Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Blogmas Day 13: Mental Health Survival Guide

Hey, everyone! In these first two weeks of Blogmas, I've noticed that I'm quite prone to list-making. Of the thirteen posts that have gone up this month, five of them involve lists of some sort. I think I like lists because they do the organized part of my brain good, while offering a cheap and easy way to structure these posts. I would love to say that today is going to be different, but seeing as it's finals week for many of you and the holidays are just stressful in general, another list is in order. Today's list topic: Ways to Cope on a Bad Mental Health Day.

Whether you're having a random off day, you're hormonal, or you've actually been diagnosed with a mental disorder of some sort, we all have our bouts of bad mental health. This can be the result of hormonal changes, stress, the changing of the seasons, or just a bad night's sleep; regardless of why it's happening, it sucks. You feel like you're the only person in the world feeling how you're feeling, potentially the only person ever to feel this way, even though logically you know that's not true. And while it might seem like a good idea to bing-eat chicken nuggets and cry watching an old Disney movie (trust me, been there), it's not the answer. Maybe the nugs and Mickey Mouse feel good in the moment, but here are some surefire ways to cope. Notice I didn't say surefire ways to heal or fix your bad mental health days, but they'll put you on the right track.

Five Ways to Cope on a Bad Mental Health Day

1. Do something productive
When I'm feeling down, often it's either caused or accompanied by hopelessness. When I feel sad, my inner monologue says "You have always been sad, you will always be sad, there's no end to the sadness in sight." And, like I said above, logically I know that's not true, but a bad mental health day knows nothing of logic. Bad mental health days thrive on the illogical. That's why doing something productive helps. It's not always a huge item on the to-do list, (because when you're feeling really bummy, "Write 10-page paper in one sitting" doesn't exactly jingle your bells) but it's something that needs to get done. Preferably something that gets you out of the house and into the world. It can be as easy as getting the mail or running to the store for a carton of eggs. For some reason, as soon as you get up and do one menial task, you'd be surprised how those endorphins will start acting up and patting you on the back. Suddenly, you want to stop for a cup of coffee on the way home from the store, and suddenly you've killed thirty minutes and you have a latte. That's thirty fewer minutes being bummy, plus a shot of espresso. 

2. Put something nurturing and enjoyable into your morning routine
On those days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, if time permits, do an extra something good for your mind and body that you enjoy and don't normally have time to do. There's two key components here: 1) Good for you and 2) You enjoy. You have to find what that balance is for you. If you love cooking, take the time to make yourself a nice breakfast that's more involved than your normal milk and cereal. If you love meditating, give yourself five extra minutes of deep breathing. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, do that. For me, on bummy days, I enjoy taking extra care in my grooming routine. Generally, I love putting on makeup and making myself look pulled together, so if I'm feeling gross, I'll put on music I like and really take my time with the beautification process. For a lot of people I know, applying anything more than Chapstick sounds like torture, so that wouldn't work for them; point is, you have to find your thing.

3. Wear an outfit with buttons and/or zippers
This one is pretty straightforward. On bad mental health days, I know how tempting it can be to pull on a T-shirt and pants with an elastic waist. Avoid the temptation. You don't have to pull out all the stops, but wearing an outfit that requires even menial effort will make you feel a little more pulled together, which will give your confidence a little boost. Because let's be real, though you may technically feel comfortable, no one feels their best wearing sweats to work. 

4. Pack a bag
I keep on me, at all times, a little makeup bag that has in it everything I could possibly need in the event of a mild inconvenience or a full-blown emergency. It's comforting to know I have this, because it takes a lot of the guesswork and anxiety out of my normal routine, on even my best of days. Therefore, having it on bad days is essential. It's a huge relief to know that even though I'm not feeling my best, I have at my disposal: 1) lip balm 2) a lipstick that goes with everything 3) headphones 4) a compact mirror 5) hand lotion 6) roll-on perfume 7) cough drops 8) bobby pins 9) a hair elastic 10) a tampon 11) a prescription bottle of Xanax 12) bandages and 13) a vitamin-C supplement packet. Some of these items might seem silly or unnecessary to some of you, but I've found myself without each and every one of these items when I needed or wanted them, and trust me the outcome was stressful. Plus, keeping them all in one compact bag is part of the magic, because it makes transporting everything easy. Going to school? Slip the emergency pack in your backpack. Have an interview? Slip the emergency pack in your purse. Traveling? The emergency pack goes in your carry-on. You get the picture: it takes the guesswork out of day-to-day packing and gives you total peace of mind.

5. My old trusty trifecta
My last piece of advice is my most crucial. I've found that, above all else, there are really only three things you need on a bad mental health day. They might not totally fix it, but they will always make the situation a little better. Those three things are, in no particular order: Water, Shower, Nap. If you're feeling sad or overwhelmed or stressed or whatever, ask yourself: Am I thirsty? Am I clean? Am I tired? Often the answer to at least one, if not all, of these questions is no. And sometimes even if the answer is "yes," you should take the extra precaution anyway. It can't hurt to have another glass of water or a quick rinse in the shower or a twenty-minute power nap. Trust me, with this trifecta you cannot fail.

That's about it for me tonight, guys. I hope you all had a good day (and listened to some Taylor Swift, because it is her birthday after all!) and are settling into a good week.

See you tomorrow,
Lauren

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