Exercise : Physical activity has been proven to help improve mental health symptoms. A large 2018 study of 1.2 million Americans found that individuals who exercised experienced around 43% fewer days of poor mental health per month than those who did not exercise.
Cost is already a barrier to obtaining therapy, so when complementary therapies add an additional cost burden, there are creative ways to incorporate self-care methods with low or no-cost options.
- Community centers : Check out your local community center for free or low-cost yoga classes, exercise classes, and even art or dance classes.
- Online : There are numerous free exercise, dance, yoga, and art offerings online.
- Local parks : Local parks sometimes offer free yoga classes and may even offer other exercise classes for reduced or no cost.
- Churches : Churches sometimes offer exercise and yoga classes for free or with minimal cost.
- Libraries : Head to your local library and see what community offerings they may have.
From mindfulness tips to deep breathing to cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, there are numerous mental health apps worth exploring, and many of them are free.
- Calm : Includes meditation, relaxation music, sleep stories to help you fall asleep, and other features designed to help with anxiety.
- Headspace : Includes mindfulness-based guided meditations, sleep stories and music, and mood-boosting workouts.
- Moodfit : Includes cognitive behavioral exercises to process intrusive and distorted thoughts, and helps you track your mood over time.
- MoodMission : This evidence-based app gives tips and strategies to help cope with low moods and feelings of anxiety.
- Happify : Includes science-based games and activities to help you overcome negative thoughts, reduce anxiety, and manage burnout.
- Shine : Designed as an inclusive, daily self-care app that includes daily check-ins, meditations, and community support for BIPOC individuals.
When to See a Therapist
When mental health symptoms begin to disrupt your daily life and functioning, it's a sign that you should consider seeking professional treatment. Remember that this is not a sign of weakness or lack of willpower.
If you are experiencing any of the following, consider contacting a mental health provider:
- Insomnia, trouble sleeping, excessive sleeping, or nightmares
- Difficulty getting up or accomplishing routine daily tasks
- Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy or isolating from others
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline online or call 1-800-662-4357 for more information on how to find support and treatment options specific to your geographic area.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911 .
Writing down what is bothering you can be a helpful therapeutic tool. It may even reveal new insights. In a study of mothers under stress while supporting adult children with substance use issues, researchers found that journaling improved their emotional well-being, reduced stress, and offered new insight and changes in perspective.
Another study indicated that journaling can relieve stress and enhance reflection and perspective. It has become a frequent tool for medical residency programs, due to high rates of burnout among medical residents.
Self-help books offer tools and insights for mental well-being. Selecting a book can be tricky, because each person experiences them differently. A book that may change one person's life could be a dull read to someone else.
Here's a few tips on finding a fit in self-help books:
- Get recommendations : Ask a therapist, counselor, or another mental health professional what they would recommend for you to read.
- Read reviews : Lots of online sites have detailed reviews that can give you an idea of what others think of the book.
- Sneak-peek : Take some time at the library or bookstore to thumb through the book to see if it will be a good fit. Check online for chapter downloads or an online view of the first few pages to see if the book is what you're looking for.
Support From Friends and Family
Studies consistently show that support and connection are crucial to our mental well-being. Connections with friends and family are important for mental health because they provide a sense of meaning, connection, support, and purpose.
One study indicates that building, restoring, and sustaining our social networks and connections support mental health and can also help overcoming loneliness.
According to research, pets can help reduce both physiological and mental stress, and improve anxiety levels.
If you don't have a pet, there are other ways to make emotional connections with animals, including:
- Volunteer : Local animal shelters are often in need of sponsors and volunteers to help care for the animals.
- Humane society : Contact your local humane society for ways you can help with animals in your community.
- Fostering pets : If you want a pet but can't make a long-term commitment, perhaps fostering pets and helping re-home them might be an option.
- Pet sitting : Consider becoming a pet sitter so you can spend time with pets without the long-term commitment.
If you have a pet, make the extra effort to spend time slowing down and connecting with them. Animals are very much in the present moment and can help bring you there too.
People may be unable to participate in or commit to therapy for a variety of reasons, including costs, lack of insurance, and growing demand. Alternative options to therapy include exercise (like yoga and dance), meditation, art, music, journaling, and reading. Mental health apps are available to help support you as well. If available to you, animals can also be a great resource for emotional connection.
