Recovering from Mental Illness: Creative and Conventional Self-Care

October 13, 2011 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Yes, we have all been told that self-care is instrumental when recovering from a mental illness. We have probably been told that we need to eat a balanced diet, sleep eight hours a night, drink enough water, exercise on a regular basis, form positive relationships, frequent our psychiatrist, reach out to others in the community, take our medications, practice yoga...The list goes on. Extensively. It is worthy of a 1,000 page book.

Conventional Self-Care

I like to think of conventional self-care as prescribed self-care. It is as important as the prescriptions you take to find or maintain wellness. As stated above, the list of self-care recommendations are numerous. Let's focus on a few.


Forming and Maintaining Relationships

Some of us are lucky enough to have a fantastic support system. A family who understands the illness, and a partner who is educated on it. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness has an internal support system. That is why it is important to develop an external support system: People who can support you, and you, in turn, can support them. Reciprocating support is important in recovery. It makes us feel less alone.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: Sleep Habits and Nutrition

I have suffered with insomnia my entire life. I recall nights of not sleeping. There are many approaches to sleep difficulty, one being medication, and the other positive lifestyle changes. A combination of both has worked for me. I read before bed instead of watching television. I drink tea although I much prefer coffee, and I make sure my bedroom is free of distractions. I have a small fan that I turn on and the white noise helps me sleep. Researching things like this, reading books on the subject, can help immensely. Explore what might work for you.

mental_illness11Nutrition is equally important, and most people understand that you must eat on a regular basis in order for your mind and body to function. If you take psychiatric medications, eating regularly and choosing healthy foods (well, most of the time), allows your body to function at it's highest level. It allows your body and mind to recover together.

Creative Approaches to Mental Health Recovery

Adopting a Pet

This is not possible for everyone. Many apartments and condominiums do not allow animals, but if you are able to care for a pet it is rewarding in many ways. Caring for an animal gives you a sense of accomplishment: The animal needs you and relies on you entirely. Pets can be a source of comfort when life becomes a little crazy. I adopted a puppy six months ago and it has influenced my life positively: When I feel like I cannot be around others, I am forced to take him for a walk. He makes it easier, necessary, to leave the safety of my home. If it isn't possible to adopt an animal, consider volunteering at a local shelter. Volunteer work also helps you socialize and connect with other people.

Try Something New

I always feel a little down in the winter months, but I have found creative outlets that help: A guitar, art supplies and writing. Creativity does not require skill (my guitar playing can vouch for this) but it helps to stay busy and feel accomplished. You might find out that you are a fantastic artist, poet, or cook. Just choose something and run with it. Have fun with it.

Volunteer Work

Mental illness is an isolating illness. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own head and cannot find our way out. Volunteer work can serve as a means to care for someone other than ourselves. It can be hard to find time to volunteer, people are busy, we work and we play just like everyone else, but making some time to help others puts your life in perspective.

Using a combination of conventional and unconventional methods to recover is important. Let's be honest, focusing on three meals a day and eight glasses of water can get a little boring, and this blog cannot explore the many options we have, but it's a good place to start. Try to be creative and conventional as part of your recovery journey.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2011, October 13). Recovering from Mental Illness: Creative and Conventional Self-Care, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Karl Shallowhorn
October, 13 2011 at 7:57 am

Those were great suggestions Natalie. I would add spiritual practice to your list. Now, I'm not necessarily talking about traditional religion (although it helps many, myself included) but I would say that anything that helps to develop a connection between oneself and a Higher Power. For me, prayer helps a lot. I've been living with bipolar disorder for over 30 years and i have used prayer to help me through some really difficult times.
I also help lead a spirtual support group at my church called Spirit Seekers where we share with one another about or ups and downs through a spiritual lens.
I know that if it wasn't for having God in my life I would certainly not be where I am at today.
Please feel free to check out my blog at:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
October, 13 2011 at 10:40 am

Hi, Karl:
Thank you for your comment. I know that spirituality can positively influence recovery. I have considered it many time. Perhaps I should take the leap and look into it further. I will certainly check out your blog and I hope others do as well.

March, 13 2012 at 8:42 am

Sometimes creative goes a step further than pets. For me, it took training and using a psychiatric service dog for PTSD. With my dog, I'm a lot more stable because we work as a team and can *accurately* assess people and surroundings for threats which keeps me from doing my "just in case" fight or flight response that I was doing an awful lot of the time.

December, 25 2012 at 1:17 am

thank karl, have look at it, my way is i have just started a personal page on facebook, there i writh about my life, my days and tipps that m can help someone just like me, and have good so many good mess and suports from a couple off peoples ex one is realy a special one, like my 2 mom, she are helping me so mutch and are allways there when i need som one to talk to,, and we have many things that are t like to, her dother die in a drug addiction, ( i´m in recover from just that myself) and depression, so i writh blogs and peams and like that, have helpt me litle. anna

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