Mental illness affects your mind, of course, we all know that. But it doesn’t just leave you feeling down, sad or low in mood. Mental illness affects my memory and concentration, too. If this happens to you, it can leave you feeling worse, and thinking that you are a failure or can’t cope with simple day to day things. I know this is true for me.
How I cope when mental illness affects my memory and concentration
I have always been known as the organised one. The one that never forgets, is always on time. The one everyone can rely on. But when my mental illness takes a hit my memory and concentration do too, and that’s hard. It’s like I am a failure because I can’t live up to everyone’s expectations of who I am supposed be!
This shouldn’t leave me feeling like this, I know, I am working on it, but in the meantime I use a few simple things to try and stay focused and on top of things.
I have always loved a list. I usually have about 2 or 3 on the go at once. I have to. If I don’t, then I am a mess. I find writing lists makes me feel so much more organised and gives me a sense of control. As well as that, it enables me to get out whatever is clouding my mind, enabling me to focus and think more clearly about the day/task ahead. I have never been one for digitally writing lists; a pretty notepad and pen are my go-to tools. But do what works for you. Post-it notes, notepads, apps, or just the notes section on your phone. As long as it works for you, that’s all that matters.
This is something I do all the time. I may not be in the right place to be able to write a blog or draw and paint, but if I screenshot ideas, I know it will give me a boost and I can come back to it at a later date. Again, this leaves me feeling more in control. I do love to screenshot inspirational quotes as well. These always give me a boost when I am not feeling my best. Different ones will work at different times. I also send some of them off to family and friends if/when they may be struggling too.
Acknowledge the little things
I for one know how difficult this one can be. When my mental health issues – depression in particular – take a turn for the worse, nothing big or small seems worth acknowledging. Everything I do is rubbish and I have a ‘whats the point’ attitude. Nothing seems OK – let alone good! But it’s a must, to help you get back on track. You got out of the house today – Well done you! You didn’t self harm even though you wanted to – Well done! You ate today – Fantastic! You don’t have to advertise it. Make it your little victory.
This is similar to the list-making but it’s worth its own mention here. Reminding yourself to do things – big or small – can really help in times of anxiety. It gives you that small peace of mind, one less thing to worry about. It leaves you with a sense of confidence (however small to begin with) that you are not useless and you don’t forget everything! You are capable!
I tend to set reminders on my phone to go off a few hours before appointments and then again closer to the time. I also write them on my calendar and in my diary. If it’s something I need to prepare for, then I will be sure to add it to one of my many lists! Again, it’s important to do what works for you. I know people that stick post-it notes in their drawers, cupboards and fridges, as they know this is where they are going to see them to remember. If it works for you, then go for it I say!
I talk about self care a lot, and there’s a good reason – it’s blimmin’ important! It’s even more important at times of relapse. It’s incredibly difficult to concentrate when anxiety or depression take hold, so please be gentle with yourself. Sit down for an extra 10 minutes longer. Have another cup of tea.
If you can go for a walk or practice mindfulness, do. I swear by mindfulness. It not only improves my moods, but enables me to think more clearly. I often begin to remember important things, and it more often than not gives me a new perspective on things. Something I may have been anxious or stressed about before might not feel so bad after 10 minutes of mindfulness. Other things to try are colouring, drawing, word puzzles and so many more. I have written a blog post on self care ideas that help me, so feel free to take a look there for inspiration.
These are just a few of the things that help me when mental illness affects my memory and concentration. Remember to try different things. Not everything I do will work for everyone, but it might inspire you to think what you could do that will help you.
I would love to hear your ideas, and what you do when your mental illness affects your memory and concentration.
Reproduced with permission, originally posted here