Received the dreaded “positive” result from your STD screening? Here are some tips to stay mentally healthy as you go through this challenging phase.
Finding out that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be grueling. Even though most of the common STDs are curable, all of these diseases still carry a degree of stigma and shame. You feel bad at yourself, beating yourself up from past behaviors and hiding your condition to your friends and family.
However, if you keep doing this, you may end up with several mental health problems which can only worsen your condition.
With that, we have here 10 essential tips to stay mentally healthy as you manage your STD. By following these tips, you’ll be able to recover faster, minus the unnecessary mishaps.
1Don’t bottle up your emotions.
There’s a sense of denial in the early stages. You might consider taking a screening again, thinking that there’s a glitch somewhere. You may also be denying your feelings, pressuring yourself to think positively and that this isn’t a big deal—this is even added as one of the tips on staying mentally healthy in other articles.
However, denying the situation or your feelings will only make the situation worse.
It’s normal to get mad or sad about bad news. If you keep pushing yourself to be #positive even though you feel awful, you may end up with darker and graver thoughts.
Cry your heart out, punch a pillow, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Just make sure you’re not physically or emotionally hurting someone.
It’s okay to not be okay. We get that you want to be strong for your loved ones, but putting a facade can bring more harm than good. Take some time to process your current situation. It could take some days, weeks, or months— go on a pace that works best for you.
Once the heavy feelings are poured out, start educating yourself about your condition. This will reduce your anxiousness, as well as help you take a better approach to the situation.
Research the ins and outs of your disease. Look for ways to speed up your recovery and how to reduce the risks of infecting others. Are there vitamins that you should be taking? Dietary restrictions? What should you do to have safe sex? Thanks to the internet, all these questions can be answered in just a few clicks.
You can also consult specialists regarding this matter—sexual clinics such as LoveYourself will surely help you expand your knowledge about your disease.
By doing extensive research, you’ll be able to protect your current and future partners, as well as educate your friends and family if you choose to tell them about your situation.
3Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Managing the disease brings stress to your mental and physical health.
As most STDs attack the immune system and worsen your stress levels, you have to make sure that your body and mind are ready to put up a fight. In order to do this, you need to keep a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Increase your intake of immunity-boosting foods such as berries, dairy, fatty fish, whole grains, and leafy greens. Also, go for foods that are rich in zinc (crab, lean meats, poultry, nuts, chickpeas), Vitamin D (tuna, sardines, mackerel), Vitamin E (hazelnuts, almonds) and Vitamin C (broccoli, orange juice, papaya, tomatoes, cantaloupe).
As for exercises, this depends on how active you are. You can start with mild exercises at home such as push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, jogs, and knee smashes.
4Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
One of the most common tips on staying mentally healthy is to divert your attention to other things. However, you need to be careful with the things you’re focusing on.
Don’t waste your time with unhealthy coping mechanisms. Too much alcohol, cigarettes, sex, food, video games, and drugs will only compromise your health and worsen your condition.
Instead of partying all night or going on a food binge, divert your attention to new hobbies and personal projects. Just make sure to take things in moderation.
5Get support from loved ones.
Some people tend to isolate themselves when going through this condition. They do this because they don’t want to disappoint their friends and families. And due to the stigma surrounding STDs, they have never discussed their condition to them at all.
We get that it’s difficult to share this kind of information to anyone, but you need to seek support from those who matter. Their love and care are what you need the most when getting through this.
Once you’re comfortable enough, share your situation with the person you trust the most first. Later on, you can start opening up to other relatives and friends.
6Join local and online support groups.
Aside from seeking support to your loved ones, connecting with people that have the same journey as yours will surely help. They may share inspiring stories as well as tips to stay mentally healthy during this difficult time.
Look for local communities within the area such as Flourish Circle, a community made in partnership with LoveYourself that aims to provide a safe and affirming space for people with sexually transmitted diseases. As for those who are not ready to face real-life meetings yet, you can also try joining online communities such as r/STD and r/HSVpositive.
7Keep doing the things that you love.
Remember, having an STD is just an obstacle, not a dead end. You shouldn’t stop your whole life while getting treated. If you feel like joining a marathon, writing a novel, or improving your tap dancing skills—go ahead and thrive!
Keeping yourself active with the things that you love do not just take your mind off the issue, but also improves your mental well-being.
8Consult a therapist.
The stigma surrounding therapy has made people hesitant to try this practice—it’s only for the weak and unstable, you’re just talking on a couch, you can do this with a friend for free, etc.
The thing is, therapy is so much more than sitting on the couch. Engaging with a therapist is a helpful way to sort out all of the issues that you have with your condition. You’re not just venting out—you’re rewiring your mind to think differently about your situation. Therapists can also guide you through various tips to stay mentally healthy during this challenging time.
9Go for relaxation techniques.
Aside from a healthy lifestyle, support from loved ones, and therapy sessions, trying relaxation techniques can also help in the recovery of your condition. Here are some of the methods that you should try:
- Mindfulness Meditation – For this practice, it involves sitting comfortably and focusing on your breathing. Doing this allows you to bring your mind’s attention to the present moment without removing your concerns about the past nor the future.
- Breath Focus – With this technique, you must take long, slow, and deep breaths, gently disengaging your mind from distracting thoughts.
- Body Scan – Perfectly goes with breath focus, this technique requires you to focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing the physical tension that you feel on that part.
- Yoga, Qigong, & Tai Chi – For these three ancient arts, rhythmic breathing with flowing movements and postures is the key. It offers a mental focus that can help you ease away from distracting thoughts. Also, they can also enhance your balance, flexibility and overall physical wellbeing.
- Guided Imagery – With this technique, it’s all about imagination. You need to think of soothing places, scenes, and experiences that will help you relax and focus on the present time. It can also help you reinforce a positive vision of yourself.
10Believe in yourself.
Studies show that people with STDs experience a huge drop in their self-esteem. They feel unworthy of love and compassion. Some even think that they’re “dirty” and shouldn’t interact with anyone at all.
Here’s the reality: You still matter. Your value shouldn’t be based on your looks, skills nor physical conditions. Thinking that you’re unworthy because of your current condition will not help you recover.
Also, never think that getting sexually transmitted diseases is a death sentence. Even if the disease you’re having is incurable, such as HIV, you can still live a long and healthy life. You just need to keep a healthy lifestyle and properly take all the prescribed medications.
Battling with an STD is never an easy thing. It drains your wallet, health, and self-esteem.
However, you can do something about it. Sulking around while your health is on the line wouldn’t improve your condition. All it takes is courage—you have that inside you, never lose it.
That’s why you should follow these tips on staying mentally healthy. It may not be easy, but you’re going to be better than ever.