How to be an Advocate for Yourself
All advocacy begins with being an advocate for yourself. Taking responsibility for your own wellness means developing healthy habits, carving out space in your life for self-care, and learning to value yourself and your mental health at every stage in your journey. Here are some good places to start:
1. Get educated!
Learn something first. Self-advocacy is all about creating a lifestyle that supports wellness, and doing that requires knowledge. What are you working with and what's the best approach? When you know the facts, it’s a lot easier to design a self-care plan and find the help or resources you need. Our ever-growing Learning Center has plenty of articles and videos to get you started.
Education can also mean hearing from other people who have dealt with issues similar to your own. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes hearing from someone who’s been where you are can be therapeutic. They might even give you some ideas of your own about steps that would be helpful for you.
2. Find help that works for you.
Everyone’s mental health is different, so it makes sense that everyone should have their own unique journey. There are lots of different forms of support out there to help you as an individual. Many people benefit from therapy with a professional, which can be one-on-one or in a group setting. If you have specific concerns, there are treatment options like light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression and Sleep Disorders. Other support activities can be less formal, like a running group that allows you to run regularly with your peers and helps lower your anxiety/stress levels.
The idea is to do a little research and find an activity or place that supports your wellness. Whatever it may be, it’s important to discover your individual needs. It’s your mental health, after all. There’s no shame in advocating for what you need!
3) Take up small wellness practices.
Part of wellness is just taking the time for some small self-care activities. These are practices designed to support a healthy routine for yourself, and maybe even help support larger treatment choices like therapy. Wellness practices could be almost anything that makes your day a little better, from keeping a daily journal, to practicing yoga, or even just transforming a routine task into a quick meditation.
Remember, even if you’re a caretaker for someone else, your wellness should come first. Helping yourself helps you help others better. Check out the Wellness Tools section of our Learning Center for ideas that can fit into your lifestyle!
4) Live Your Life with NoStigmas
The world is full of stigmas surrounding mental health, and an essential part of self-advocacy is choosing to discard them. Stigmas are contagious; just being around them can make us take the negative ideas others have and internalize them. It can make even the most informed people start to doubt reality and take in harmful stereotypes; like the myth that those with depression could just “cheer up” if they really wanted to. This can leave you feeling shame, sadness, self-doubt, and other self-sabotaging emotions that can stand in the way of your ability to value and care for yourself.
So strive to live without stigmas. If those internalized stigmas kick in and you find yourself questioning whether your feelings or needs are valid, stop and remind yourself that your feelings are real and your mental health is important. Recognize that you are worth taking the time for self-care, support, and learning. Know that you’re more than your personal challenges or your diagnosis. Be kind and patient with yourself. Understand that you deserve that kindness and patience from others, even if you don’t always receive it. Advocating for yourself begins with believing in yourself!