NaNoWriMo Day 12: A Little Guide to Self-Help

You do not have to suffer from a mental health issue to have bad days. They only appear more often if you do. And sometimes it doesn’t seem as if you could ever escape again. This is a deeply personal topic and I know everyone is different. Some tips might work for you while others don’t. Just know this: It is ok to have a bad day.

Yesterday evening I was in a very bad mindset and couldn’t get myself to write. I received a very lovely message from Dawn this morning: “Have some wine. Enjoy your friends and family without the talk of politics. Talk about silly things. Laugh. Experience JOY! And know it will be okay and then write about it.” (So today, Dawn, I enjoyed my friend’s company, I laughed, I painted, I even got some uni work done and I experienced so much joy in it. Now, I will write about it.)

I wanted to give her a big hug because this was exactly what I needed. I had been reading the news and was filled with anger and especially fear. I feared for the lives of so many people until I realised that I couldn’t do anything. That set me off again. I couldn’t stop crying about the fate of this world. Not filled with my usual hope. I’m sure a lot of you have the same thoughts at the moment and I can’t stress it enough: Talk to people about it, talk to your friends and family. Share your fear and try to find ways to overcome it. To deal with it. To stand up again, taller than ever and more determined than before.

There are a lot of suggestions for Self-Help on the Internet, find whatever makes you happy. You can write yourself a list and pin it to your wall to be able to immediately have some solutions in front of you. Here are some self-help tricks that often work for me:

Still in bed? Already sensing that a bad day is around the corner?

Close your eyes and breathe. Give yourself this moment and try to let the thoughts brush you slightly before flying away. Count your breathing. In 1 2 3 4 Out 1 2 3 4. On and on. It really calms you down until you can open your eyes.

Look out of the window. Look at the clouds passing by. Imagine lying on the grass in summer and try to identify some cloud shapes. Just as we all did as kids. If there are no clouds, look at the rain or the snow, falling down. It lives on, just like you. Give yourself some time and extend this period as long as you wish. You don’t need to get up. Stay comfortable.

Don’t take your phone to bed, though. There are so many people who you have to answer – that might stress you out. Scrolling through instagram and twitter feeds can be too much. Never look at the news in the morning. It’s sad that nowadays it seems like only negative news are visible in the online space. Don’t start your days with them.

If you feel comfortable, sit up, allow yourself to daydream a bit. Also, do not try to suppress the bad thoughts. You will obsess over them. Try to let them go. You could now listen to music, an audiobook, letting the time pass but taking your thoughts off your problems.

Leaving Your Bed

Drink some water. Always stay hydrated. Have a shower. I find that one of the most relieving things when feeling bad. Put clean and nice clothes on. Look at yourself in the mirror. Say aloud at least three things you like about yourself. I know that can be hard at times but it lifts the mood if you do. Smile at yourself. Look kindly at yourself. You are beautiful!

After the shower, make yourself something to eat. My go-to soul food at the moment is warm cinnamon oat meal with apples. It taste very autumny-wintery and it’s both delicious and healthy. Simply mix some oats and milk (I like to use oat or almond milk), heat it up, stir, add some cinnamon, nuts, raisins, apples – just what you like. It’s very nutritious and you’ll be satisfied afterwards. Add a little chocolate as a dessert.

It’s important to eat well, when you are feeling bad. Eat lots of fruits, the sugars will give you a little boost of energy. If you like to cook, prepare a meal. You made something and also did something nice for yourself.

Make a cup of tea. I cannot stress enough the magic of tea. It is a comforting hug in a mug and it will make you a little happier. Light some candles. Look into the flame and see how calm it burns.

Brush your teeth. That helps, too.

Move

If the sun is out, go for a walk. It can be hard to leave the house because you don’t want to see anyone and it can maybe freak you out. Fresh air is always good, though. Focus on the steps you are taking. You are going forward! Listen to the birds around if there are any, listen to the people talking and going about their lives. The world goes on, just as you are. Search for a bench in the sun and sit there for a while. Let the sun rays caress your face and smile.

If it rains outside, open your windows. Listen to the gentle tapping of rain drops on the roof, the trees.

Do some light exercise. Yoga, for example. I love Yoga with Adrienne, she is always so cheerful and very funny at times, it really helps me to get myself to “hop on the mat” and stretch and relax. Allow yourself to take that time.

