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I had already been working from home for a couple of years before the pandemic hit (almost) a year ago. It’s stressful and can take a toll on your mental health, even without the rest of the world being thrown into a tizzy. If you’ve ever heard “advice for working from home” you’ll notice that they all tend to say the same thing:
Put on pants – it’ll help you get in that “work” mindset
Sit in a chair at a desk – no couches or beds
Do I always follow those pieces of advice? No, I don’t.
As part of my mental health resolutions, I wanted to set aside some time each week to spend alone. I feel like I’m constantly working and even though I enjoy what I do, I still need some time to step back, relax, and unplug for a bit.
I didn’t necessarily make any New Year’s resolutions for 2021 this year. I usually make writing goals, reading goals, etc. I decided to do something different in which those goals have been turned into quarterly goals. I have something I want to aim for and hope to reach it by the end of three months and keep moving forward.
So, I guess that’s my resolution overall: keep moving forward. No matter what it is.Read More »
A couple of weeks ago I talked about the Calm app and how I use it. I don’t use its full potential as I have the free version and it does what I need it to for now. Another app I use to help me with my anxiety and depression is called Daylio. This one is a journaling app and mood tracker. I’ve been using it every day for a year now and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
What is Daylio and what does it do?
The Daylio app is a mood tracker, first and foremost. There are five levels of moods you can add. I use the “traffic light” color scheme for my moods. So, they’re green, light green, yellow, orange, and red. The green is happy, productive, for example, and the red is angry, anxious, etc. You can give each color more than one mood which I find to be great.
You don’t just track your mood throughout the day though (you can update Daylio as often as you each day but it will “check-in” on you once a day). After inputting a mood along with the date and time you can write a journal entry that can be as short or long as you need it to be. Or, you don’t need to explain your mood at all. I personally like to add what I did during the day and why I feel the way I do. Sometimes I don’t know why I feel the way I do.
There are also “activities” you can add. For example, I have blogging, writing, reading, walking, baking, video games, and so much more. You can group them as well. So, I have an “appointments” group with activities such as a hair, doctor, dentist, grooming for Chip, etc.
It’s a great way to track your day. It’s quick and easy too.
Journaling is a great reliever
I’ve tried journaling so many times. I wrote in a notebook for years that’s still not filled up (though it’s almost filled) and I’ve also tried tracking my mood in a bullet journal. These methods work for so many people but I love the daily reminders from Daylio. I also love to see the progress I’ve made each week, month, and for the year.
Because you can add activities to the moods and your journal entries, you can see which activities tend to make you happier and ones that stress you out the most. You can find patterns and see how you can improve or figure out which things need to change and what don’t.
You learn a lot about yourself
Not only is journaling in some form a good habit to get into – whether you have anxiety, depression, something else, or nothing at all – you can learn a lot about yourself while doing so as well.
One of the things I love about Daylio is that you can also view your entries in a calendar form and they’ll show the different moods you’ve been in on each day.
I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d stick with Daylio for long. This is, without a doubt, the longest habit I’ve ever been in. At the time of writing this post, I haven’t used the app for quite a year yet, but I began using Daylio in late July 2019.
It was a rough year
I’ve probably said this enough but 2019 was a rough year and 2020 has been worse. Using Daylio to track my days – all the good and all the bad – has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression or anything else, I highly recommend this app. It’s great to track your mood and talk things out with yourself. Plus, the app is encouraging. There was one week where I didn’t have a single green mood and a pop-up appeared and basically said, “we’re sorry you’ve had a rough week but we’re glad you’re here.”
With that said, it’s encouraging and therefore motivates you to keep going. It does help.
At the time I had planned on writing this post there were a lot of things in the world that didn’t exist – COVID-19, to be exact. In fact, I held off on writing this post because I didn’t think it would be relevant for 2020. I think this is something that everyone can hear regardless of what’s going on though.
I have a couple of bullet journals because I like the idea of them. But they’re not really for me. I keep trying to find different ways to use them and fall up short. There’s one thing I use them for though that I’ve been consistent with and that’s making a list of “firsts.”
What is a list of “firsts?”
I did a lot in 2018. I traveled six months out of the year. Granted, four of those trips were weekend getaways, three of them being to the same place, and five out of the six was to a place I’ve been before. Still, it was a lot of traveling for me and I did go to someplace and new and try something different.
It was that year that I decided to keep track of a list of firsts. So, it’s sort of like a simplified journal but also a list of accomplishments.
I can’t exactly what made me think of the idea in the first place but I did it for 2018 and have been doing it every year since. (Admittedly, I don’t have much written down for 2020 since… well, we can’t exactly go anywhere.)