A Word From Verywell
When therapy isn't an option, there are are other methods that can complement mental health services. Activities like yoga, meditation, journaling and more have been proven to help improve emotional well-being.
If you are in need of mental health services and cannot afford them, most communities offer free and low-cost community services. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for more information on how to find support and treatment options in your area.
Mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It's important because it impacts how we feel, think, and behave. Mental health also impacts how we manage our stress and emotions. Finding the right strategies and techniques that work for you can improve your overall well-being.
Stress can impact both mental health as well as physical health. Stress may be impacting your mental well-being if you experience:
- Strong emotional responses and/or feelings of sadness, numbness, worry, frustration, fear, and anger
- Changes in energy, desire to do things you normally do, interests, and appetite
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, having insomnia, and/or nightmares
- Physical reactions including headaches, body aches, joint aches, stomach aches, and skin rashes
- Urge to engage with substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
Mental health has an impact on physical health. For example, depression increases the risk for several health issues including diabetes , heart disease, and stroke . Further, having a chronic health condition can increase the risk of having a mental illness.
Counseling and therapy are frequently used interchangeably, and there can be some overlap, which can lead to confusion. There is, however, a slight distinction between the two terms:
- Counseling : In general, counseling often focuses on specific issues. It may help a person address a particular problem. In some cases, counseling may be more short-term than therapy.
- Therapy : Therapy may be more long-term and focus on a wider variety of issues. It may address patterns in behaviors and past childhood issues.
However, all of this can vary widely among mental health practitioners. It may be best to ask a potential mental health provider about their therapeutic style.
Studies indicate that the relationship between therapist and patient is what has the most impact on outcomes, independent of the type of therapeutic approach. So whether it's therapy or counseling, short-term or long-term, or something in between, what matters most is how you connect with the therapist.
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Chiang M, Reid-Varley WB, Fan X. Creative art therapy for mental illness . Psychiatry Research . 2019;275:129-136. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2019.03.025
Montánchez Torres ML, Juárez Ramos V, Martínez Suárez PC, Alonso García S, Torres Mendoza M. Benefits of using music therapy in mental disorders . J Biomusic Eng . 2016;4(2). doi:10.4172/2090-2719.1000116
Witusik A, Pietras T. Music therapy as a complementary form of therapy for mental disorders . Pol Merkur Lekarski . 2019;47(282):240-243.
Chételat G, Lutz A, Arenaza-Urquijo E, Collette F, Klimecki O, Marchant N. Why could meditation practice help promote mental health and well-being in aging? . Alz Res Therapy . 2018;10(1):57. doi:10.1186/s13195-018-0388-5
Chekroud SR, Gueorguieva R, Zheutlin AB, et al . Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USAbetween 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study . The Lancet Psychiatry . 2018;5(9):739-746. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30227-X
Kim-Godwin YS. Beliefs and experience of journaling in mothers of adult children with substance use problems: a pilot study . Journal of Addictions Nursing . 2021. doi:10.1097/jan.0000000000000410
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Haslam SA, Haslam C, Cruwys T, et al. Social identity makes group-based social connection possible: implications for loneliness and mental health . Current Opinion in Psychology . 2022;43:161-165. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.07.013
Ein N, Li L, Vickers K. The effect of pet therapy on the physiological and subjective stress response: a meta-analysis . Stress and Health . 2018;34(4):477-489. doi:10.1002/smi.2812
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coping with stress .
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By Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks, LMFT Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, health reporter and medical writer with over twenty years of experience in journalism. She has a degree in journalism from The University of Florida and a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University.
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COVID-19 Update: We are offering online therapy when appropriate. Our clinicians are highly trained to provide telehealth services through our secure platform.
Tending to your mental health is actually a layered process. We tend to think if we have a mental health issue that our only option is to start medication or attend therapy, and while both of those options are often helpful for folks, they’re not the only ones out there. Mental health is influenced by so many factors. Your genetics, your environment, your relationships, your career, and your self-worth all factor into your mental health. It’s no wonder that it often takes a multifaceted approach to tend to your mental health.
