The first mistake people make when trying to get themselves through something is lying to themselves and practicing coping mechanisms that they believe to be healthy, when in fact they are the opposite. For example, withdrawing from social settings and staying home alone to eat whatever your heart desires and listening to music that makes you cry is frankly very dumb. Isolating yourself doesn’t help! Seriously! I cannot stress that enough! Another common mistake is avoiding responsibilities that stress you out and pretending they don’t exist in the name of self care. Admit it, you know this is stupid. Those responsibilities will always be in the back of your mind, taunting you until they drive you to insanity, and you can’t force them to go away until you face them.
Healthy coping mechanisms are necessary and helpful and sometimes fun. They are one of my favorite things in the world, and their beauty comes from the fact that they can be used to cope with a wide range of roadblocks. Whether you’re broke and your family is dying and you think the lump in your armpit is cancer or you’re just struggling with boredom, finding a healthy way to handle your situation will help in an infinite amount of ways. Healthy coping mechanisms don’t make your problems go away, but they make it much easier to tackle whatever’s bothering you and to come out stronger. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react to things.
Everyone has a million and one things they have to accomplish on any given day. Being alive is stressful. Instead of sitting around dwelling on all your tasks and complaining about how awful they are, just get them done. Starting is the hardest part because there’s always a mental battle between handling your responsibilities right away or watching an hour of Netflix first, but once you get started you’ll find that whatever you have to do isn’t as bad as you were anticipating.
If you’re having trouble getting off your ass, begin by writing a list of whatever you have to do that day. Go out, by a cute planner or journal, and USE IT. EVERY DAY. By writing out a list, you’ll make it harder on yourself to avoid your responsibilities because they’re right there staring you in the face waiting to be crossed off. The satisfaction you’ll get from checking each item off your to-do list will be second to none, and it’ll make getting through your day easier.
The best thing about being productive is that once all the boring stuff is done and out of the way, you’ll feel so accomplished and relieved that your mental state will flourish. Being productive has never made anyone feel negatively. And as soon as you’ve crossed everything off your list, the rest of the day is yours to fuck around in any way that you please.
Distract yourself with things you love
Distracting yourself is different than ignoring your problems, and it is certainly healthier. You can find something to do that makes getting through the day easier and still acknowledge that your hardships exist. Finding a healthy balance is part of the struggle.
After my first semester of college, there was some tension in my house due to a lot of mistakes I made, and I found it hard to spend time at home. I spent two weeks in bed curled up in a ball crying and telling Alexa to play my “sad songs” playlist on repeat. The only thing I accomplished was digging myself into a deeper pit of depression. I can’t even begin to describe how idiotic that was of me. One day, I got myself out of bed and went to skate with my old hockey team. Forcing myself to be in an atmosphere where I felt comfortable and familiar was therapeutic for me. I was smiling and laughing, and it was 100% genuine. Even after leaving the rink and heading back home, my mindset was completely changed. Doing the thing I love most released a sea of endorphins, and I haven’t spent an entire day in bed since then.
Whether it be a sport or hanging out with your friends or painting or dancing like a complete idiot alone in your room, find something you enjoy doing and utilize it. It will feel forced at first, but eventually the enjoyment will come naturally and you’ll be a lot happier.
Write what you feel
I know writing can feel like a chore for a lot of people, but writing your emotions doesn’t have to be a five paragraph essay in MLA format. In fact, it doesn’t have to have any structure at all. No one is going to see what you write except you, unless of course you want to share it with others. Write in a way that makes sense to you. It’s hard to comprehend what we feel a lot of the time, but writing it out helps to visualize it and organize your thoughts so that you can better understand yourself.
I first started writing every day when I was in the psychiatric ward at St. John hospital. I was very emotionally distraught and I found it hard to stop my mind from racing, which prevented me from being at peace. One of the social workers gave me a notebook to write in, and since I had nothing better to do, I took her suggestion to write daily. I started out by writing lists of the different emotions I felt throughout the day. Bullet points of words like “bored,” “hopeless,” “conflicted,” and “terrified” turned into words such as “optimistic,” “accomplished,” “excited,” and “genuinely happy for the first time in a while.” It took no more than five minutes of my time each day, and it made a world of a difference. I saw each of my problems laid out in front of me in my notebook as opposed to scattered within my unorganized brain, and solutions to every negative emotion became more clear.
Explore different styles of writing until you learn what you’re comfortable with. Write in paragraphs, lists, run-on sentences, poems, or a language that you made up. It doesn’t matter how you write, just start somewhere and run with it. Write the first thing that comes to your mind, even if it doesn’t make sense. Don’t let writer’s block stop you. Just put pen to paper and kick depression’s ass.
Be careful with this one. Don’t blow an irresponsible amount of money on things you can’t afford or hook up with your ex or binge drink alone on a Monday because you think it will make you happy. Part of treating yourself is tending to your well being, and destructive decisions are not going to do you any good.
In order to really treat yourself, do things that make you feel good both mentally and physically. Exercise, do your makeup, curl your hair, make a homemade face mask, reorganize your entire room, try on outfits that make you feel hot and wear them around the house even if no one will see them. The possibilities are endless. Anything that makes you feel relaxed and refreshed can be used as a way to treat yourself.
I try to take one day a week to myself to unwind and treat the shit out of myself. I wake up whenever I want, get iced coffee, wear cozy clothes, take a long bubble bath surrounded by ocean-scented candles, listen to music that makes me feel upbeat and happy, and sit in bed reading or watching movies. Sometimes life gets in the way and I get too busy to fuck around for one whole day every week, and that’s okay. Just treat yourself when you can afford to, and you’ll thank yourself for it.
There are plenty of other healthy coping mechanisms that I could touch on, but that would quite honestly go on forever. The main point is to realize that what you’re doing isn’t helping and find a different route that makes adversity more bearable. Don’t do things that you’ll regret or that will drive you deeper into your sadness. Be smart and seek happiness, because it won’t come to you unless you actively pursue it.