Why I think having a list of firsts is important
It’s such a simple task that requires little thinking and takes about five seconds to write down. Whenever you do something new, something different you never saw yourself doing before, or something that you’ve put off on doing because you were afraid to, for example, keeping a list of those things is important.
You’re acknowledging your accomplishments
I went to Canada in 2018. It was my first trip out of the country, it was my first trip without my parents, and my first trip on an airplane. (Sure, I had been on a plane once before but I was three-years-old and I don’t remember it.)
Not only that but the trip was totally spontaneous. My sister and I saw an opportunity and we jumped on it. That’s not how I roll. I’m a planner and I need to figure everything out to the last, precise detail before doing anything.
While there’s nothing wrong with being a planner, I think being spontaneous once in a while is good for anyone. It was an accomplishment for me because I jumped out of my comfort zone and you know what? I had a blast. It may seem simple to someone else but it was a huge deal for me.
You can see how much you’ve grown
I’ll tell you that there are things I did in 2018 that I never thought I would do years prior to that. I would talk about it, of course, but never thought I would actually do it. Or, not until I felt more like an “adult,” if that makes sense.
On the days you’re feeling extra down, you can also look back at the list of firsts that you’ve done in the past or that you’ve done recently. Trust me, it makes you feel better.
You can clearly see all the things you thought you “couldn’t do” but you did them anyway. Even if it took you a while. I didn’t drive on the highway until five or six years after I got my license. Even then it was with a friend and I’ve only gone on the highway once or twice by myself since then.
But I can still say I’ve done it and I can do it.
See how far you can go
I like to keep one continuous list for the year and then restart it for the following year. I write each new thing in a different color because it’s prettier that way, so why not? I don’t even bother to break it up into months. Normally that’s something I would do but I like to just see all that I’ve accomplished over the year rather than each month.
I think part of that is because if I see that I did five things one month and none in another month it’ll feel uneven and I’ll start to wonder why one month was “better” than the other. Of course, no month is better than the other. We all try new things when we’re ready to try them.
Try keeping a list of firsts and see how much you can accomplish in a year. Don’t push yourself – just note the little things.
There are a lot of apps out there to help with anxiety, depression, or mental health in general. A lot of these apps are like journals or they track your mood. These are things you can easily do in a notebook or a bullet journal, but apps normally track the patterns for you as well.
Calm isn’t necessarily one of those kinds of apps that is a journal or tracks your mood. It’s just as it sounds – calm.
What Calm can do
Okay, I kind of lied earlier. Calm does track your mood. I forgot it did that because I don’t use Calm for that. But, if you want, you can check-in with Calm. You can choose a mood and write about what’s going on and why you feel the way you do. However, you do need an account to do this.
There’s a free version of Calm and a paid version of it. I have the free version and it does just what I need it to do for now.
Calm has yoga and meditation as well as breathing exercises. There are also soothing music and bedtime stories. Most of this you need the paid version for. Which is why, eventually, I’ll probably pay for the app. For now, I mainly use the two free things I can: the breathing exercises and the scenes.
Calm has a cool part of the app where it’ll guide you through a breathing session. You can choose how long you want to breathe for and it’ll show a bubble that will enlarge and tell you when to breathe in, then shrink and tell you when to breathe out. It’ll also ring a small charm when you’re supposed to begin breathing in or out if you need to sit and close your eyes for a couple of minutes.
I’ll admit, I haven’t used this feature too often. I sometimes forget it’s there so I get too wrapped up in something else to think about it. But it’s a good idea and it’s definitely helpful to have something to guide you through breathing exercises depending on what you need it for.
This is what I mainly use the Calm app for. I use it when I work sometimes, when I read, when I’m doing a Sudoku puzzle or something, or just when I need to lie down for a few minutes, close my eyes, and relax.
These scenes create sounds on a loop such as rain on leaves, thunderstorms, a fireplace, ocean waves, and so much more.
The best part about this is that you can play the scenes with the app closed. So I typically have it on in the background on my iPad when I’m reading a book from the Kindle app.
I love the Calm app
I’ve had this app for years. I can’t even remember how I came across it or what made me want to download it in the first place. I use it all the time though and I won’t go back.
Calm is a great app for whenever you need to relax for a minute or an hour or longer. I highly recommend it to help with your mental health or just to have. I hope the get the paid version soon so I can talk about it even more.
Everyone needs a break. We all need downtime. This isn’t just on the weekends, either. This is something we should be doing every day, even if it’s only one thing for an hour or so.
Call a friend
I have to admit, I’m not the most social person there is. I’ve been more social in the past year or so than I’ve ever been, ironically enough. This is a good thing, of course, but there are times when we don’t want to socialize. We love our friends and family but we’d rather stay home in our pajamas, shutting out the rest of the world. This is okay too, once in a while.