Reducing stigma around mental health is a big focus of mental health. In recent years, talking about mental health and normalizing therapy has been much more prevalent, especially on social media websites like Instagram. There are a ton of influential therapist accounts that are designed to make mental health education accessible for everyday folks. Of course, following a therapist on Instagram is not a replacement for therapy, but it speaks to the fact that our society is eager to learn about these topics. Learning more about mental health and wellness can only lead to better outcomes because the more we understand, the more we can offer help whether to ourselves or others.
It’s also important to remember to consume content from reliable sources. That means it’s okay to check into who is posting a resource – are they a therapist? What is their training? Who is paying them to post this information? These are all basic aspects of media literacy, but checking your sources is important. Lots of therapy practices, including ours, have a variety of resources available to support clients in and out of the therapy room. Here are some of our favorite ways to tend to our mental health that aren’t just therapy:
Make time for movement
Movement can be a great way to connect with your body and work out anxiety or tension. Movement can be anything from exercising to dancing around your living space for a few minutes. Many people have complicated histories with exercise and restriction, so sometimes reframing exercise as movement can be helpful. Some options for movement are online exercise videos, yoga on YouTube , going for a walk or hike, playing with a child or pet, cleaning your house, gentle stretching, or anything that feels good to your body.
Mindfulness is a skill that’s encouraged in many spaces, including therapy. We all spend a lot of time on screens or multitasking, so it feels unnatural to sit still and focus on what’s happening in the here and now. Learning how to tune in to the present moment is a skill that takes practice. Starting a mindfulness practice can help you manage anxiety and depression by reminding you to slow down and connect to what’s really going on instead of what you’re telling yourself is going on. There are tons of ways to approach mindfulness. You can try sitting quietly, focusing on the breath, for a certain amount of time each day. There are also a ton of helpful guided meditations out there that can help guide you through the process so you have support.
Journaling is a great way to intentionally check in with yourself. Sometimes the act of just writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process things. You don’t have to write anything special or fancy, your journal is just for you, however, you need it. You can make lists if writing isn’t your forte or even fill your journal with doodles. The idea of this is to help you organize and process your thoughts to the best of your ability, and writing them down helps you see them in a new way.
The way you treat yourself matters. If you don’t make time for yourself, you will eventually internalize the message that you’re not important. You deserve good care, especially from yourself. Self-care can be fun and cute, like bubble baths and skincare routines, but it also includes things like making doctor’s appointments, paying your bills, and filling your prescriptions. All of these things contribute to your well-being, and it’s important to make time for them. If you’re looking for more ways to practice self-care, we have a guide on building a self-care routine here .
Get well-rounded support
Another key to tending to your mental health is making sure you’re taking care of yourself, even in ways that aren’t exciting or fun. Part of this is making sure you’re getting regular checkups with your doctor, seeing any specialists you need, and prioritizing your wellness. Many folks have a variety of medical or wellness providers – physicians, nutrition specialists, psychiatrists, and support groups can all play a role. If you’re looking for local support in Columbus, we have a list of local resources available at the office so you can get the support you need.
Explore new hobbies
Exploring a new hobby is a great way to get yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s also immensely validating to try something new and have a blast. You don’t have to be the best at whatever you try – in fact, you probably won’t be great at what you choose until you get some practice. Check out websites with tutorials (for free options you can’t beat YouTube, but if you’re interested in a paid option SkillShare has tons of classes on every topic under the sun). You never know what you’re going to like until you try! If you’re worried about the cost of starting a new hobby, see if you know anyone with supplies you can borrow first to see if it’s your thing. You can also find workshops online and in person on hobbies of all stripes, from collage art to plant therapy .
Read books on mental health topics
We all learn in different ways, so some people might prefer an educational video or podcast over a book. However, if you’re a reader, there are a ton of mental health focused books out there. Whatever topic you’re looking for support with, chances are a therapist has written a book about it. We often recommend books in session that are relevant to what our clients are going through, whether that’s anxiety, parenthood, or relationship issues. You can find our full list of therapist approved books here .
Taking care of your mental health is a complicated, life-long process. It might take some trial and error to find what works for you, and what works might change over time. That’s okay! Keep adjusting until you find what feels right for you at the moment.
