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If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are going through some problems and are having trouble getting help. I can empathize. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for many years and have found various ways to help myself.
Some of these tips I teach clients as well- I am a social worker after all. However, just because you are not going to see a therapist individually, doesn’t mean being your own therapist will be an easy gig. But you can heal without formal therapy.
Copays may be lower even! Though, the length of time it takes you to see results will be different from most people who go to therapy. That is because we have personal blind spots that must be overcome to some extent.
It Isn't Necessarily Bad Either
It is not necessarily a bad thing that you are trying to be your own therapist. You must have some caution, however, if you’re having suicidal thoughts or wanting to hurt others. These concerns should never be addressed alone.
So let me help you break down these 7 powerful ways you can provide self-therapy. It will take a lot of critical evaluation of yourself, but I’ll help drive these points home using my own journey!
Set Positive and Clear Expectations for Yourself and Others
Growing up, I had a horrendous anger problem. It seemed like almost everything made me ticked off.
As I matured, and quite nearly had a nervous breakdown, I learned where this anger arose from.
We are all creatures of routine and often, unknown to ourselves, we have expectations for how a situation will play out. It is this expectation that we must learn to identify.
Take Care of Yourself Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically
Our mind and body are interconnected. In fact, there are a wide range of conditions that can seem like a physical ailment but are actually psychological. The opposite of this is also true!
We must take care of our whole selves to assure that therapy will really work. Because therapy can work, whether it is through your own method or with a professional. Here are some great ways to take care of your whole self.
Taking care of your mental health is not a one-and-done activity. It is an every day task that you take time to rebuild your resilience. This activity will be different for everyone. Find what works for you!
Learning to be your own therapist is a means to train your mind. You must also train your body. When you are physically fit, your mental and emotional fortitude follows suit. Find a fun way to let off your stress through physical exercise.
If you do not take care of your whole self, you can wind up like me. A few years back, I thought I was having heart problems. My symptoms were closely related to a heart attack. My doctor asked me to come right in.
Well, following some tests, it was determined that my symptoms were a result of anxiety from work. My heart was fine.
Our bodies are interconnected. Don’t ignore any part of them!
My colleague Heather has a fantastic workbook that will help you in your journey to being your own therapist. I highly recommend her Anxiety Pocket eWorkbook. She is also a therapist whose skill set is embedded within!
Learn to Accept Yourself and Others
As you are learning to be your own therapist, you must begin to understand yourself and others. It is not enough to just learn some mindfulness and grounding techniques. You must also demonstrate understanding and acceptance.
For your self-therapy to really work, you must begin to pay close attention to your thought processes. How do you think about yourself and others?
Take life as an opportunity to learn and use your patience to build resiliency.
Don't Should on Yourself
A professor of mine in graduate school coined this saying. Whenever we got down on ourselves about something we should have done, her response was “don’t should on yourself”.
It’s easy to Monday Night Quarterback what we could have, should have, or would have done- but we didn’t.
Hindsight is 20/20. Cut yourself a break. You are a failable person who does the best you can.
If you are shoulding on yourself, then stop! Take these moments as learning opportunities to do better next time. And give yourself the credit you deserve in doing everything you reasonably could.
Be Assertive in How You Feel and Respond
We all have thoughts and feelings that are not always reasonable or necessarily justified.
You are entitled to how you feel!
When my anger issues were at their height, I had no idea how to be assertive and hold myself or others responsible.
The result? I often blew my lid. Here is how you can prevent the same.
Take Responsibility for Your Own Actions
If you screwed up, then own it. Tell whoever it is that you’re sorry. Being stubborn and holding grudges does nothing to benefit your mental wellness.
When we can take control of our mistakes, anxiety and depression are much less likely to set in.
Hold Others Accountable
You are entitled to hold others accountable as well. So, if someone upsets you, with a cool head, let them know.
It’s OK to feel how you feel. And we cannot always expect others to know what we’re feeling.
Talk to someone who you feel has wronged you. Get in front of your frustrations!
Don't Bottle up Your Feelings
Cut out Stinking Thinking
This is clearly the most identifiable within this category. If you are allowing your frustrations to take control of your thoughts, it’s time to take a break.
Stop what you are doing and find something very different to do. Without a major task shift, your negativity will carry through.
Have you ever ran across someone who seems so paralyzed by life they just hope it all works out and doesn’t act?
This is really bad for their mental wellness. What this means is that they are not able to handle reality.
Make These Thoughts Constructive
When faced with stinking thinking, you have two great options to develop constructive thoughts.
Reality test yourself to be sure you’re not being overly optimistic- taking on difficulties builds resilience!
Secondly, utilize radical acceptance. We all get a crummy hand at times, you can’t change it. Accept it and make a plan to move forward. It’s OK to give yourself a short time to wallow. Emphasis on short!
Be Unbiased in Your Interaction with Others
We’ve all developed opinions of others that we’ve never met. Don’t get sucked into thinking bad about someone you don’t know.
Gossip is usually where this bias is generated. If you are going to make therapy really work for yourself, you must develop insight in social situations.
Social situations can be tough to navigate. Find new ways to turn gossip and other unproductive talk on its head.
When to Force Yourself into Formal Therapy
Clearly there are some issues that are beyond any one person’s individual abilities. If you are having suicidal thoughts or wanting to hurt someone, you need to see a licensed professional.
Hardship is normal. We all experience it differently. Acting as your own therapist is one way to begin building those skills to overcome hardship. However, if your emotional distress is not getting better after really giving these steps your all, make an appointment with a therapist.
Going to a licensed therapist is not scary. In fact, I have a guide for you if you’re wanting to know how to do therapy properly. Whether you are trying to force yourself or a loved one, try to leverage the overall benefit with the difficult path the journey may be.
If you want to make quicker gains in therapy, check out My Therapy Companion.
What have you found to be successful in managing your mental health?