More often than not, I struggle most days. I’m sure I pass for a normal adult. But sometimes I’m having a panic attack. Or every little noise makes me irritable. Every day has some amount of stress. The days I struggle with the normal stress are extra difficult. There are a few things I use as coping mechanisms to get me through most days. Sometimes I never leave my apartment and focus on a few of these things. I don’t think I could get by without this list. These are the things I need the most and sometimes don’t get enough.
1. Caffeine (Coffee/Tea)
It’s not uncommon for me to have several cups of coffee throughout the day. I’m trying to cut back by drinking tea in the evenings. As long as I get caffeine, I’m satisfied. Caffeine is a pain reliever. This is why I drink so much. If I’m not drinking coffee, I’m pills for pain relief. The pain is muscle aches. Hypertension. Even when I’m relaxed, I don’t feel relaxed. Caffeine doesn’t make the pain go away, but I don’t notice it as much. I also use the cup or mug as a barrier. I feel safer with that barrier between me and the world.
Finding a quiet place is difficult sometimes. Noises don’t always bother me. On bad days, nowhere is quiet enough. Not even my home. Libraries are great if seats are open. Sometimes I must have my back to a wall to feel safe. Sometimes the ambience of a coffee shop is soothing. On the worst days, listening to other people talk is so irritating I can’t be in public. I struggle with friends who feel if I’m not talking that means I’m angry. Usually I need to warm myself up to interact with others. That usually takes a couple hours and a couple coffees.
Writing is one of my passions. I couldn’t survive without the written word. I can convey my thoughts and emotions in written form better than verbally. It’s my way to vent. I get all my emotions out. It prevents me from bottling up everything. It has also helped me work through many of my mental health issues. Sometimes comments from others going through similar situations is enough to help me stay positive. Sometimes writing fiction is a great way to escape. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I couldn’t write down my thoughts and feelings.
4. Human Interaction
When I say human interaction, I mean spending time with loved ones. My support system. I haven’t always had a support system. I never knew how much being close to others could affect my life. I get upset if I don’t talk to this small group of people every day. Their interaction, or lack of interaction, with me can determine if I have a good or bad day. Sometimes we may not speak or text. But we share pictures or memes and it reminds me they’re thinking of me. That thought alone is enough to pull me away from the darkness of depression.
Many people read to escape. They want to imagine a life different from their own. This is part of why I enjoy reading. It’s helps my mental health because it clears my head. If I’m reading, I’m not overthinking something or stewing in negativity. I can focus my mind on the story, and this alleviates my anxiety. This is especially useful if I read before going to work. It’s relaxing and helps prepare me for any potential stress. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere. I could go several days without reading but I always have a book with me in case I need it.
Any kind of exercising can help one’s mental health but not everyone is built to spend hours at the gym. I lose interest in anything over a half hour. When I was in better shape, I could do 45 minutes. Walking, however, is something I can do all day every day. I stopped using my car so I could walk more, and I enjoy every minute of it. Recreationally, I can walk for an hour listening to music from my smartphone. I walk to work or to coffee shops or wherever. It’s exercise and I enjoy it.
7. Staying Busy
When I start running out of things to do, I feel depression spinning its ugly head in my direction. Keeping myself busy with work or projects, even games, helps me focus. When I’m focused on a task or project, I’m not having negative thoughts. I’m less concerned about what may or may not happen. Just like prioritizing tasks, I prioritize my thoughts. Worrying won’t get the job done. I stay busy so I don’t have time to worry. But I don’t get so busy that I feel overwhelmed. I keep a balance between projects and fun. Sometimes my projects are fun.
This is a difficult thing for me. Hugs are important for everyone. It helps one’s mental health overall. My problem? I don’t like other people touching me. I’ve worked on this over several years. Strangers should definitely never touch me. Acquaintances I’ll give a pass now and then, but I don’t go out of my way for hugs. The handful of people closest to me are the ones I accept hugs from without question. It’s taken me a long time to develop this. Even to allow myself to accept it from close friends. Overall, I don’t get many hugs. But when I do, it changes my world.
I’ve always had an interest in taking pictures. I recently acquired a new camera and I love it. I want to take pictures every day. I don’t know if it’s the task itself, or the act of creating something that makes my soul happy. I’m a creative person. I enjoy creating things. That may be all it is. Or maybe there’s something about photography that brings me more joy than other things. Regardless, it will always be a fun hobby and I recommend it to anyone looking for a creative outlet.
10. Sustainable Income
This is something no one thinks about until they don’t have it. I was unemployed for half of 2018. My mental health hit an all-time low during this time. Most people don’t think about how much financial stability affects their outlook on life. It was eye opening for me. It’s easier to find the good in the world when I happy to have food on the table and a roof over my head. No one can appreciate the small things in life until they no longer have the small things. Having enough money to survive with a little extra is enough. I don’t need all the money in the world. I only need enough.
All these things work for me and I recommend them to anyone looking for something that will help. I will caution that what works for me will not always work for someone else. Still, none of these things will hurt anyone if they try them. It costs nothing to try something you might enjoy.