However, something to do on a daily basis is to call a friend or family member, even if the conversation is only ten minutes. Check-in with them, let them check in with you. Let them know you’re thinking about them and you miss them.
Do not text them, either. Call them on the phone or FaceTime them. I personally hate talking on the phone, but you’ll feel better after hearing their voice or seeing their face.
Read a book
As a book reviewer, I’m always needing to read books. I’m always getting review requests from authors. I enjoy this and I love reading, so there’s no complaining about it over here.
However, sometimes you need to sit down and read a book you want to read. Don’t read something because you’re aiming to write a review on it for the blog. Don’t do it because an author is waiting for you to get through it. Read something that’s been on your TBR list for a while.
Of course, I try to review every book I read whether an author inquired about it or not, but when you’re reading something you picked up for yourself, try not to think about it. Just sit back and enjoy it.
Make a list
I don’t know about you, but I love making lists. It helps me feel organized and that calms me down. I make a list for everything – I have daily to-do lists, weekly to-do lists, and monthly to-do lists. I create a list of tasks for my jobs, a list of events I need to remember for the month and so on.
What I don’t make lists of often enough are positive ones. This is especially good to do when you’re having a rough day. Sit down and make a list of things you’re happy about. List the things you’re grateful for. List the things you love. List positive traits about yourself. List goals or make a bucket list.
This is a great place to store those positive affirmation lists you create. On the other hand, a journal is a great way to keep track of your good days as well as the bad ones.
Write down something that upset you and turn your thinking around to put a positive spin on it or things you can do to let it go.
Write down something good that happened to you to preserve the memory. Allow it to be something positive for you to look back on when you’re having a rough day.
Listen to music
Sometimes we just need to sit down and listen to some music. I personally love classical and instrumental songs. Those can be, for the most part, calming in themselves. However, if you prefer something more upbeat and hardcore, that’s fine too.
Take the time to put on some headphones, lay down, and listen to a couple of your favorite songs. This will allow you some alone time, decompress from the day, and meditate for a bit.
I don’t know what it is about coloring, but it is so relaxing. Take a coloring book and work on a page or two. Alternatively, you can break out all the arts and crafts supplies you have and create something from scratch.
Whether you do it alone or you have a friend beside you, it’s a lot of fun, relaxing, and carries your worries away.
Take a bath
Throw in a bath bomb or bubble bath, light a candle, and soak in some warm water. Put on some light music or read a book, but soaking in a warm tub is one of the more glorious things ever. At least, in my opinion, it is.
I’ll admit, I don’t take baths in the summer (because who wants to sit in a cold tub regardless of the temperature outside)? Still, it’s a great thing to do when you have the winter blues or you just need some time alone.
Alternatively, you can sit in the shower for a long period of time as well. But the hot water will run out and that’s a sad thing, indeed.
Take a walk
If it’s a nice day outside, you might as well go for a walk and soak up some sunshine. A little exercise does everyone good. The vitamin D will help as well. You’ll feel better after getting up and moving for a bit.
On the flip side if the weather is lousy or it’s too cold, get up a move a bit in your house. You don’t need to have an in-home gym or exercise equipment. Just do some stretches or yoga. Not only does it keep your body in shape but it also takes your mind off some things.
Watch a movie
Put a movie you haven’t seen in a while. Watch one of your favorites. Watch something that makes you laugh. Or, put on something that will make you cry (sometimes you just get in that mood to have a good cry).
For me? I normally put on the Harry Potter movies. I always cry in movies six, seven, and eight. I laugh during every single one. It’s great storytelling with wonderful characters and actors. Plus, it’s just something familiar and makes me feel at home and at peace, despite them preparing for war.
This is the most important one. Turn off your phone. Don’t watch the news. Stop checking your email. Don’t refresh any of your social media accounts. If you need to talk to someone, don’t text – call. If you’re going to read a book, pick up a paperback or hardcover. Give your eyes a break from the screen. If you’re home with family, get out a deck of cards or play a board game.
The possibilities of not having a screen in front of you are endless. Your brain and eyes will thank you for it later.
In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ten years later, in January 2020, another diagnosis was added to my list: Dysthymia.
When I left my doctor’s appointment last January, I checked my updated chart and noticed a new diagnosis. My appointment was a routine check-up but I also wanted to touch upon my mental health.
Since being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2010, I never understood it. I didn’t take the time to learn about it, to learn about myself. I thought a diagnosis meant something was wrong with me. There’s no “cure” for such a thing, but I wondered how I could “fix” myself. It was until 2018 or so that I started to dive into researching this mental illness. I started to understand the way I think and why I think that way. I read stories from other people with similar problems and it was nice to see I’m not the only person who would react in such a way during a certain situation.
