Coping Skills

Little changes to help your mental health

This is for those times when everything is too much, and you’re desperate for something to make things at least a little better, but you don’t really want to do anything.

Change your language

“stupid” –> “valid”

e.g. “I’m so stupid” –> “I’m so valid”

e.g. “I did something really stupid” –> “I did something really valid”

“always” or “never” –> “sometimes” or “might”

e.g. “I’m never on time” –> “I’m sometimes not on time”

e.g. “Things like this always happen” –> “Things like this sometimes happen”

“should” –> “could”

e.g. “I should have done things differently” –> “I could have done things differently”

e.g. “I should do that” –> “I could do that”

Change what your body’s doing at the moment

breathe in, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, out, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, in, 2, 3, 4…

helpful for any unwanted emotion that gets the heart pounding — fear, anger, etc.

do 20 jumping jacks (if you’re able to)

helpful for dissociation, hopelessness, sadness, and shame (or anything that makes you want to curl up) because it can break the inertia and show that you’re a valid person taking up space in the world and doing things

also helpful for any strong emotion that gets your heart pounding because the body associates the heart pounding with the exercise and will calm down from the actual emotion

stand up in a power pose: hands on your hips, biceps flexed, punching the sky, etc. or, while sitting, stretch your arms up to the sky

similarly helpful for things that make you want to curl up (this is opposite action!), but not as intense

Make a list

five things you’re grateful for

e.g. pretty pictures of flowers, living with other people, having headphones, buzzfeed, warmer weather

three recent accomplishments!

e.g. got up! (multiple times!) replied to some old texts! ate brunch with my friend!

the bare minimum of what you’re going to do the rest of today (and/or tomorrow if it’s late at night)

e.g. brush teeth, call my mom, do the assignment for one of my classes

then check them off!

Change your computer/phone/tablet experience

change your background, lock screen, or desktop background

pretty nature? cute puppies? memes?

snow capped mountains under the cloudy skies
Photo by Stephan Seeber on Pexels.com
pomeranian puppy
Photo by Vanserline Vandenberg on Pexels.com

bookmark a site you want to keep handy

something funny? something helpful? something thoughtful?

download an app

in the spirit of trying something new!

 

Congratulations, you made it to the bottom of this post! Look at you go! 🙂

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Affirmations

Affirmation #12 — I can remember AND stay in the present

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I can REMEMBER and stay in the PRESENT.


As part of the prolonged exposure therapy I’ve been doing, I do imaginal exposures, which involve talking through a traumatic memory. I tend to dissociate when talking or thinking about the trauma, so it’s sometimes hard for me to continue thinking about the memory because my mind goes blank with dissociation. However, I need to engage with the memory in order for the memory to make me less scared in the future, so I can’t just block it out. I have to balance not dissociating (by grounding myself in the present moment) and remembering the memory (which brings me a little to the past).

This affirmation is to remind me that it is possible to do this. It is possible to remember without having a flashback or dissociating. I can remember non-traumatic events and still know where I am in the present. With time and hard work in treatment, I am gradually able to do the same with traumatic memories.

Affirmations

Affirmation #10 — Good AND Bad

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There are good days AND bad days. Keep going, and you’ll find both.

When I’m not doing well, it sometimes seems like these bad things are all that have ever existed and all that will ever exist. But that’s not true! Good days will come again.

Conversely, sometimes when I’m doing well, I think that I’m finally at an idealized “better” place and that my life will be perfect from now on. That’s not true either. There will always be hard times, easier times, neutral times, happier times, sadder times, etc., throughout life. When I expect things to be more perfect than is realistic, it a) makes me stressed about the good times ending because I know deeper down that I won’t be able to keep up with these expectations, and b) makes me crash harder when I start to feel worse again.

Reminding myself of the duality and accepting both the good and the bad helps me to keep a more balanced perspective.

Life, Therapy

Finally talking about my trauma in detail

I experienced a traumatic event four years and nine months ago. I decided to do DBT PE (Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Prolonged Exposure) to treat my PTSD eight months ago. And today, I finally talked about the trauma in detail in therapy.

I’ve been building up to this for so long. I’ve gone over the traumatic event in my head so many times in varying levels of flashback-y-ness but always fairly anxious states. This has been a part of my life for so long.

But I had never said it out loud to another human being. I had never said it in order from start to finish. (well, the finish of one part, at least)

This feels like a watershed moment. Something small but fundamental has shifted inside of me, a change that will grow more pronounced as I continue this treatment.

I am still going about my same daily activities and interacting with the same people, but I feel a little different, as if I’m experiencing everything with freer eyes. It feels a little like what getting baptized felt like, or what traveling to another continent for the first time felt like. I knew logically what to expect, but now I’m experiencing it emotionally.

Of course, it was also really hard, and this is also only the beginning. But I finally said it!!!