After a crappy few days, there is nothing better than focusing yourself on a task to help calm any bad feeling you may have. It is one of those things that seems impossible to do at times. I guess the important thing is not to force yourself to do something, especially if it is something that you may enjoy. Because forcing yourself on something you actually like, may take the joy away. It is supposed to be a respite for you, not simply another thing to give you anxiety.
I know, with myself, when I have a ‘bad turn’, I usually have to ride it out. I always try to do something, but if I am not in the right frame of mind, then nothing will help. I can easily sit and stare at the same page of a book for an hour, or zone out and miss 2/3 episodes of a TV show. These things that are normally relaxing for me, don’t seem to have the desired effect. There was a time, when I was younger, I actually thought my ‘zoning out’ was simply another thing that made me broken. Because for a long time, that is what I thought of myself. An unfuctioning, broken person. It has taken years of work to realise that I needed to give myself a bit of a break. Being harsh on yourself for having shit mental health, just makes your mental health worse. It is a vicious circle.
When I realised this, I started giving myself a time scale. For example, still staring at the same book page after 15 minutes, close the book and give it a rest. It became a rule that I followed, something I had to train myself to do. Because, if I didn’t, I would do nothing, and then feel bad because I had done nothing. I think that is the hardest thing about trying to self-manage your mental health. You should be strict enough with yourself that you push yourself forward, but you don’t want to be too strict and send yourself backwards. It is hard, and something it has taken me many years to try and get better at. But, I am getting there slowly.
What can be a distraction? Well, anything really. Here is a wee list of things that I use to help me feel a bit better.
Go for a walk- This could be anywhere. Luckily we have a lot of coastal walks around where I live, and I find the smell of the sea air quite relaxing. No matter where it is, a walk is something that gives you the good feeling of exercise. You may go to the park, walk to the shops, walk to a friends or even just walk round the block. I love walking, as it always has the ability of helping me de-stress.
Listen to music- Music can be great. It is a good way to block the world out, which is good if that is what is giving you anxiety. I have a variety of music tastes, and one day I’ll be listening to Pantera, the next Steps, and then some Faithless. Because different things can trigger my anxiety, different music can ease it. Unfortunately, I have a habit of leaving my iPod (with my full music collection) at home, but that is where iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music come in handy. Every few weeks I make a new playlist. I pick a range of songs, from all different genres. It means, I can have the playlist saved to my phone, have music that is for my mood (whatever that may be), and it doesn’t take up all my phone’s memory.
Watch a TV show- This is hit and miss with me. I don’t have a lot of patience to sit and watch a TV show a lot of the time. But when I am in the mood, I can sit for several hours with the same program. The main services I use are Netflix and Crunchyroll. Again, I have a variety of shows that I am working through. So I can put on The Big Bang Theory when I need background noise, Pretty Little Liars when I want to sit and focus on something longer than 25 minutes or Naruto because I LOVE NARUTO. This again, is because my mood is never the same 2 days in a row, so I like variety.
Watch Youtube- I am addicted to youtube. It is the app I go on to when I am getting ready for bed. I love the variety. I love the variety of content that I can find on there. Watching some daily vlogs do inspire me sometimes, by seeing how motivated other people are, it kind of motivates me. I also like retro gaming, tech stuff (mostly mobiles and computers) and anime (Naruto) commentaries. The good thing is with youtube, especially on the most frequent app updates, you can click one video, and it will automatically set a playlist with similar videos, that it plays automatically. It never fails to cheer me up.
Draw something- I used to be better at this, than what I am now. Nothing I do, ever, compares to how drawing and painting makes me feel. Because of the lack of practice I do, the quality is kind of crappy, but that doesn’t even really matter to me. Whether the cat I drew, looks like a cat, doesn’t matter. I have bought myself these colouring books (the colouring for grown-ups, ones), and as much as I do enjoy them, they aren’t the same as doodling my own wee pattern, and colouring that in. My sketchbook is a mess, but it is mine, and sometimes I can look back and see progress in myself, in how I feel. Which is nice.
As I have said before though, you can do almost anything to distract yourself if you are struggling with mental health. But, do remember not to force yourself to do anything, give it a go, but if you can’t focus, stop. These things are usually so good at being distractions, because you enjoy doing them.
Mental health is hard. If you are really struggling, you can visit your GP for help. I have found both Breathing Space and Samaritans to be very helpful. You are never alone as what you feel, and there are so many people out there to help.