2019 was rough
This is no secret. I probably complained about 2019 as a whole, countless times – to friends and family, on the internet in live streams, social media or blog posts, and more. It was a weird year where a lot of things happened and my mental health wasn’t great on top of it. What bothered me the most was that I didn’t know what was causing my dip in mental health.
Was it because of all the hardships that 2019 brought with it? Was it my anxiety finding a new way to present itself? I wasn’t sure, but I was sad. All the time.
I still worked (for the most part – some things fell to the wayside, like this blog), I still went out with friends and family. Deep down, I was sad and moody though. Some days there was a reason for feeling like this and other times, there wasn’t. On most days it didn’t matter how I felt, I was tired. I was beyond drained all the time.
Anxiety does this to you but I had never felt like this before. I wasn’t sure if it was my anxiety getting worse for some reason so I tried all I could to keep it at bay, dong things I learned from my therapy sessions years ago. I wondered if I needed to go back on medication for my anxiety. I toyed with the idea of going back to therapy. I hoped I could figure it out on my own though.
In the end, I waited for my physical to arrive and I would get my doctor’s opinion.
From April 2019 to January 2020
The end of April was when it started. Each day, I kept thinking it would get better. A lot of real-life things were happening and I figured I was stressed out and my anxiety was having a field day because of it. Some days were better than others, of course. On those better days, I thought I was good and there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it never lasted too long.
My grandmother was in and out of the hospital from November 2018 to February 2019. My sister had a baby in March 2019, which was great. Then my grandfather was in and out of the hospital from April 2019 all the way until December 2019. As you can tell, 2019 was filled with a lot of hospital visits, a place that already gives me anxiety regardless. So, as you can probably tell, this is why I thought I felt sad and stressed all the time. Things were weird.
I want to take a quick minute to apologize to 2019
I’m going to interrupt myself for a second.
2019 sucked, but I have to admit that I’m grateful now for all those things happening when they did. My grandparents are both home and well (as well as they can be, at least).
I can’t imagine my grandparents and my sister having a baby in 2020 in the middle of the Coronavirus. 2019 took one for the team, I have to say. If my grandparents didn’t have their problems in 2019, they would have had them in 2020.
Due to the virus, I wouldn’t have been able to visit them. My grandfather’s immune system is shot and my grandmother’s fragile. Both of them probably would have caught the virus and not been here with us today.
So, despite my complaining and nasty words to 2019, I’m changing my perspective and apologizing for being rude to 2019. It was rough, but my family got through it, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that it happened then and not now.
I’m lucky enough to save my thoughts and prayers for all those who are being truly effected by the virus right now.
I suspected I had depression
Anyway, I knew anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand. I wondered if I was depressed (it was a question when I was diagnosed with anxiety ten years ago) but some part of me didn’t think that was the case. 2019 had a lot going on. (There’s more to it than what just happened with my family, but I’m not going into the other details.)
When I talked to my doctor, he mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder – which is something else I’ve noticed about myself. I tend to get down more so in the winter months than any other time. However, since this was going on for nearly a year and it started in spring, he was hesitant about it.
Dysthymia was the conclusion
We had a good discussion and, honestly, I’ve felt better since talking to him. I still have my days, of course, but the sadness wasn’t as prominent once I officially was diagnosed.
Of course, I looked at my chart and noticed “Dysthymia” was listed. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it – my doctor never mentioned it. I Googled it when I got home and, according to Google, Dysthymia is “persistent mild depression.”
So, there we have it. After ten years, ironically to the month, I have a type of depression. After ten years, my suspicions about myself were right.
I knew there were different types of anxiety but when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I hadn’t heard that specific type before. Dysthymia is the same way. I know there are different types of depression but dysthymia is not something I’ve ever heard of.
What a decade
While so many people were looking back at their decades from 2009 through 2019, during the month of January 2020, I looked back at my mental health from the last decade. I feel like I was just beginning to make strides and truly understand generalized anxiety disorder and myself. Now I feel like I’m going back to the drawing board.
This isn’t a bad thing – it’s who I am, it’s the cards I was dealt. I’m older and have a clearer head on my shoulders now at the age of 26 rather than when I was 16. I won’t shove my diagnosis aside and try to be “better.” I won’t wait eight or nine years to learn more about my mental illness and myself. Yet, while I feel a little better having an official diagnosis, I feel sort of bad at the same time. I thought I was doing great and, while I suspected this for a while, it seemed to have come out of nowhere.
But I’m okay and I’ll figure it out.
Mental Health Monday
This is another reason why I decided to turn Mental Health Monday into a weekly feature instead of monthly. I want to learn more about my mental illnesses. I want to learn more about myself.
I know I’m not the only person dealing with mental illness. I know I’m not the only person who’s trying to figure things out. I know I’m not the only person who is confused by their diagnosis. I know I’m not the only person who hates their mental illness one day and then is at peace with it and accepts it the next day.