Turn on some light music, one that lifts up your heart. The music you listen to if you are happy or that reminds you of your last holidays, your friends etc. If you like, you can do some tidying. A clean room corresponds to and promotes a clear mind. Get rid of things you no longer need. There is an odd satisfaction in throwing stuff away. However, if that adds extra pressure, it’s fine too if you just sit around somewhere.

Spending Time With Yourself

Make something beautiful. Whatever your interests might be, find something that will give you an instant reward, that will give you something pretty. Start knitting something. If you like to garden, plant a flower. Water your plants. Show your trees some love. Hug one. If you like photography, take a photo of the little things you never noticed in your garden. That red stone over there, birds bathing in puddles…

Paint or draw! There is an incredibly healing power in that. Give yourself the permission to not create a masterpiece. Take the expectation away that you have to make something great. Just get the thoughts out of your head and focus on something different. In the end I often find that those doodles are among the best ones I’ve ever made. I also find great pleasure looking at the artwork of others. Browse the Internet for your favourite artists and get absorbed in their paintings.

Read.

As Matt Haig suggested in “Reasons to Stay Alive”, a book I can recommend to everyone, it’s brilliant:

“How to stop time: kiss.

How to travel in time: read.

How to escape time: music.

How to feel time: write.

How to release time: breathe.”

That’s so accurate. I believe in the magic of reading. It takes your mind of your own problems, it shows you the stories of other people. It shows you kindness and love and does not expect anything in return. I find special comfort in reading poetry. It’s quite short most of the times and you can close the book if you don’t feel like it anymore. Furthermore, it gives you some distraction for the mind because you can discover the deeper meaning of the verses.

Read the books of your childhood. For me that would be Harry Potter. I have read them so often that I can just open one of the books and be immediately absorbed in the story line. Put some bookmarks in your favourite books marking the scenes you love. Reread them!

Other People

Some days, you don’t want to see anyone. Don’t want to talk to anyone. Or you are just a kind of person who likes to be alone. Who derives energy from staying by yourself. That’s fine!

There are moments, though, where you would like to speak to others but fear you will be a burden to them. Remember, if they are your friends, you will never be a burden to them. They want to help you and want you to feel better again. They will have a different view on your problems and might help you solve them. It might be a good idea to speak to them about your bad days. Tell them that you just want to talk and do not expect a solution. Often, it helps more if someone listens instead of talking. Tell them, they will understand.

They can take you out to a cafe, if you want. On Wednesday, I was so crushed and tired and sad that my friend Hannah texted me: Let’s have some cake. It totally saved the day. Have some cake with your friends and I promise it will get better. Talking always helps. Say nice things to other people, smile at them. Distributing kindness will make you feel a lot happier. Have your friends send you pictures and videos of baby animals if you are having a bad day. Looking at the little paws of cats can provide you with a lot of joy.

Alone With Your Thoughts

If you are experiencing dark thought spirals it is often difficult to realise where they come from. Dealing with them, it is important to recognise where they started. Analyse your line of thinking and distinguish the point where you are still reasonable and where you start basing your thoughts on assumptions. This is a vital part to cutting of these spirals.

Don’t freak out about what will be, be in the now. You are living in the present. Considering the past and future does not help, because you cannot change them. You can only change how your life is in the here and now. Don’t fight yourself so hard. Don’t lead a war against yourself.

These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb. Naiwa Zebian

When you are at work or facing any difficulty, say to yourself: I can do this. Say it until you believe it yourself. Let that be your mantra for the day. I can do this. In can do this.

Write down what you have accomplished already in your life. Make a list! After every item you found, say “I can do this. Look what I have already done.” Write a letter to yourself!

You have overcome every challenge until this point in your life, climbed over every stone life has thrown on your path – you can do anything! You have fought for so long and this day is just one of those you will be conquering in the end.

Recognise thoughts and ask yourself if you would have them on good days. Would you ever question if xy likes you? Would you ever think about if you are good at whatever you love to do? Even if the answer is yes, that’s ok! We are humans, of course we question ourselves from time to time. Of course we struggle. But struggling doesn’t mean you failed at it.

The most important aspect to realise: It is ok to have bad days. Give yourself the permission to be sad. Give yourself the permission to do nothing at all or to stay in bed. Give yourself the permission to not feel good sometimes. It’s ok! You will always rise after these times. Get yourself some help from friends. They will lift you up. Know that you are loved. Know that you are unique and special. Know that the bad days will pass and the sun will come out again. The world will keep on spinning, the sun on rising, the moon on watching our earth with a gentle eye. It’s gonna be fine.

Current Word Count: 20123

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