Ask the Advocates: Mental Health (Part 3)
How do you best cope with mental health challenges?
With COPD, it’s easy to fall into depression or to be discouraged about where our lives are headed. As a result, it’s critical to stay positive, stay connected with family and friends, talk to each about how we’re coping, get physically active as much as possible and, if needed, get medical help as you would with COPD or any other malady.
Educating yourself is key in dealing with it. Knowing what and is happening and why are two of the most important things in understanding mental health challenges. Once we have learned the root causes, we can begin to understand how to help ourselves.
Next, we must be able to let the proverbial cat out of the bag, because keeping it hidden and keeping secrets does not help anyone. We have learned this from past generations. Being brave enough to ask for help is a good first step. Finding a safe person like your doctor or health care professional should help you find answers. Find someone you trust to talk to and ask for help. Remember that we all carry burdens that are sometimes too much to bear regardless of the social and economical status.
I have always been a positive person, but the physical challenges of living life with Stage 4 Emphysema on oxygen can take its toll on anyone mentally. On days when breathing is more difficult, I have learned to pace myself and practice being present in the moment. Learning breathing techniques that also help with anxiety made a big difference,
Meditation is also an important tool for me. I have learned several methods and use them all regularly. My journals are my best friend. I can tell them anything, get out all the negative feelings, and turn them to positive. Keeping gratitude in my life is one of my most important coping mechanisms. There are days here and there when none of that works. I am wallowing in self-pity and mentally down. Then I find some reruns of old sitcoms on television that I know will make me laugh. Laughter is the best medicine for the mind.
I also have hobbies. I believe keeping my mind and hands busy with activities I enjoy gives me something to look forward to. I belong to hobby groups online, which provides social; contact. By not dwelling on my physical limitations keeps me mentally healthy.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?