I know I’m not the only person who sometimes feels I’m the only one in the entire world with generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymia.
Something that has always been hard for me is pacing myself when it comes to work, family, friends, and life in general. I’ve always had a hard time relaxing and this particular situation with COVID-19 has ironically helped me to slow down a bit.
My old routine
It took me a long time to get into a routine with running a blog. Between creating content, adding images, social media marketing, engaging on social media and the comments, and everything in between, finding that right routine for it all was hard. There are only so many hours in each day.
I used to work on one project each day. For example, Sundays are for my Double Jump blog while Mondays were for this blog. The other days of the week had a specific project assigned to them as well. This worked for a little bit but it slowly tapered off. Once I checked something off my to-do list, it seemed I had added another three tasks to it.
Before I knew it, I was stressed and overwhelmed trying to get so many things done in one day. On top of that, I had to nanny in the afternoon, I’d get emails from my church of things to do there as well, plus other last-minute tasks that would worm their way onto my daily list.
How this lockdown has helped
I’ve fortunate I’m not sick and I don’t know anyone who is sick. I know people whose immune system is compromised (such as myself) and I have grandparents whose immune systems are shot. I know what it feels like to be scared that something may happen and we’re all doing the best we can to stay home and distance ourselves from friends and family. It’s hard, but it’s for the best.
I thank my lucky stars each day that I’m healthy and everyone I know is healthy. I pray for the people who have been affected by this virus physically and mentally and for those who know others who have been affected by this virus. It’s a terrible thing and we all need to do our best to stick together, do the right thing, and be kind to one another.
In a weird way, I feel as though this stay-at-home order is forcing me to slow down. The circumstances are weird and not good, but it’s allowed me to take some time to really look at my daily routines and figure out that I need some changes.
My workdays before quarantine
I normally wake up early and jump into work right away (after grabbing a cup of coffee, of course). This work is blogging, writing, freelancing, business, book reviews, church stuff, anything and everything. Because I nanny in the afternoon, I cram it all in within five to six hours before leaving to get the kids from school. Then by the time I get home, it’s dinner, shower, and just about bedtime because I’m exhausted from the day.
Now that everything has been canceled and closed, I don’t need to nanny in the afternoons. Both parents are home so the kids and I FaceTime once in a while to keep in touch but that’s about it until this is over. I miss them and I miss the routine of going out every afternoon, but I now have four to five hours added back to my weekdays. For the time being, I no longer need to compress all my work into a few hours. I can stretch it the whole day.
The first week was rough
I didn’t know how the handle everything the first week. I buried myself in video games and ignored the outside world all the while constantly refreshing the news and getting mad at myself for it getting more and more stressed and scared. I got no work done so, on the second week, I knew I needed to do something. I needed to ease myself back into my routine, even though it was going to be a different routine.
I no longer needed to nanny in the afternoon. I no longer had to worry about church. (I’m still working for church, but I don’t need to worry about my Sunday school lessons at least). I work from home anyway, but now my mother was home. My sister was home every other day. My dad, unfortunately, still needs to go into work every day. My family is fine and they don’t bother me while I work, but it’s still odd to have them home anyway, especially when I’m on video calls or live streaming.
I needed to ease back into it
In between the news and getting used to being stuck inside the house all day with my family who are supposed to be at work, I realized I needed to ease myself back into working and also to find a new routine, even if it’s a temporary one. Well, this “temporary” routine seems to be working great for me.
Not only am I feeling productive throughout the day but I’m also finishing with enough time left over at the end of the night to play games with my family, watch a movie, have some “me” time, or chill with a video game or a book. The way I’ve changed my routine is the simplest thing too.
I work on a lot of different things. I run two blogs, started a podcast, I live stream, I work at my church, I have my creative writing, do freelance work, and so much more. This is why I originally decided to dedicate one day to each thing, but that’s obviously didn’t work. The to-do list for each project is miles long and it’s so hard to get it all done within one day or even just a week or month.
I started looking at all the tasks I needed to do for each project and prioritized them. I started doing one task from each list every day. For example, I write one blog post for here a day. I write one blog post for Double Jump. Soon, I create a backlog of posts so if I ever need to skip a blog post for a day, that’s okay.
There are some projects that I don’t work on every day. There are some projects I do multiple tasks for each day depending on when they’re due and/or how time-consuming the are.
I don’t know why I haven’t done this before. Doing one task for each category has, somehow, allowed me to get so much more done during the day. I’m even back into my routine of working on my novels daily. (That’s also a huge thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo but it’ll keep going through May and beyond… I assume it will, anyway.)
