An early warning sign is an indication that predicts that the person’s health may be starting to get worse with symptoms of mental illness reappearing that threatens to impact their life negatively. The purpose of identifying a person’s unique warning signs is to help you take action early enough to counter many of the problems.
Identifying early warning signs takes openness and honesty and the willingness and courage to face pre-vious difficult or unpleasant situations. By applying many of the techniques that you have learned and practiced during the course of this program, such as mindfulness, reflective listening, compassion, and thinking patterns, you can assist your partner, family member, or friend effectively in this process. You can see this exercise as an opportunity to help the other person take control of his or her life. By identify-ing and acting on early warning signs, a person develops the power to challenge a mental illness.
Common early warning signs include:
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Eating less or eating more
- Trouble sleeping too much or too little
- Decreased need for sleep
- Feeling depressed or low
- Feeling like not being around people
- Feeling irritable
- Stopping treatment
- Trouble concentrating
- Thinking that people are against you
- Drug or alcohol use or abuse
- Increased spending or shopping
- Being overconfident about your abilities
It is even more important within families to become aware of potential warning signs of relapse and to develop an action plan to deal with relapses of their relative’s mental health problem as a family can function in closeness to each other.
But, also important, forget to care for yourself when your partner has a setback.
As we have highlighted many times throughout the program, one can only care for or support another person effectively if one also care for oneself. Always keep this in mind as it is of vital importance. Caregivers are under a lot of stress and it is common to feel responsible for the other person. This is natural but takes a lot of energy and puts yourself under strain. Regularly monitor yourself for your own ear-ly warning signs of distress and fatigue. Make sure to schedule regular pleasant activities, exercise, relax, and adopt a mindful attitude. The short checklist in the following exercise serves as a daily reminder of steps that you should take to ensure that you are best equipped to support someone else in their recovery process.