by Sierra Pleckan
When dealing with mental health, it can be a vicious cycle. It’s one that sucks you up and
won’t seem to spit you back out. The truth of it is, that grey cloud over your head isn’t just going to magically disappear. It is up to you to find ways to overcome those challenges and heal over time. I know that can sound incredibly daunting, and giving in to your negative thoughts sounds much more appealing, but there truly is a lot of goodness in this world. It just takes a bit of patience and a willing eye to see it all around you.
Here are some strategies that help me cope when I am struggling. Maybe they will help you as well:
1. Go Outside: One of the things I find most practical for me to do when I am feeling anxious or depressed is to go outside. For the most part, when I am out in nature, I am able to focus on the sights and sounds around me, not on what is going on in my head. I hear the birds, feel the grass, admire the flowers, look up at the clouds, and see animals if I am lucky. Nature also helps me think of problems other than my own such as: How do bees find their way home? Do squirrels find even half of the nuts they bury? How do birds know to fly south for the winter? How do ants know to follow one another?
Watching animals and insects live their lives reminds me that everyone is coexisting and
doing their best to survive. Getting light exercise and fresh air has also proven to
be beneficial. I don’t always see it this way, but I am lucky to live in such a rural area, as
it enables me to simply walk out my door into nature, with no worries of anyone seeing the state of my appearance. I know this is not the case for most people, so if you live in a more populated area, I would recommend finding a local park.
I recognize that people-watching is quite the unconventional suggestion for coping with
mental health, but I find it helpful in a similar way to being in nature. Observing people
complete simple tasks, such as walking around the park or going into the grocery store, can remind you that you are not alone and help you put things into perspective. There are so many people walking about, carrying burdens on their shoulders that we are completely unaware of. You could be seeing an old man who just lost his wife. A mother who just had a miscarriage. A boy who just lost his first pet. A woman who just found out she is pregnant and isn’t ready to take that on yet. Someone who is getting a divorce. Someone experiencing their first breakup. Someone who just had an amputation. But people you are seeing could also be experiencing great things. A girl who just beat her personal best swim record. A man who is finally learning that instrument he has always wanted to play. Someone who just came out as a part of the LGBTQ+ community and received a great response. Someone who is in love. Someone who is learning to love themselves.
The purpose of these examples is not to invalidate your feelings or cause you to feel that you need to compare and contrast your own situation to say that you have it better or worse than others. It’s about stepping out of your head, even if (del it is) only for a few minutes, and seeing the humanity around you. We can become so caught up within ourselves, blinded by our own problems, that we forget everybody is going
through something. Sometimes something good, sometimes something bad. Maybe a bit of both.A week ago or so I was sitting in my car in a Walmart parking lot. I saw a boy riding a bike, tags still attached, from the store up to a parked car near me. The boy’s mother soon caught up to him. The windows of my car were down, and I could hear the boy pleading with his mother to let him ride it as soon as they got home. (I moved the sentence that was here down a couple of spots, because it made more sense.) He calmed down just enough to help his mother load up the bike, then asked again to ride it
when they got home, even though his mother had said yes the first time. He was jumping around like a kitten with a new toy. The boy was ecstatic to be getting a new bike, something so simple. Seeing the boy happy also made me happy. So if you have a minute or two, stop to take in the people around you.
Another way I find solace is in journaling. I’ll admit, at times it takes quite a bit of
self-encouragement and willpower to pull out my journal and write my feelings when I am feeling down. But when I do write, I find relief. I go to the next fresh page, date it, and then I write. Some things I write about include: how I am currently feeling, an experience I had that I don’t want to forget, goals I have, something that happened that affected me negatively, what I am anxious about, or even a dream I had. Plus the occasional poem about a cute boy I saw at the supermarket.
In all seriousness, writing in my journal does help me tremendously. It helps me organize
my thoughts, get my feelings out, make goals, relieve anxieties, reflect, and so on. Not only does journal writing help me in the present, but also in the future. While reading my past entries can be extremely cringe-worthy, I also find myself feeling proud of how far I have come and what I have learned since those entries. Once in awhile, I even make connections as to why I went through a particular situation.
4. Do Something You Love:
This final suggestion is obvious: doing something you love.
For me, it's indulging in some kind of art form: drawing, crafting, painting, collaging,
listening or creating music, reading, etc. I feel my best when I am creating. But that also means that when I am feeling my worst, it's something I want nothing to do with. However, like all of the aforementioned suggestions, once I start the activity, I realize starting it was the hardest part of all.
I am no stranger to finding myself uninterested in things I onced loved to do, so if you feel thatway, you’re definitely not alone. Just do your best to give your hobbies a good try, and if you still don’t find joy in them, that’s okay -- simply try something new. Here are a few ideas: baking, crochet, photography, drawing (even if you claim you are no good), gardening, hiking, scrapbooking, origami, calligraphy, candle making, or give good 'ol reading another try. Or anything else you think would be fun but haven't tried yet.
I hope you try out one or all of these suggestions and find them to be helpful for you in some way. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you do, you will gradually pick up momentum and begin to feel better, even if it's just the slightest improvement.
But it's a first step on your journey to feeling even better. And you do deserve to feel better.