Pacing yourself is so important
I rambled a bit in this post and I didn’t mean to. I mostly meant to discuss the importance of pacing yourself and what I’m doing. I threw so much backstory in there, but… this isn’t a novel. I’m not editing it out. If you read it, good for you. Thanks. If you skimmed and skipped to this part, good for you too.
We all need to work so we can make money and survive in this weird world. However, in order to work smart we need to take care of ourselves. That includes getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, getting a decent amount of exercise… but it also means taking care of your brain. You can’t expect yourself to work on everything at once and do it all in one day.
I don’t know why I always thought I could. I’ve been finishing my day around dinner time if not before. It’s been a normal work day for people with day jobs. I start between six and seven in the morning and I’m done around three or four in the afternoon. It’s a great feeling. I’m less stressed about my work because I feel like I’m making progress on everything throughout the day. Not to mention I’m able to spend more time with my family and have some downtime to relax, something I rarely do.
My sleep schedule is still off (it always is) but I feel somewhat refreshed each day. There have been days where I’ve worked so much that the next morning, my brain doesn’t want to do anything. It doesn’t matter if I slept well or not, I overworked it the day before and it still wasn’t ready to get back into it. Now I’m able to wake up and keep that timely routine of getting my work done in a good time.
Take this time to take care of yourself
Some of us are stuck at home. Some of us are still working. Some are taking care of others, some are worried about their family and friends. The best thing we can do right now is to adjust to this new (but temporary) “normal.” A great way to do that is to find a good routine to keep things as normal as possible but pace yourself in doing so. Take the time to hang out with your family and enjoy the nicer weather.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go practice what I preach.
It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had a Mental Health Monday. A lot of things have changed within the past couple of months and, instead of writing an article about mental health, I figured we can use this time as a check-in.
What’s going on with me
It’s no secret I’ve been in hiding the past year or so. I felt awful putting my blog on hiatus but there was no sense in me continuing to write blog posts when I had no ideas, no motivation, and no means to interact in the comments. Everything felt like a chore. I’ve missed you guys and I mean no offense to anyone who reads and supports my work, but it was hard to keep up with it all for a while.
I tried to come back a couple of times, but those times only resulted in me writing a, “I’m Back!” post and then disappearing for another month or two. I eventually decided to save it for January – new month, new year, a new decade. Makes sense, right?
Except life doesn’t exactly take into account the date. If you’re having a rough time, it’s not all going to go away simply because a month or the year has come to an end. What you put off today will still be there tomorrow. Bottled up feelings and energy will be there when you wake up the next morning.
It’s easy to say, “There are three days left of the month and it’s been a wash. Let me make plans for the following month and I’ll start fresh on the first.”
Honestly, this works sometimes. But a lot can happen in those three days whether you decide to start early or wait to begin that list. If you wait, something else might come up and you’ll find yourself saying the same thing a month from now.
I worked on stuff. I did things behind the scenes to prep the blog and my other creative projects for 2020. When 2020 came, I wasn’t ready to get back into it. There was still behind-the-scenes work to be done and I continued that instead.
Back to blogging
They always say it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after a long hiatus. For example, if you’re sick and need to miss school for a week. It’s so hard to go back the following Monday morning. Your classmates bombard you with questions, you have a ton of make-up work to do, and you need to get back into your routine of waking up early and doing homework in the afternoons.
I think that was partly my feeling when I thought of blogging again. I wasn’t ready to commit to a daily schedule again. Between brainstorming content, writing the content, creating graphics, social media scheduling, reading and replying to comments, and everything in between on top of all my other projects.
Needless to say, I changed that. I may still be creating daily content but most of it isn’t something I need to do daily. My social media schedule has lessened. If I skip a day here or there of publishing a blog post, then so be it. I won’t beat myself up over it.
Weekly Mental Health Monday
With all that said, Mental Health Monday is now a weekly feature on the blog instead of monthly. It sounds backward considering I said I was going to lessen my content and I’m moving a monthly feature to weekly, but I think this is needed.
Not just for me, but for you guys as well.
What’s happening with the world
Aside from it being hard to get back into the swing of things in January, something else happened that month (which I’ll speak about in a separate Mental Health Monday post soon – nothing too alarming, everything is okay) and also COVID-19 took over the world.
By the time the virus got to where I live, it was late February/early March. (I think. I’ve lost track of all days at this point.) The news constantly updates. Something is changing every moment of every day. It’s hard to keep track of it all and yet, there are days when I try not to keep track of it all. When this all started I found myself constantly refreshing Twitter. Every time the governor was on TV, I sat down and watched or asked my mom for an update.
I never watch the news. The news is depressing and it freaks me out.
Everything has been turned upside. I lost my nannying job since the kids aren’t in school and both parents are now working from home for the time being. I miss the kids, of course, and it is nice to have those extra hours added to my day so I can work on my business and creative projects. However, I’m a freelance writer, I’m in business for myself. I still nanny because it’s a steady stream of income for me and I’ve lost that.
