Here it is…a somewhat assorted variety…a mixed bag, if you will, of tools. Tools that have worked for me…and in my professional experience…many others along the way. Others, whom like myself have had to deal with the darkness of depression, the disorienting fears of anxiety and the sometimes relentless battles that are endured when fighting mental illness. Disclaimer: Since mental illness is, well…ya know, an illness like any other…many of these tools work brilliantly when dealing with other sometimes chronic illnesses as well! The list is by no means comprehensive…it is simply some of my “GO TO” tools that I have found to offer hope, distraction and some real life strategies.
Creating a self-care tool box: To be clear…I have made both the “metaphorical tool box” and also the real life actual BOX. It contains reminders of what has worked in the past, touchstones for coping and items to grab on to emotionally and/or physically in times of need. Perfect for when your brain chemistry does not allow you to “access” what seemed like “such a great idea” while on your therapist’s couch last Tuesday!
THE MENTAL HEALTH “TO DO LIST” (Remember what works for one, does not work for all…take what you like and leave what you don’t) *** or…riddle me this….even if you don’t like it, why not try it anyway, because depression will lie and tell you…”That is stupid, YOU ARE NOT doing that!” Screw it… Do that shit anyway!!!
While I was in graduate school in NYC, a quirky, albeit, brilliant professor said to me, “In all my years of practice, I have learned there is NOTHING that breathing can’t make better.” Is this hyperbolic? Perhaps. (Breathing…while swimming underwater, may not make swimming underwater better…) Outside of that, I have seen this be true time and time and time again…in my practice and certainly in my own life.
So…BREATHE. Learn mindful breathing. The balloon Breath. A Simple inhale through the nose, slow and deep…Hold… release slowly through mouth. Repeat out loud, IN….OUT. Slowly. A nice relaxed pace…(just do it as it feels right for you…no over thinking here)
Stretch….bend, walk around the yard, down the block. Look at the grass, look at the clouds. Pick a flower or a leaf or a rock… and stare/study the details. Take pictures of flowers or nature or the sky. Your goal might be “do this for five minutes 3x per day” and work up your time intervals and rest when needed.
Get in WATER…A shower, a pool, a garden hose, a sprinkler…an ocean…a lake. Being in water changes your perspective. Also, DRINK (water!) A GLASS OF COLD WATER WITH ICE, SLOWLY. CRUNCH THE ICE, SIP THE COLD WATER. FEEL THE WAY IT CHANGES YOUR BODY. Force yourself to stay hydrated. Sounds too simple? Strangely it is often the simple things that work! **Disclaimer II: If you are feeling acutely suicidal call hotline/911 and stick with just drinking the cold water, hold ice cubes, feel them in your hand…wash your face with cool wash clothes. Call and talk on the hotline, with a friend or your therapist.
Go on Youtube (or the like there of )…search up guided meditations for “anxiety” depression, anger, fear, love, etc. Listen… Some will suck, but a few will be great…try some.
Read : Read blogs…funny ones, random one, “How To ones” (fill in the blank, mine was learn to loom knit)…. and one’s for support. Head over to Twitter: Bluelightblue or The bloggess…or Speak Your Truth…or any mental health blogs for support! Watch cute animal videos. Search funny memes on weird topics…look at the ever popular e-cards. It’s called distraction people! It works.
Support…even online support (especially online sometimes…because it is always there.) I think the right forums, twitter feeds, facebook groups…they can really help!
http://www.twitter.com/pixeedust72 (MY twitter feed…SPEAKYOURTRUTH)
Literally, make a box. Use an old one to decorate or make one out of wood or a shoe box (whatever works)…decorate it…cut up little pieces of paper and write POSITIVE things (Box of Hope)….Make a box…cut up paper, write what you would like to let go of, painful stuff, things you want gone or healed or feel to heavy for your right now. Give it a name. Your “wish box”…prayer box…worry box?
Go look for smooth rocks…wash them…feel the earth and watch the dirt wash away. Dry them. Feel the texture. Get permanent markers or paint…write worries, fears, things you want to let go or even affirmations…pray on it, meditate on it and throw them in water, river, lake, ocean, a damn puddle…preferably the visual is seeing them floating away. You can do one rock at at time…You can also throw them in the woods…far…just make sure NO ONE is in your line of fire. Bury them…Or you can keep them. Possibilities people, possibilities!
Go somewhere safe (with a trusted friend) …and break stuff…I did this with old crappy plates I got at a garage sale, I went to an old abandoned lot with trusted and emotionally safe friend. Yelling my anger/pain/traumas…with each smashing plate. (Was this the smartest thing? Perhaps not. Did it help release deep rooted pain and childhood wounds? Yes…yes it friggin’ did. **Disclaimer III: If you break shit that you really wanted or get in trouble with the law, this is just a blog people, I hold no responsibility. Ya know? Free will and what not.
Physical Activity…This is a tough one…especially with depression giving ya the ol’ serotonin sucker punch…but try something/anything… (why not?) Kick box…chop wood/break sticks…rip paper…power wash shit…mow a lawn. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I can tell you this…power washing dirty stuff clean, it’s healing and cathartic in it’s own weird way. (for me) Lawn mowing…OMG!!! Meditative, physical and productive.I have a strange obsession with pool skimming as well… that also helps with anxiety. Sorry people, but this shit has and does personally help me. I skimmed today. Yay!!!!
Do art journaling….Go on Pinterest and look up art journals. Do composition notebook art. In fact…Just go on Pinterest and start looking shit up. Plan real or imaginary things/trips…(secret magical rooms, gardens, sacred spaces) Start a resource guide for all that ails you. “Natural remedies” “Mental health tools” …whatever…Pin it.
Plan vacations…you may or may not go on them…just look up what you might want to do one day. Day dream about it. I like vrbo.com to imagine all the houses I am going to rent, like everywhere.
Make a play list: Add songs you love or find new songs. Ask others what their inspiration songs are. Again…a shout out to http://www.bluelightblue.com (I believe she did an article that included something about what our fight songs are to get us through.) Right now, I am so feeling Lake Street Dive, Alabama Shakes and my own personal obsession of many years… Ani Difranco.
Get Some Art Stuff and Make Shit: Model magic (my favorite/Play dough/ clay etc.) and play with it and make stuff and be a kid, even if you are a grown up! Get a coloring book and color….YUP from 1 to 110 years old…coloring helps. *put a picture or a tiny creation in your BOX!
Buy a plant or 10…start with one. Take care of it. Learn about that specific plant. What it needs, what it doesn’t. Take care of it. If it dies (it happens people…go get another plant) Try again.
So there you have it folks… Like I said, this list is far from comprehensive, however, it is comprised of things that have actually worked for people. ( First with me and then as I share ideas with my clients they often give positive feed back! ) Now…LISTEN. It’s not perfect…it’s not magic. Therapy, Medications, Support Networks…those are important and life saving tools that also may fill our unique tool boxes. If you struggle with the darkness and feel there is no way out…put this in your box and use it! You can call as often as you need.
PLEASE…Feel free to comment on what has helped you and remember…there is always hope, help and light, even on the darkest night…sometimes, we just need a a few tools along the way.
Love, Light and Healing Always….