So these won’t apply to everyone as I’m writing from personal experience – but I often get asked advice on this and thought it was time to compile a little blog for you all!
As a backstory here – I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, OCD and cPTSD, these are just a few of the ways I cope alongside therapy and medication – these tips are not here to replace those, but just to help in everyday life!
So some days I can wake up completely frazzled, I don’t know where to be, how to feel, what to do, who to speak to. Sometimes I don’t even trust my own thoughts and perceptions on reality.
When these days come about, I revert to my toolbox of coping mechanisms and these are my top 10:
1) Yoga/Gym/Walking/Any form of exercise
I know, I know it’s the most cliché one, so I thought I’d get it out of the way first…
It does what it says on the tin.
A few years ago I started exercising for my brain, instead of my body. The best part of this is that you get “instant” results. The endorphins and happy vibes you get after a workout is paramount to no other. Admittedly getting into a state of mind to be able to work out is another story, but even if you get out of the house to go for a walk and change your surroundings it can be the difference between another day dwelling in your own head, or a day where you feel like you can take over the world.
So this is a pretty boring one, but one I find essential. Each of the vitamins I take daily are for a purpose, personal to me. There may be other vitamins out there which could work better for you, but here we go!
OMEGA 3: This is proven to work well in conjunction with antidepressants (google the research papers!)
VITAMIN B COMPLEX: This helps my energy and also contributes to keeping my migraines at bay – I never suffered from them before I went on antidepressants, however it was a choice of changing meds after I’d found some that help me, or learning to battle with the ‘grainz.
VITAMIN D: You know that feeling you get when you’ve been in the sun all day? Not sunstroke. The happy feeling! Vitamin D is essential, especially when living in the UK climate and our summers… *eyeroll*
(On a side note, check out “daylight lamps” they create the same effect)
GINGER ROOT TABLETS: When I first went on to medication I suffered dreadfully from nausea! These put that straight to bed within 30 mins – pick these up online or in places like Holland and Barrett.
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL: This is one for the girls, my periods play havoc with my mental health. All those added hormones? No thanks. Evening Primrose Oil tablets help balance those difficult times of the month and makes them more bearable!
3) Simple but a classic: Legs up the wall!
The best tip I’ve ever had if you’re mid-panic attack.
I don’t tend to get full blown, short of breath ones anymore, but I do get very shaky and lightheaded.
Stop what you’re doing, lie with your back on the floor and put your legs up the wall!
This takes the pressure off your heart and gives you a little headstart to regaining focus and catching your breath.
4) Hair tie on the wrist
If any of you feel the dreaded self harm urge, keep a hair tie on your wrist at all times, or an elastic band. This way you can flick it onto your arm without causing yourself too much pain but still getting a similar feeling of relief and keeping your mind busy.
5) Opposite Action
This is taken from my DBT classes (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy).
It’s one of those where you think, well… That seems obvious, why didn’t I think of that?
Opposite action is where you analyse your mood – work out what emotion you are feeling, and if it’s negative then you do something to oppose that.
For example, you are in bed, you don’t want to get out, but you feel dirty, gross, sad, fed up, lethargic.
Now use ALL of your energy, and force yourself up and out, make yourself get up – even if it’s just to sit on the sofa, make some nice food to eat.
Literally ANYTHING to oppose that negative energy eating up your mind in that moment.
Sounds obvious but if you practise it enough, it works!
6) Cactus Theory
So this one is my all time favourite.
Imagine your emotions and thoughts are a cactus.
What happens when you squeeze that cactus? You hurt yourself, and you get needles stuck in you that hurt for even longer.
Now, try putting the cactus (your emotions, thoughts and problems) to one side.
It still exists but it can’t hurt you.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t dealing with your issues, it’s just that sometimes there are answers to things we’ll never get.
This theory stops me from thinking the painful “why”, “I must be a bad person”, “what have I done wrong” thoughts over and over again.
If this doesn’t make much sense, here’s a weird video I made about it in Oxford Service Station on the M40 when I was manic once…
7) “Done” Lists.
To do lists are for losers.
No but seriously, when I write to-do lists it makes my head explode because I decide I can’t do ANY OF IT AND SO I WON’T DO ANYTHING AND I WILL STAY IN BED.
Instead, I write “Done lists!”
Include simple things like – showering, eating and generally being alive. Especially on your off days, because the overwhelming feeling of achievement when you realise you have functioned can set you right up for a great day the next day!
8) TALKING AND WRITING.
Another obvious one, but talk to someone.
Find someone you can confide in, or even someone that you just want to have a “normal” conversation with.
Sometimes I find taking the dogs for a walk and just having idle chit chat with other dog walkers can be a real soothing experience. Mainly because they know nothing about me, no back story, nothing, to them I am a “normal” person just walking my dogs!
Simply having a conversation out loud with someone can give you a purpose for even a small amount of time.
And writing. Obviously, you can see I write – I love to write. My English AS level says otherwise (D oops). But that’s probably because I prefer writing crap than analysing a story about a woman putting her foof out of a window (ta Chaucer).
You don’t have to write publicly like I do, however I do find it so liberating to get my words out of my head and into someone else’s head!
You can keep diaries, you can put pen to paper, or type! Maybe even draw your thoughts? Either way, it’s a therapy that’s been around for a long long time, and there’s a reason why it’s still here…
Last point – if you don’t want anyone to be able to find it, write it all out, then rip it up, or even burn it! It’s a very releasing way of getting your thoughts out and getting rid of the negative ones!
OH MY GOD I LOVE ANIMALS.
All of them.
Anyway – my dogs have been my saviours.
But in all serious – it’s been proven that even just being around dogs, cats, other petting type animals can release happy chemicals in your brain and soothe you.
If you can’t get a pet of your own, or don’t have one, you can volunteer at rescue centres to walk the dogs, play with them, pet them, anything.
Or go to a petting zoo!
Or if all else fails just go into Pets at Home and cry next to the bunny cages.
10) Mindfulness and Meditation
Last but not least – one of the best ones.
You may have to do a little googling here – but mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment, living in the here and now and focusing on exactly what you’re doing.
For example, when you’re doing the washing up – take that moment to 100% focus on the feel of the bubbles, the plate, the warmth, the noises, how it all feels on your skin etc.
It’s been said that if you practice mindfulness every day for 60 days, it becomes a natural part of your life.
It will seem difficult and almost mundane at the start, but every time your brain wanders, don’t punish yourself, bring your mind back to the task in hand and embrace it.
Meditation goes hand in hand with mindfulness and yoga.
Have a look online for different mindfulness and meditation techniques – there are lots of youtube tutorials, and spoken soundtracks to talk you through this.
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, any time for as long as you want. There are many different forms – walking, eating, colouring, you name it!
It’ll feel stupid at the start, but I promise you – it’s so so worth it.
So those are my top 10 tips! Thanks for reading and let me know how you get on with them, and which ones work best for you!