Mental Health Monday – Let’s Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

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I wasn’t able to post while I was out of town on my family emergency, but this gives me the opportunity to remind everyone that suicidal thoughts can come at any time, and having our resources and coping mechanisms in place constantly is a must for those suffering and recovering from them.

Suicidal Awareness and Prevention is an ongoing struggle and our bad days don’t neatly fall within the prescribed awareness month.

We still need to do self check ups and check up on our friends and family who we know are at risk.

Even though this is October, here is the link to a graphic that I found helpful. Original sourcing is included at the link.

REPOST: Coping Skills Toolbox

Mental Health Monday – MY Coping Tools

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For this penultimate Mental Health Monday for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I thought I would offer a few of my personal coping mechanisms and tools. I usually go through my things that work until they don’t and then go for the less good ones. You never know which combination of tools and mood will break out of those bad days.

As much as I love fall, October in particular, I find it a bit more stressful than the rest of the year (until late spring). It’s hectic. The school’s want so much, the weather changes throughout the day from summer to later fall, and then back again. We’re close enough to Christmas that we’re worrying how we’re going to pay for it all. The church is beginning its new year at the end of November, and this year I have a few new responsibilities on that front. My son’s birthday is in October, and from then until the anniversary of my mother’s death the first week in December, it’s like a ticking bomb, counting down to her death, like it did in retrospect eleven years ago.

I try to get myself set up with a retreat; not always feasible especially monetarily. I also have my writing group that meets for eight weeks in the fall. Except that it was cancelled last week for this season. *headdesk*

I guess in addition to giving you some helpful hints and resources, I’ll probably be using many of them myself.

First is my writing workshop. I need it. Desperately. My plan? Go to the library anyway at the time the workshop would have taken place, and work on my two books. They’ve been waiting in the wings for too long. One is a travel, essay, spiritual journey to and about Wales, and the second is the horror of buying my house. The first one is too much emotion, and the second one is too much anger, so I can’t handle them for very long. Now, I have a dedicated eight weeks to put a dent in their outlines and direction.

Second is it’s list season. I’ve told my family already: If it isn’t on my list, it doesn’t exist. I knew they knew I was serious when they didn’t comment on my little rhyme. My advice is to put absolutely everything on the list, including reminders to eat and go the bathroom. You’d be surprised how often you’ll forget without that check up on yourself.

My list for tomorrow looks something like this:

Kids to school
Get dressed
Mass
Target – toilet paper and Dawn
Groceries – cheddar cheese, rice, and Yartzeit candles (for Yom Kippur)
Breakfast
Continue cleaning my work space while Supernatural plays in the background
Write Friday’s fandom post about Gishwhes
Check Gishwhes site for updates

Seriously, no item is too small or too big. Too big use several steps, so break them down and pat yourself on the back when you complete something.

Third, I mentioned Supernatural as background noise. This is my comfort sound, especially the earlier seasons. Find what you like but don’t need to pay 100% attention to. It could be music. Talk radio. Nature sounds. We all have that one thing. Find yours.

Fourth, comfort food. Macaroni and cheese is an old standby (Kraft in the blue box), but last week I had the most intense craving…..and then I had the most amazing peanut butter and banana sandwich on toasted wheat bread that I have had in a long time. It was……fantastic.

Fifth, it’s okay to just sit and do nothing. Watch TV. Listen to music. Read a book or better yet, a magazine, so you don’t need to give it the same attention as a book. Take a nap if it will help.

Sixth, catch up on Netflix. I can heartily recommend Sense8 (warning for language, sex, adult situations, and violence) and Parks and Recreation (warning for sexual talk and adult situations).

Seventh, take care of yourself. Say no to people if you don’t have the spoons. It’s okay, and don’t apologize for taking care of yourself.

Mental Health Monday – Belonging Spaces

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Before I talk about belonging spaces, I would like to briefly introduce my philosophy about depression. No matter how many therapy sessions you go to, no matter how many medications you take, depression is always there, just below the surface, trying to control you. You’re job is to control it. We all have different levels of depression, but I do believe that recovering from depression is a continuous recovery. It’s not the twelve steps of alcoholism, but I have a similar philosophy to that, in that I always need to be aware of the ebbs and flows of my mental health, and pay attention to when I need to bring extra coping mechanisms into play.

One of the things that I learned as I began my climb out of severe depression and into depression recovery was that I needed a belonging space. We have a decent sized house for our family, but none of the spaces were solely mine and in the depths of the worst of it, I spent a lot of time sitting in my car. It was quiet and I was alone, but it was also bleh.

I don’t drink coffee, but I do like Starbucks. I could nurse a cup of tea for about an hour and recoup some of my personality there.

During the worst of it, I also found that lists helped me get through the day, and I still  find myself revisiting them.

These are some of my tools that I will talk about later as I post about suicide prevention and prevention awareness.

One of my favorite belonging spaces is somewhere I used to visit during the worse times, but I still go there today for a smile.

Before I began on my depression medication, before I even new there was a problem with my mental health, I was on medication for high blood pressure, so I needed to pick up my meds at my pharmacy every month. When we moved to our house several years ago, I did not want to switch from our small town family run pharmacy to a big box drugstore chain, so I travel about thirty minutes to get there, once a month.

Each month, without fail, I’d travel the thirty minutes, and take a quick tour of the town, our old apartment, downtown to the street that has the post office and city hall, but inevitably, each time, I would find myself at the local natural attraction, the Falls.

I have never liked water, especially big bodies of water, but I have always enjoyed waterfalls, no matter what their size. For some reason, I find them soothing.

Over the years, the surrounding viewing areas of these falls have been built up, and they’ve added two new parks with historical kiosks and benches, and all sorts of floral and fauna. It’s just beautiful.
Instead of spending fifteen minutes sitting in my car in silence, I would get out and walk around the smallest park, sit on a bench, and listen to the water rushing over the side and splashing at the bottom, into the river. I’d close my eyes, and not think about anything. There was usually a cool breeze, and I’d let it blow over me, through my hair and across my closed eyelids. I’d breathe in whatever smells were there. It’s a city park, but it has such appeal. In front of me were the powerful falls, and behind me were the apartments, the former housing units of the nearby mills from the 19th century when these Falls were just as popular then as Niagara Falls is today.

I’d stand as close as I could, which was not very close, and I’d take a picture to post on my Facebook. Sometimes, I’d record the sound of the falls on my phone to listen to later.

This is my belonging space. It is sacred to me, and no matter what else was going on in my life or in my head, this place had, and continues to have a way of calming me, and letting me re-energize myself to go home and continue on until the next month; or at least until the next therapy session.

Before my corner office, before my visits to church, before my writing group, this was my space that held my hand, and squeezed my shoulders.

Try and think of your own belonging spaces that you can use to regroup and move forward. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate. I’ve used the corner of the food court at the mall. Give it a thought and be well, and please remember, you are never alone.