In my last three posts I shared what it's like (for me) to live with anxiety, depression, and trichotillomania. To summarize: living with mental illness involves some very bad days, where it's really hard to function. But, in this post I want to shift gears and talk about what I actually do on those bad days to make functioning a little easier—besides therapy and prescribed medications, which I fully support and recommend. I'm also hoping (selfishly) to get a little advice from you, dear readers, on what helps you get through those bad days, so that I can add more "tools" to my toolbox. The list below is categorized by illness but, obviously, there will be some things that are helpful across the board.
- Watch hilarious movies. My personal go-to hilarious movie is Superbad (not PG rated, FYI). There's no way to watch it without doing at least one spit-take.
- Read hilarious books. I highly recommend Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson; Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple; or Bossypants by Tina Fey.
- Snuggle with cute animals. If you don't have a cute animal of your own, borrow a friend's. Just tell them it's for depression purposes—they probably can't say no to you without being a terrible person.
- Find virtual cute animals. If you can't find a real animal to snuggle with (sorry), I suggest browsing these websites, which are chock-full of everything cute: cute overload or put you in a better mood.
- Listen to soul music. Back when I was in college, one of my professors suggested this to me. Soul music has a magical combination of being deep and moody, while also uplifting. I would suggest Curtis Mayfield (if you appreciate a throwback) or Zero 7 (if electro-soul jams are your thing).
- Exercise (if you can) or don't. I say this with a disclaimer because there are times when some of us just can't move our bodies. People love to tell you to exercise when you're depressed. "Have you heard it has mental health benefits? Endorphins!" Yes. We have. But sometimes it feels like even moving your body at all takes a huge feat of strength. Instead of focusing on exercising, focus on whatever movement you can do. If it's going for a walk: that's okay. If it's moving from your bed to your couch: that's okay. If it's blinking your eyes: that's okay.
- Focus on your breathing. Using breathing exercises helps interrupt the panicking. This is something that I'm still trying to train myself to do.
- Find a quiet space free of humans. Give yourself permission to do this whenever and wherever you need to.
- Go for a walk with someone you care about (or walk your dog). Sometimes waking away from your stress (which loves to lurk where you live) can be helpful.
- Chop vegetables. Focusing on a small, repetitive task helps me remove the focus off of myself and "reset" my brain. I also find that cleaning things really helps, for the same reason.
- Start a small creative project. I say small because sometimes taking on something big, like painting an entire painting, is too daunting, thus becoming another source of stress. I would suggest starting with something tiny even....such as knitting adorable Mochimochi; or building 3D metal models, like this AT-AT I'm currently working on.
- Get a squishy stress toy. I especially recommend the kind with "Koosh" ball-like properties, such as the one pictured below.
- Paint your nails and then pick the nail polish off. I've found this to be a very helpful distraction from picking at my hair.
- Wear a hair tie or something else around your wrist that you can fidget with. This is another way to focus your hands on something other than your hair or skin.
Even though these things might offer some temporary relief, I want to acknowledge that sometimes bad days are just too hard to deal with. I fully support whatever self-care works for you when you're going through those extra hard times. If you need to lie on the couch all night and watch Netflix: do it. If you need to go to bed early because the world is too much to handle: do it. Listen to what your body needs and do it. It's like putting on an oxygen mask on when you're on an airplane: you have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Self-care is survival.
(Post script after the jump)
There is an overall resource that I came across awhile ago that has been really helpful in training myself to take care of myself when I'm feeling depressed or anxious. It's from Project UROK, and I highly recommend you check it out, print it out, and use it. And you should check their whole project, while you're at it.
Now that I've put my thoughts out there, I want to hear from you. What has helped you get through the bad days? Do you have any go-to movies, books, or songs that help? If you have any suggestions or things that I missed, write a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, here's the song of the week...