My two closest friends got laid off from their jobs. My mom is home but my sister and dad are considered “essential” workers. Who knows what they’re coming in contact with or what they’re bringing home. Our routines are totally up in the air right now.
We’re lucky enough that no one is sick and we don’t know anyone who is sick, but we’re still staying away from each other as much as possible. My cousins can no longer come over for dinner. My uncle gave my mom flowers the other day but he didn’t come inside the house.
We’re living in weird times. It’s unnerving and it’s sad.
I don’t know how long this is going to last. I do know that even when the virus has had enough, the effects from it will linger on for a while. I hope we’ll be much better, kinder people when this is all over.
Welcome back, Mental Health Monday
With that said, this feature needed to come back. We need to stick together, be kind to one another, and check in on our friends (real-life and internet), family, and neighbors.
I’m thinking the first Mental Health Monday of each month will be a short and sweet check-in post. Similar to this one, but much shorter and less of a rant. (I felt the need to explain myself about where I’ve been and what I want to do with this feature.)
I’d like for everyone to keep in touch and keep each other’s spirits up. I want this all the time too, not just because a virus has been spreading through the world. Hopefully, this will help someone out there.
How are you guys?
So, let’s check in with one another. How are you guys doing? What have you been up to? I hope you’re all safe and healthy. Let me know in the comments below and we’ll catch up. If you need to talk, I’m here.
Thankfully, I haven’t had an anxiety attack in a while. I used to get them frequently when I was in school and, on occasion, I’ll get the feeling that I’m going to have one, but tend to talk myself out of it. If I do have an anxiety attack though, this is what it typically feels like for me.
Usually, when I begin to have an anxiety attack, I start to get a hot flash everywhere. I get clammy hands, sweaty everywhere, it’s gross. And it’s not a nice feeling either. I think I start to feel this way when I get overwhelmed and my body is trying to tell me to step outside and just get some air. When I begin to feel this way, I try my best to find a bathroom just to splash some cold water on my face or anything to cool myself down.
I love the summer, it’s my favorite season. I also would rather be hot than cold. However, that doesn’t help when I’m out in public and get hot. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s the weather or I’m about to have an anxiety attack… in which case, I often work myself up to have an attack.
Shaking and Dizziness
These two go hand in hand sometimes. I’ll feel shaky and unsteady on my feet or get the feeling that the floor is moving or uneven. Then I’ll get dizzy and start to feel claustrophobic. I normally get this way in stores or restaurants. I felt this way all the time when I was in school. If I’m in a place that has little to no windows, then forget it. The entire room will be spinning for me.
I normally try to find a way out of where ever I am when I start to feel this way. Depending on the situation, I can sometimes stick it out, but I usually need to leave.
If the anxiety attack gets far enough, I’ll lose my vision. I’ll basically blackout, but I’m not passed out. I’m still conscious and can hear things going on and such, but I just can’t see. It’s a weird thing and I don’t know if that happens to anyone else or not. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened in a while, but when it does, I just have to sit and let it pass. Once it does, I’ll be dizzy for a few moments while my body gets back to normal.
Shortness of Breath
This usually happens at any time, but mostly if the anxiety attack gets bad enough that I need to just let it pass and get through it. A million things can go through my head when I have an attack because it feels like I’m dying. Thus, shortness of breath. I also have asthma so mix that in with thinking I’m dying and… yeah.
Once all of this is over, I’m down for the count for the rest of the day. It puts such a strain on my mind and body that I am super tired. The last thing I want to do is work, socialize, go anywhere, or do anything. It’s not fun.
Of course, tiredness comes with the package as a whole. Anxiety makes me feel tired all the time and having an attack just makes it worse.
Overall, anxiety attacks aren’t fun and I know people experience different things when they have an attack. I also know some are more severe than others. This is what I usually go through when I have an anxiety attack. Luckily, as I said before, I haven’t had one in a while. Usually, I tend to get them in the middle of the night too so at least it doesn’t interfere with work or anything else during the day. It doesn’t make it any less annoying though.
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When it comes to anxiety, some triggers for myself are known and some aren’t. Going to the movies is one of those known triggers for me. In fact, movies, in general, can be a trigger for me. However, I finally went to the movie theater for the first time in forever a few months ago.
Honestly, I have no idea why movies are a trigger for me. I’m not one for blood and gore and, I think, with the more serious kinds of movies, not knowing what to expect or what will happen throws me off. I used to be able to watch superhero movies like Iron Man with ease and now that kind of stuff bothers me. I still watch them though because I love those movies, but I can only take one or two movies at a time.
