If you’ve enquired about seeing a therapist, chances are you’re wanting support straight away. Usually, when we reach out to a therapist, it’s because our distress levels are beyond what we feel we can cope with. And it is at this point that you need support and cannot access it.
Currently, waitlists are common in mental health services, unfortunately. Since COVID-19, most waitlists in allied health have blown out to 6 months. This can leave us feeling frustrated, abandoned and worried, and wondering ‘what can I do while I wait for my therapy appointment?’.
While waiting for your appointment there are things you can do for your mental health, and also to be prepared for your first session.
Below are 8 things you can do while you are on a waiting list for therapy.
1. Rule of 5’s
- Think of five people that can support you in your time of need, whom you feel safe with and who don’t judge you. This could be friends, family, a colleague, another allied health practitioner, a school counsellor and your GP.
2. Crisis support
- If you need immediate support reach out to your GP
- If you don’t feel safe, please call a crisis hotline, or attend your local hospital.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- 1800 Respect – 1800 737 732
- MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978
- KidsHelpLine – 1800 55 1800
- BeyondBlue – 1300 22 4636
3. Stay engaged in activities you enjoy
- When our mental health is impacted, it can take a lot of energy and motivation to get up and do something. Doing something we enjoy is one of those things that after completing it, we know we will feel better and it will improve our mood.
- Change your environment: get out of your house, go for a walk, and get some fresh air.
4. Do one nice thing for yourself and for someone else
- For yourself this could include;
- Sleep routine – commit to 3 nights in a row – see what impact that has on you.
- Healthy eating habits – commit to 2 healthy meals a day, and reduce your caffeine and sugar. See what impact that has on you.
- Hygiene and pampering – bathing, dental hygiene and even putting on a face mask
- Relaxation – mindfulness, yoga, drawing or journaling.
- For someone else;
- Check-in with a friend or family member – send a message or give them a call.
- Treat yourselves – order take out 1 night a week.
5. Engage in physical activity
- You have heard it before, and you will hear it again.
- Commit to exercising 3 days in a row – see what impact this has on your mood. This could include a 30-minute walk, a 10-minute HITT workout on YouTube or a 30-minute swim at the local pool.
- Research suggests regular exercise increases mood and self-esteem and reduces anxiety.
6. Plan for your upcoming session
- Keep a written log of the challenges you are facing in a journal or on your phone. Write as if you are writing to your therapist.
- This will not only help you when talking to your therapist, but it will also support them to know how to support you best.
- Brainstorm questions to ask your therapist.
- Usually, in the initial stages of feeling distressed, it can be hard to think clearly and identify things you can do to reduce your distress. In these instances, connecting to your body and regulating your nervous system is the most important.
- So ask yourself the question, what’s one thing I can do today to reduce the tension in my body? Reduce my heart rate? Reduce my rapid breathing?
- Now go and engage in one of these activities for 10 minutes.
- Download the Oak Meditation app and practice some breathing exercises for 2 minutes twice daily, morning and night.
8. Search for online therapists
- Telehealth has been shown to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy.
- Often there is more flexibility in the availability of therapists for telehealth appointments.
Just remember you are not alone. Mental health is one of the most common and serious issues of our time.
“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.” – Lisa Olivera
Mind Up has immediate availability for both face-to-face and digital therapy.