Self-management: 10 things you need to know

Many people with physical health problems already use self-management to help them control their symptoms but the technique has proven to work as a strategy to control things such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Taking a self-management course helps you understand how your own mental health problems affect your life and how to recognise the early signs and prevent or minimise the impact of an episode of ill health. 

Here are ten things you should know about self-management to help you understand it better: 

1. It's not rocket science

It's simply about acquiring the necessary tools and techniques to empower individuals to take control of their lives, to put themselves back in the driving seat and regain the initiative. Learning to manage your mental health effectively is a fundamental prerequisite to experiencing and sustaining long-term recovery from mental ill-health.

2. Self-management of a long-term mental ill-health is a means of encouraging an individual to help themselves

With the relevant support towards establishing a good routine of self-care, it involves setting goals to achieve personal hygiene; regular sleeping patterns; healthy eating plans; building relationships both on a personal and professional level; taking regular exercise; establishing voluntary or paid employment; gaining an understanding of how to deal with money and finances and having a say in their medical and associated treatment, and in doing so, bringing stability, a sense of self-worth and hope for the future with quality of life and ultimate recovery.

3. Recovery is a journey through which an individual learns to manage their problems or condition more effectively

The word recovery is widely used these days and denotes different things to different people. Recovery may take place over a longer period of time. The key to recovery has to be around the realisation that the person with mental ill-health must learn to help themselves.

4. A key principle of self-management is hope

The individual can themselves take necessary steps to still move forward and enjoy life, in spite of the problems which they might be experiencing. Experiencing mental ill-health need not be the end of meaningful life.

5. Goal setting is really important in self-management

The individual with the problem needs to appreciate that they must do everything in their power to help themselves. At the same time those that are tasked with helping the individual need to have in place the necessary tools and techniques to be able to help that person on their journey into recovery. Goals enable you to look forward and focus on the future.

6. It helps us to develop healthier and more meaningful relationships

Humans are not equipped to travel on the journey of life in isolation from one another and so the key to good mental health is the ability to nurture and sustain healthy relationships with others. With effective self-management comes the realisation that life is not all about an individuals needs but also about seeking to meet, as best as possible, the needs of others, of sharing and taking as full a part as possible in family life and friendships.

7. It can help some people back into work

Another important aspect of self-management is re-establishing and sustaining worthwhile activities and occupations. That may not mean, depending on the degree of severity of illness that a person has gone through, paid employment, but may well mean participating in voluntary work. Research has shown that meaningful work can be therapeutic too.

8. Routine is the key to stability in a person's mental health

A routine where both physical and emotional needs are being met on a regular basis offers the opportunity for greater stability. In addition, that all-important sense of health and wellbeing is reinforced, as well as that sense of self-worth which is so vital in giving meaning, hope and purpose in a person's life.

9. Crisis plans enable sensible steps to be taken in the event of things going out of control

Losing control can often make it tougher to manage the other areas of life and so thing such as keeping control over finances are necessary. This involves keeping track of day-to-day spending and if necessary drawing up a budget plan to ensure finances are kept on a sound footing.

10. It's not about throwing away the tablets

Appropriate medication can still play a large part in the effective management of long-term mental ill-health for some people.