I can watch PG-13 movies to a certain point, but I’ve never watched a rated R movie before (not willingly, at least). Needless to say, I can’t and will never do horror. There are exceptions, of course, though when watching a movie for the first time, it can be rough for me.
Why they’re a trigger for me, I don’t know. I think a lot of it stems from school. We’d watch movies that, I personally believe, were not age-appropriate. In ninth grade, my biology teacher gave the substitute a movie for us to watch and it was similar to America’s Funniest Home Videos but it was called That’s Gotta Hurt and was totally bloody and people were getting hurt and screaming. It was not entertaining in the least bit. The sub happened to be the most infamous one among all the students and he refused to let me go to the nurse thinking I was trying to get out of class… because we were totally busy, right?
Long story short, I had an anxiety attack and passed out in front of the class.
In eighth grade, we watched a rated R movie about some war and I have certain bloody scenes embedded in my mind.
In fifth grade, we watched Pirates of the Carribean. I love that movie now, but at the time, I was deathly afraid of the pirates and skeletons. I spent that whole time with my eyes closed.
In third grade, that was when 9/11 tragically happened. My teachers were in a panic and, rightfully so, couldn’t focus on work. They brought in the TVs to the classrooms and we watched it all happen on live TV. Their reasoning was that it was “history in the making.” Of course, they didn’t mean that in a good way. I can’t begin to imagine what people went through who were actually present and had loved ones pass away. However, for an eight-year-old watching that live on TV… it was pretty scarring.
Needless to say, whenever I saw a TV in the classroom, I immediately felt anxiety to the point where I would fake being sick or lie to my teachers and tell them my parents didn’t allow me to watch whatever it was we were watching.
I Shied Away From Movies
Throughout the years, I became more and more distant to movies. Cartoon movies and such are totally fine but rated R and some rated PG-13 movies along with live-action or even CGI are tough for me to watch. Despite all that I just said, I still don’t entirely understand why. Again, I think it may be the unknown of what’s going to happen in the movie but I haven’t pinpointed the exact reasoning.
This grew to affect the movie theater as well. I was never one for loud noises, crowds, or the dark – all of which can describe a movie theater. I stopped going to the theater when Fantastic Four came out in 2015. I went with Kris and our friend and I ended up leaving in the middle of the previews. I never went back to the theater after that. Only on the occasion when a new Disney movie came out or something. Then I might go, but I usually waited for the DVD. That way, I could pause and walk away if I needed a break.
Aside from the occasionally Disney movie exception, there was one movie in particular that I was determined to see.
Detective Pikachu came out in May 2019 and I couldn’t resist not seeing it. It’s Pokemon, which I adore, and I’ve been waiting for this movie for so long. CGI and live-action have been daunting to me because there can be some scary or trippy scenes. (And there was.) But, I made it work.
I’ve never forced myself to work on going to the movie theater. One thing I learned from therapy was to pick and choose my battles. School gave me anxiety, but I needed to work through that as it was stopping me from doing something important in my life. Going to the movies is just a fun activity that I could live without. Plus, there are DVDs and streaming. In fact, it saves me money in the long run.
I didn’t want my anxiety to stop me from seeing a Pokemon movie though. It was something I looked forward to for so long. Being in the gaming community, I would have sorely missed out on Twitter conversations talking about the movie. It’s not the same watching it on a DVD for the first time months after everyone has stopped talking about it.
I Was Prepared
We got our tickets early and went opening weekend so we could get the special Detective Pikachu Pokemon cards (another incentive for me to go). So, I knew it was coming for a few weeks. I was mentally preparing myself.
When I go to the movies, I have my worry stone and bring a cold drink and a snack. The food helps me focus on something else if I need a distraction from the big screen in front of me. For Detective Pikachu, I hid an entire bag of cheese pretzels in my backpack – they were so good!
I sat in between Kris and our friend Nickie and we were also in the back, which I prefer if I need to step outside for some air. I also had two other friends with me to cuddle with – Detective Pikachu himself and Psyduck.
Kris and I went to Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks before the movie and I found plush toys from the movie. Psyduck talks and Detective Pikachu, oddly enough, doesn’t. I got both of them though because Psyduck is one of my favorite Pokemon and Detective Pikachu is the title character. ($40 later…)
I had both plushes in my lap throughout the movie (I even brought them into the restaurant with us for dinner before the movie). I had anxiety, yes. That was to be expected. However, when the movie actually started, all of that seemed to go away.
I’m Still Anti-Movie Theaters
After that, I’ve gone back to the theater to see Toy Story 4 and that’s it. I had a good time at Detective Pikachu, but I’m still not thrilled of the idea of going to a movie theater. As fun as seeing Detective Pikachu was, it took a lot out of me. I’m going to continue picking and choosing my battles.
But at least I can say I won that one.
Can you relate to any of this? What was the last movie you saw at the theater? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!