Helping yourself

About self-help

Self-help is an important part of recovery for anyone who has concerns about their mental health and wellbeing. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to benefit. Life as a current or former serving member can be filled with many challenges. If these challenges are not addressed they can lead to problems that may impact on mental health and wellbeing. This section describes some simple strategies and healthy habits that, along with the support of family and friends, can go a long way to help you meet these challenges and better manage your life.

Many of the habits and strategies below are common sense, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Getting the basics right will go a long way to helping you cope.

Don’t try to do everything at once. When you have read the following sections, you may wish to stop for a while and work out a ‘plan of action’. Consider these questions:

  • Which of these issues relate to you?
  • Which strategies are you prepared to try?

We suggest that you select only one or two to begin with. Come up with a plan to work on them, one at a time, and set yourself some realistic goals for the next week. At the end of the week, review your progress and modify your goals if necessary and/or try some additional strategies for the following week. Over time, you will gradually develop a range of coping strategies and changes to your lifestyle that will help you to feel more in control of your symptoms and get more out of life.

Diet

Eat healthy meals. This sounds so simple, but how many of us actually do it? A poor diet will increase your stress levels which makes even small problems harder to deal with. If you’re not sure what you should be eating, talk to your GP or a dietician.

Being active

When you’re struggling a bit, it’s easy to focus on all the problems you’ve got to deal with and stop doing the things that you used to find enjoyable. But even though you might not feel like getting involved in hobbies or other activities, being active is important for both your mental and physical health.

Exercise is also vital in effectively managing stress. Exercise helps you to relax by burning up those chemicals (like adrenalin) that are hyping you up. Half an hour of vigorous exercise most days will greatly improve your fitness and sense of wellbeing.

Take action: Get active

Physical activity has a range of positive effects including improving mood, confidence, concentration and sleep.

If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to get active use the Physical Activities tool. It has suggestions of physical activities you can try and tips for getting started and staying active.

When you’re starting out, choose activities that are relatively easy to do. Once you’re in the habit of being active you can try some more challenging activities.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

Sleeping better

Problems often seem much bigger and harder to deal with when you’re tired. So getting a good night’s sleep is important in helping you overcome the challenges you’re facing. There are a lot of reasons you may not be sleeping well. You might be lying in bed worrying, or have developed some bad habits like having too much caffeine late in the day. The first step in getting better sleep is to identify why you’re not sleeping well. A good way to do that is to keep a sleep diary for a week or two. This might help you identify your bad sleep habits and what you need to change. Just before going to bed, record the activities of the day and evening, and anything you ate or drank in the hours before going to bed. You may be able to see a pattern.

Take action: Improve your sleep

If you are feeling tired it’s a lot harder to deal with the stress of life. Some simple changes can help you to get the best possible sleep.

Answer the questions in the Healthy Sleeping tool about your typical sleeping behaviours and get tailored advice and tips to improve your sleep and optimise your mental and physical functioning.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

Regular practice with the High Res tools will help you develop resilience. On the High Res website you can develop a personal action plan which records your goals and tracks your progress.

Take action: Develop a personal resilience plan

Improving your resilience will help you to manage stress and perform well under pressure.

Use the action plan to help you plan how to build your resilience. Use the dashboard to make goals, schedule the use of other helpful tools on the High Res website and track your progress over time.

You can also use the Performance Training section in the High Res app to set goals for when you will practice the tools.

Setting goals and solving problems

The Problem Solving tool on the High Res website can help you work through problems and put the best solution into action.

Take action: Problem solve

If you are having difficulty dealing with a problem in your life, it can cause stress and get in the way of achieving your goals.

Use the Problem Solving tool to work through the problem step-by-step and find the best solution.

When you’re starting out, use the tool to solve a problem that is not too difficult. Once you’ve learned the skills you can start to apply the problem solving steps to all sorts of situations.

Helpful thinking

The way we think about ourselves and the things that happen to us affects how we feel and act. People under stress often develop thinking habits that make them feel even worse about things. Unhelpful thoughts are those that make you feel distressed or have trouble getting along with other people. They can make you feel overwhelmed or hopeless. It sounds strange but people often don’t think about how they’re thinking, so unhelpful thinking just keeps happening automatically. The good news is that with a bit of practice, you can teach yourself to think in more helpful ways – thoughts that help you deal with the situation and improve your mood.

Take action: Change how you see a situation

The way that you think influences the way you feel. Thinking in an unhelpful way can make your mood worse and make it more difficult to deal with stressful situations.

Use the Challenge Your Thoughts tool to help you to identify whether you are thinking in an unhelpful way, then start to challenge and reassess unhelpful thoughts.

When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to learn the helpful thinking tools with a situation that is bothering you but isn’t too overwhelming. Once you’ve learned the skills you can apply them to more troubling situations. With practice, you’ll be able to apply these skills day-to-day as situations arise.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

Managing reactions

When we’re not travelling so well, certain situations can trigger distressing reactions that affect our mood, health, decision making, our ability to get things done, and our relationships with other people. Learning skills to manage these reactions can improve self-confidence, relationships, and health, and reduce our reliance on unhelpful ways of coping, like drinking too much or avoiding situations that make us anxious, stressed, or angry.

Simple ways of coping with distressing reactions include calming yourself with slow, controlled breathing, and putting your thoughts and feelings into words by writing down whatever is concerning you.

Take action: Slow down your breathing

When you are feeling stressed your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, which can impact on your capacity to perform.

The Controlled Breathing tool will teach you how slow your breathing rate, to help you manage stress and feel more in control.

This skill will take some practice at first. When you’re starting out it’s best to practice controlled breathing once a day, when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learnt the skill you can then calm yourself down in stressful situations.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

You can also learn to identify the situations that trigger your distress, and practice skills that will help you cope before, during, and after you face those situations.

Take action: Manage your emotions

If you are overwhelmed by strong emotions, it’s difficult to think clearly and get things done.

Follow the instructions in the Managing Emotions tool to identify your emotions, regain your composure, think about your situation and decide on a helpful course of action.

When you’re starting out, practice using the tool when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learned the strategies you can use them whenever you feel yourself becoming upset or overwhelmed.

You can use the Emotional Control tool in the High Res app.

Building support

Having people around you to support you through tough times is really important, but it’s easy to pull away from everyone when you’re not feeling great. You might feel like your friends and family don’t understand what you’re going through, or that hanging out with mates from your old unit brings back too many bad memories. Everyone needs time to themselves now and then, but being isolated for too long isn’t good for you. It might feel strange to start with but you can build up your social connections so that you have a few different people or groups that you can turn to for different types of support.

Take action: Build social connections

Having good social support helps you to feel better and cope with stress.

Use the Social Connections tool to identify the people in your life who can offer you support and the different kinds of support they can offer.

When you’re starting out you can focus on strengthening relationships with those closest to you. Over time, you can work on building a wider support network by reaching out to people that you do not see as often or have lost contact with.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

Additional self-help for people with a mental health problem

The High Res website has a range of self-help resources (described above) that are designed to improve the wellbeing of people with and without a mental health problem.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental health problem you might also find online treatment that is tailored for your particular mental health problem helpful. If you decide to do one of these online treatments we would recommend that you discuss it with your GP or other mental health professional.