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10 ways to improve mental health if you don’t wish to seek therapy
Looking for ways to boost mental health without visiting a therapist read on to find out how to improve mental health without therapy..
Going to a therapist to resolve your mental health concerns may be the best thing to do. But there are times when opening up to a stranger may not be the most comfortable thing for you to do. According to National Mental Health Programme, it is estimated that about six to seven percent of the Indian population suffers from mental disorders, which include depression and anxiety among others. Worry not, as there are some ways to improve mental health on your own.
HealthShots consulted Archana Sharma , clinical and child psychologist, Sri Action Balaji Medical Institute, Paschim Vihar, Delhi, New to to know more about the alternatives of mental health therapy.
Ways to improve mental health
1. focus on exercise, sleep and diet.
If you thought that mental health is all about your thoughts and emotions then you are wrong. It is closely aligned with your physical strength, says Sharma. Exercise can uplift your mood and aid with depression as well as stress management. Seven to eight hours of quality sleep is strongly recommended as sleep deprivation can lead to depression in the long run. Nutritious food can make you feel healthier. Vitamins, especially B12 and D are good for mental health and help in even getting rid of depression ( benefits of vitamin D for mental health ).
2. Relaxation techniques
You can strengthen your body’s natural strength and relaxation response by using relaxation techniques. This can help you breathe more slowly, drop your blood pressure, and feel less stressed. There are numerous ways to unwind. You can use breathing techniques or mental imagery while tightening and relaxing certain muscle groups with progressive relaxation. With the use of guided imagery, you can learn to train your mind to focus on relaxing and concentrating on images. Deep breathing exercises are also highly beneficial.
There is sense of quietness and peace when you meditate, and so it can help your mental health. By focusing on something peaceful, you can also try to unwind and manage stress ( beginner’s guide to meditation ).
4. Stop drinking and smoking
Do you take a few sips of alcohol after a bad day? Some people drink and smoke as they think these will help them to cope with loneliness or help to improve mood. But these habits are not good for health. Try to opt for other measures to cope with tough times.
We all know that humans are social animals, and socialisation is something that helps in building healthy relationships with others. Social support is necessary to cope with stressful situations. So, try to have a network of people from different walks of life, suggests the expert.
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6.Trust family and friends
Supportive friends and strong family ties can help to cope with stresses in life. They can keep you grounded with practical advice. A face-to-face meeting or calls or online interactions can help. Always be connected with your loved ones.
7. Positivity paybacks
Having a rational and logical outlook is important, so take a break from anything that’s negative. Changing your thought process will lead to positive emotions and payback. It helps in avoiding anger and sadness.
8. Practice gratitude
It is always good to be grateful for all the good things in life. Practicing gratitude would help a lot, and appreciate positive experiences ( how practising gratitude can improve your life ).
9. Be proactive
Be proactive as it helps in coping with tough and stressful situations. Perseverance and flexibility become good traits if you are proactive. With this, you can face any problem effectively.
10. Have self-esteem and self-pride
We all have certain qualities and traits. Self-esteem make us different from others. It is healthier to avoid self-pity and have pride in yourself.
Try these tips to improve mental health and embrace the idea of self-love to feel better. Also, don’t be shy about approaching a therapist if you feel the need for external help.
Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle- as a journalist in her nearly 13-year long career. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ... Read More
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5 ways to improve your mental health without spending a ton of money on a therapist
We can all use a little mental health tune-up once in a while. But what if your financial circumstances prevent you from sitting down with a mental health professional or you want an alternative to traditional talk therapy?
The good news is, you do have some great options. Here are five alternative ways to get you started on the path to better mental health.
Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness seems to be quite the buzz word lately, and for good reason. This form of meditation can help you manage symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
The goal of meditation practice is to be aware, observe and notice thoughts, feelings, and the state of your body without becoming reactive or fused with them. Getting good at recognizing this takes some time but once you do, it can help reset the negative messages that play over and over again in your head.
There are a ton of mindfulness apps that will guide you through daily meditations including Headspace , Calm , and Stop Breathe, & Think .
