Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, can fluctuate over time.  Sometimes you will feel well and like you are managing your mental health really well and at other times things will seem to be going less well.  Some dips in wellbeing are very normal so learning strategies to help you through these times will help to reduce the risk of these tough spells progressing into full relapses.

Everybody living with a mental health condition will have a unique experience of how that condition affects them. While they may share common symptoms with others who have the same diagnosis, their own individual triggers and how they cope with the symptoms may vary considerably.  Learning what works for you can take time to learn so experimenting with different techniques can help to uncover new ways of coping. Learning to be patient and honest with yourself about how you are feeling and what you feel able to do will help.

1. Track symptoms and wellbeing
Using a tool, such as a mood diary, can help you to plot your wellbeing over time.  This will provide you with some concrete evidence of the changes in your wellbeing and help to identify possible triggers and early warning signs. They can also help to ground you when you feel like everything is falling apart.  Sometimes our minds can trick us into thinking a negative emotion is constant and unchanging, when in reality those feelings will fluctuate and vary in intensity over time.  Keeping a log will help you to see this and make you more mindful of how you are feelings in the present moment.  

You can download a simple mood diary from this site, in the worksheets section, or you can look at using an app on your phone or use a web based symptom tracker like the one on Finding Optimism.  

2.  Get support
Sometimes chatting to a supportive friend or loved one can offer a different perspective on a problem.  They may suggest alternative suggestions for tackling a difficulty or they may have shared a similar experience.  Often sharing a concern can help the person feel less isolated and alone.  

If you are having difficulty identifying someone from your own circle of friends and family then you could try calling a helpline, such as the Samaritans, Sane or Papyrus.  Alternatively many established mental health charities, such as B-eat and  also have web forums where people can share their experience and get peer support. Alternatively you could speak to your doctor or ask to be referred to a specialist or a counsellor.  If you would prefer you can also search for accredited counsellors and psychotherapists through the
British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists website.  

3. Be kind to yourself
If you were feeling physically unwell or under the weather you might give yourself some time to rest and recover. Mental health conditions need this attention too.  Give yourself permission to feel unwell and allow yourself the time and space to recover.  Some tasks may feel harder than usual so try to space these tasks out so you don't tire yourself out and work in an incentive or reward for completing these difficult tasks.  For instance, if you are finding it hard to motivate yourself to wash and attend to your personal appearance then having some extra special bubble bath or shower gel may help.  If you have done some housework and feel tired then have a relax with a warm drink and a sweet treat.  

If you are working then either book a few days annual leave or speak to your doctor about taking some time off sick.  If you have an understanding employer you may feel confident being honest with them and telling them that you are struggling. Either speak to your manager, human resources department, union or an employment advisor and find out if there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made to help you to do your job.  
Mind also have information on employment rights on their website, or you could speak to the CAB or ACAS can help.  

4. Spend time outdoors
Even though it may be tough, getting outside at least once a day will help.  Both the exercise and the sunlight will help lift mood and they will also help you to maintain healthy sleep patterns.  If you are finding it tough to get out of the house then start small, for instance popping to the local shop to buy a magazine or chocolate bar.  Some animal charities, such as the Cinnamon Trust, recruit volunteers to help with dog walking so this might be something to investigate.  You don't necessarily need to go somewhere busy so you could go for a walk in your local park or nature reserve or it could be something simple like doing some gardening in your own back garden.  

5. Distraction techniques
Find low key activities that help to take your mind off your troubles.  Creative hobbies can be a good means of expressing difficult emotions and they can also be very absorbing.  You could listen to some music, the radio or an audiobook, (you can find free ones on Libravox) or you could watch a TV programme.  Puzzles can be very relaxing and help to stimulate the mind.  They can also help to improve your problem solving skills and keep your mind active.  

6. Relaxation
Learning some relaxation techniques can help to calm your mind and give you some breathing space from your worries. Many mental health conditions are worsened by stress so learning to unwind will also help you to manage your condition during well periods. You can either try a guided meditation exercise or take up a relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi. Other activities that can help relax you could include stroking a pet, listening to some calming music or doing some simple breathing exercises such as this breath counting meditation.