Mental Health & Coping Self-Check and Tips
Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real and treatable.
They also tend to be more common among people who have chronic health conditions.
Even though life can get busy, be sure to:
- Carve out time to check in on your mental outlook; it may help to keep a journal
- Build in activities that make you happy and help you destress
- Let your healthcare provider know if you are starting to feel overwhelmed or if you think you might be depressed or overcome with worry or anxiety
Watch out for these feelings and symptoms and tell your healthcare provider if they last for 2 or more weeks.
- Loss of interest or joy in activities that normally put a smile on your face
- Pulling away from people you usually love spending time with
- Having feelings of worthlessness or that you have very little control to change things
- Feeling sad or down most days
- Being unusually irritable or short with the people you care about
- Constantly thinking about the worst-case scenario
- Persistent anxiety or feeling on edge
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting up in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Not feeling motivated or performing very well at work, home or play
- Changes in your appetite – either not wanting to eat much or eating too much
- Turning to unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much alcohol
Get help if you are feeling especially down or just generally aren’t coping very well.
Tips for Coping and Boosting Your Mental Health
It’s OK to not be OK. While you don’t want to dwell on your diagnosis or let it define you, it’s OK to have bad days or feel angry or sad sometimes. Don’t ignore or brush off your feelings as that can have the opposite effect in the long run. Ask for help if and when you need it.
Play an active role in your care. People who are more involved in their care tend to feel less stressed. Learn as much as you can about your IgA Nephropathy and stage of kidney disease. Make sure you understand your treatment options and write down your questions and concerns before each visit.
For many people with IgA Nephropathy, there is lots of stress waiting for lab results. Routine blood tests and urine samples are the main way you and your provider can see how your kidneys are working and if there have been any changes.
Keeping a log of kidney test results, daily blood pressure readings and other vital signs and looking at trends over time (try not to focus on a single number) generally helps patients feel more at ease and in control. Learning to read your urine – if it’s foamy or very dark in color – can help too. Also talk about what might be behind any spikes in your kidney numbers or changes in the look of your urine (for example, high blood pressure, getting over an illness, not drinking enough water) so you can feel more in charge of your health.
Surround yourself with people who understand. IgA Nephropathy can be isolating, especially as o few people have it or understand what it is. You may grieve friends who just don’t get it or may distance themselves.
Join a support group or find someone else who has the condition so you can talk about your feelings and hardships, share stories, tips and advice. The IgA Nephropathy Foundation holds a virtual support group on the 3rd Monday of the month.
Seek professional. Many people say that seeing a therapist or counselor has been very helpful and gives them a safe place to talk through their feelings, as well as ways to approach uncertainty and challenges. If needed, medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can be tried.
There are many types of mental health professionals, including:
- Social workers – often in hospitals and dialysis clinics
- Psychologists and therapists
Family and couples counseling can also be helpful if managing IgA Nephropathy is affecting your relationships.
Find healthy ways to cope with stress or feelings of depression.
Ask yourself, what can I do that will help me feel better? For example:
- Practicing yoga, meditation or deep breathing
- Doing things that brings you joy – for example, phoning a close friend, listen to your favorite music, read a book, or plan another fun activity
- Focusing on a positive message that you can repeat to yourself
- Getting outside and breathing in some fresh air
- Reading a self-help book on coping with a chronic illness so that you better understand your feelings and reaction
- Keeping a journal and writing down something you’re grateful for at the end of each day
Do activities you enjoy and give your life a sense of purpose. Even though you might need to make changes, for example, maybe you tire easily, don’t put your life on hold.
Take time to pause and focus on the present, especially when everything feels like it’s too much. Don’t worry about what tomorrow, next week or next year will bring; take some deep breaths and reset. Find mindfulness practices you like (for example, yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation); these can help relax your body and mind.
Eat regular, healthy meals. Fuel your body with good nutrition throughout the day so you don’t run on empty. Not eating well or skipping meals can leave you with little energy, making it harder to cope.
Be active every day. Regular exercise not only boosts your mood and energy level, it’s also good for your overall health, it can lower blood pressure, and help you feel better able to face challenges.
Don’t skimp on sleep. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake up time – 7-8 hours of quality ZZZs a night is best.