Practice a little "at home" cognitive behavioral therapy
Psychotherapist and author of the book "Heal Your Drained Brain" Mike Dow, PsyD ., told INSIDER there are seven pitfalls thought patterns that can trigger low self-worth, anxiety, depression, and other less than optimal states.
"If you can watch out for these thought patterns and then talk back to them, you can be your own therapist," he said. So, what exactly are these pitfalls?
- Paralysis-analysis: Getting stuck or stewing in your own thoughts. (i.e., "I should be working but I can’t stop thinking about what my boss said to me.")
- Permanence: Using the past or present to judge the future. (i.e., "I’m never going to get over this divorce.")
- Personalization: Assuming that something is happening because of you. (i.e., "I didn’t get that job because I’m not smart enough.")
- Pervasiveness: Allowing a problem in your life to invade all parts of your life. (i.e., I had a bad day at work, so I’m going to cancel my dinner plans and skip yoga.")
- Pessimism: Always believing the worst about everything. (i.e., "If I keep feeling this way, I’ll probably have a panic attack when I’m driving and hit someone. How could I ever live with that guilt?")
- Polarization: Seeing everything as either/or, yes/no. (i.e., "I had a piece of candy after lunch today. I guess today’s healthy eating plan is a complete failure.")
- Psychic: Feeling sure that you know what another person is thinking without that person telling you how he or she feels. Or vice-versa. (i.e., "I know she’s never liked me anyway.")
Look into low-cost or no-cost options
If money’s tight but you really want to have some face time with a licensed therapist, it might be worth your energy to check out some of the low-cost/no-cost options in your area.
Some therapists will do a sliding scale—where you pay what you can afford—while others offer free services such as individual counseling and/or group therapy to a limited amount of patients. If you live near a university, call the graduate psychology department and ask if they have a free counseling center for people in the community.
A great place to find out more about services in your area is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website, a government agency that helps people find mental health and substance abuse treatment. In many states you can also dial 2-1-1 to find a community mental health center near you.
Try a mental health app
Mental health apps can be effective in making therapy more accessible, affordable efficient, and portable, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America . There are several apps available ranging in price from free to $5.99 per month including Anxiety Coach , Happify , Live OCD Free, MoodKit, Panic Relief , and PTSD Coach .
Find your people
If you don’t mind spilling your guts to a group of strangers, then a low-cost/no-cost support group might be worth looking into. Oftentimes, group therapy and support groups bring people together with a shared concern, such as anxiety, eating disorders, or OCD. Typically, they are run by a mental health professional. But in some cases, a group member could be the one leading the pack. It’s smart to call ahead and ask who is moderating the group.
You can dial 2-1-1 to find a community mental health center near you or check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
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11 Ways To Heal Yourself When You Can’t Access Mental Health Support
When we think of mental health support, we think of counseling or therapy but these services may not be accessible to many. Let’s face it, not everyone can afford therapy as many online or even offline services can be expensive, without insurance.
All counseling sessions aim at teaching you the tools you need to navigate the challenges in your life. Therapy is an ongoing process and no one can predict when the effects of therapy will be experienced. And in any case, most of the learning must be practiced out of therapy. The effects of therapy can only show when you apply what you’ve learned in therapy to real life.
Unfortunately, therapy isn’t accessible to everyone. And while the ways mentioned in this blog are not a replacement for mental health counseling, these ways can still help you heal yourself without therapy.
Let’s take a look at these ways!
How to Heal Yourself Without Therapy?
Most of our mental and emotional health struggles come when we face a traumatic or challenging situation in our life. These distressing and traumatic experiences can leave us reeling.
While some people can easily heal without therapy or needing any professional help, others might still struggle. Why do coping and healing from challenges come easily to many? Well, because they have the strategies in place to help them when trauma occurs.
When we’re unable to properly heal or cope with the traumatic feelings, the distress turns internal and when the distress is internalized, difficult emotions and feelings get stuck inside without any way to escape.
With expensive and sometimes inaccessible therapy and counseling, we might not be able to care for our mental health the way we deserve.
