For many, this year has dwindled our best to a bare minimum. The least we can do is take care of ourselves. Mental health care has taken a back seat in the lives of many, with most deeming it as unnecessary or unneeded, perhaps even a waste of time. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Self-care is more important now than ever and it is imperative that we all do our part to take care of not only ourselves but each other, in what continues to be one of the most unrelenting years of our lives. Of all the tips, tricks and cheats for mental-health care, I’ve discovered that the following three boost my spirits the most:
1. Indulge in creative endeavors, no matter how small.
Creativity can take many forms — journaling, scrapbooking, writing, cooking, anything works! It’s a world of possibilities in itself and, at least for me, a self-soothing escape from reality. Even something as simple as mindless doodling on scrap paper can be engaging, if not rewarding, and make space for you to foster new plans and ideas for your day-to-day life. One thing that’s gotten me through tough times has been character design and 3D character modeling. Even if I’m not especially well-versed in either of these things, they’re excellent ways to pass the time and highly rewarding to complete, even if they come out a bit wonky!
2. Practice mindfulness and unplug from social media.
Social media, while an excellent tool for connectedness in a time when we exactly can’t meet face-to-face, can also be negativity central. The human mind is programmed to handle only so much misery and “doom-scrolling.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, turn off social media for a bit. There are other, more productive ways to keep your hands busy. For example, try practical prep around your living space to clean up what may likely be transforming into a “depression den.” While browsing Twitter the other week, I found that my feed was cluttered with devastating news and it was seriously getting to my head. It got to the point where I was internalizing the problems and seeing them reflected in my own life in spite of them being non-existent. Rather than wallow in a hodgepodge of other people’s problems, I took the time to unplug and focus on other things, namely sprucing up my workspace.
3. Keep a crisis kit within arm’s reach.
Crisis kits, or mental health kits, are also incredibly practical tools. These special boxes are akin to medical first aid kits and are often a collection of practices, behaviors, intentions and strategies intended to support both mental and emotional sobriety. A highly individualized concept, anything and everything is fair game to have on hand for your kit. After all, it’s meant for you and only you! Common items include cherished DVDs, novels, silencing headphones, and even stuffed animals famously known to mitigate anxiety. Anything immediately recognizable by the senses — sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch — work wonders for your box and help to fortify new and useful coping skills. I find that nostalgic items work best and really help to ground me when I feel that I’m losing myself. One of my go-to things is the first sketchbook that I finished cover to cover. It helps to remind me of how far I’ve come and how much further I’ll go as well as remind me of all the wonderful memories I’ve made along my journey.
Naturally, what works for me may not work for you, but I’ve found that these three things lessen my worries and have silenced my bustling pessimist brain in times when I needed it most. I encourage you to explore the hundreds of ideas readily available for self-care and find what works for you. Most importantly, though, have fun while doing it! Self-care isn’t and should never be a chore. Doing things we enjoy is good for our health. The bottom-line: There are many small, but impactful ways for you to improve your mental health every day, don’t be afraid to give something a shot if it interests you.