With these 11 techniques, you can heal yourself without therapy and take care of your mental health:
1. Identify Where You’re Stuck
Emotions and feelings are what drive us to act every day and these same emotions and feelings are the ones that can make us feel trapped. The first thing you can do is to identify where you’re stuck. What caused you to feel this way? What emotion are you feeling (or not feeling)? Once you do this, you can carry on with the next step.
2. Re-evaluate Your Thoughts
Negative thoughts are a part of our thinking just as positive thoughts can be. When you feel you’re drowning in negative thoughts , re-evaluate where these thoughts are coming from. Did something trigger them? If yes, what was it and how can you eliminate the trigger? Understanding your thought pattern can help you understand how to change them.
3. Identify Your Coping Mechanism
How you cope with your challenges is also important to note when you’re getting help without therapy. Ask yourself, “ Is my coping mechanism helping me? ” If your coping mechanisms are worsening your mental health, then it can be problematic. Try to find healthy coping mechanisms that can help you cope with your challenges or can help you control your anxiety.
4. Understand Your Challenges
Another way to heal yourself without therapy is to understand your challenges, your trauma, your distress, and how it’s affecting your life. Educate yourself about how healing works and how self-help can help. Understand how your distress is affecting you. This can easily be achieved via self-help books , podcasts, or even TED Talks .
5. Vent Out Your Feelings
When you’re in therapy, one of the benefits is regular check-ins with your therapist and your progress. Without therapy, how can you keep track of your progress? Simple, by journaling . Every week or fortnightly, try to vent out your feelings in a journal. Make sure the focus is on you and where you need to work more.
6. Be Kinder To Yourself
Healing isn’t an easy process and requires a lot of patience, love, and care. One of the most important parts of taking care of yourself and healing yourself without therapy is to be kind and self-compassionate. It’s easy to be critical of oneself but don’t forget to be kind and forgiving when you make mistakes.
7. Change Your Inner Dialogue
Our inner voice can be loud when we least expect it (or want it to be) but that’s another challenge you can overcome. Our inner voice can be very critical and mean at times and this critical inner dialogue can make us feel like a failure. Just changing the way you talk to yourself in difficult times can help make a huge difference.
8. Try Meditation
Meditation is an amazing way to build self-awareness and keep yourself focused on your healing. When you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed , meditation can help you calm your mind and center your thoughts. When your thoughts are centered, it becomes easier to focus on the problem and how to eliminate it.
9. Reach Out To A Community
Many people may feel like sharing their problems with their family and friends is productive but not all. Some people may find that sharing their trauma or distress with their loved ones ends up being biased. To keep things (and solutions) fair, try to join a therapeutic community or a support group . There, you can find others with similar experiences.
10. Take Your Care Into Your Hands
You must be thinking that not being able to access therapy is bad but instead of a hindrance, think about this self-help way as taking your care into your hands. Taking charge of one’s mental health can be empowering because instead of putting your vulnerable self in someone else’s care, you’re taking charge. Take this as an opportunity to grow your skills.
11. With One Negative, Find One Positive
Negative thoughts can be hard to counter but here’s a trick that I learned in therapy. When you think one negative thought, think one positive thought. For example, if you’re thinking, “ All I could do today was get out of bed. ” counter this thought with, “ I got out of bed, that’s progress. ”
Negative and positive are two sides of the same coin, just like yin and yang. With every negative, you’ll find something positive. All you need to do is focus on the positive more than the negative.
Your Mental Health Is Important…
Taking charge of your mental health can be a tough job but at the same time, it can be quite empowering. You may realize that you’re more comfortable working with a therapist than working on your own and that’s not a bad thing.
To be honest, we can all agree that sometimes a little external support can help us climb that rock that’s holding us back.
If you need professional help, it’s OK. You can always find help with us at [email protected] or with BetterHelp’s professional support. Just sign up below to connect with trained and experienced mental health professionals.
Book Your Appointment Here
Keep in mind that these ways to heal yourself without therapy are not a substitute for professional help but can help you cope and heal yourself. Hopefully, with this article, you were able to find some ideas to help you cope the next time you feel anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed.
Remember, you are not alone in your fight. Reach out for help when you need it. We’re here to help you!
About The Author
Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.
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What Do You Do If You Can't Go To Therapy?
9 people on how they manage when they can't go to therapy, more from mind, r29 original series.