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Monday, November 28, 2016

Coping mechanisms and you!


Mondays are always hard for me. I take Sundays off, usually, barring scheduling issues*, to relax and unwind and not expect anything from myself and others. Sometimes I take a pampering day, if I feel really in need of it. I plan my week. I try to sleep so I can start the week off well, since Mondays are like the mornings of the week, and you've gotta start out well.

But last night, I had a very long and very emotional conversation with a very old friend--literally one of my oldest friends--who's been going through some stuff and saw that I've been going through and decided to share what he's learned. I made some Conclusions. I came to some Decisions.

And it's left me thinking about coping mechanisms.

Life is hard, you guys.

It's even harder when you've got mental imbalances to deal with.

I've got depression and anxiety, as seems to be about standard for my generation these days, and a whole lot of old wounds that trying to deal with the depression and anxiety keeps uncovering.**  One of the conclusions that I've come to recently with myself is that I used to have a bunch of support systems I no longer have, and I have developed coping mechanisms without really thinking about it, and some of them are crappy ones.

Brains are like that. I read something recently--I think in Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd***--that said that when we're wounded emotionally, we react the same way as if it was a physical wound. We limp around it, and we can wind up all crooked and wobbly because of limping. It's super sucky to realize you're crooked and wobbly, you guys. but it's also super common and there's ways to deal with it.

Here's how I have been working on rebuilding myself.

Writing
Telling stories has always been a way that I handle almost everything. Writing is how I process things and how I think about things, and turning it all into stories lets me come at stuff sideways and use what's bothering me and build what I need. It's also one of the best and most fun things I do for creative expression, which helps me feel like a have a purpose and like I have something to offer the world.

Daily inspiration
For a long time, I've been looking for one to three quotes or affirmations every morning and writing them down in the corner of my daily page--that's today's page as the background of the header up top. But lately, I've also started sharing them, because if they're good for me, if they're exactly what I need to hear each day, maybe they're also what someone else needs to hear, too.

Today's:

It keeps me centered early in the morning, it makes me deal with whatever is in my head, and it sort of offloads the burden of having to remember it on my own: the inspo remembers it and reminds me, and I can share it with others. Everyone needs something good to hear every day, I think.

(I'm also going to include here: I set maybe a dozen ongoing reminders throughout the day that remind me of what my ideal day looks like, so that I'm literally always looking at what I want my day to look like. At the very least, it reminds me to eat and take breaks; at the best, it reminds me to actually live my life.)

Journaling
So much journaling. I started keeping sporadic diaries when I was 10 and my mom got me a little diary with a pretty cover and a page for every day of the year, but I never kept one consistently until I moved up here and had a lot of stuff to process. Holding it all in and bottling it all up just made me crushingly depressed and sort of like I'd lost myself; I didn't even know how bad I was until I started coming out of it.

But there were always notebooks. I started by just keeping a daily to-do list, and maybe a page of thoughts and complaints. I expanded into journaling prompts, then into Goal Setting Workbooks and Worksheets from all over the internet, then into Morning Pages, and now I've just started my 30th book since I moved to NC.

I track everything in them: how I'm feeling, what I'm thinking about, how well I'm keeping up with my expectations of myself, what my goals are and how I feel about them, my pain levels and sleep amounts and how much caffeine I'm taking in. Everything that I've figured out affects me and my ability to handle the world, I track. It's not pretty, it's not for the public, but it's working and it's better than denying everything and freaking out periodically.

There's all sorts of theraputic journaling prompts on the interwebs. Here's a few of them:

I print them up or copy them down or Pin them on Pinterest so I can always find the right prompts when I need them. Way easier than trying to start from scratch sometimes.

Planning
Both in the sense of making plans and in using a planner.

The problem with depression is that it tends to make it hard to remember things. Days blend together. Stuff you meant to do sort of floats off and happens days or weeks later, if at all. But a planner anchors stuff into a specific day. It shows evidence of each day passing, and what you did in it.

Some quick tips:

  1. Try different planner systems until you find one that works for you naturally, without having to force yourself, and without causing guilt or anxiety. I use a weekly and daily planner, I write everything down, even self-care and daily routine stuff, but I don't use hourly pages because they make me stressed out. I change up my weekly pages to keep it interesting (using a lot of RBP weekly printables taped into a regular planner over the pages that didn't work for me, actually).
  2. Keep your planner where you can see it. Open on your desk, next to your bed, in your hand at all times, whereever it takes to make sure you look at it and use it.
  3. When you're feeling really overwhelmed, set up your daily pages the night before so you wake up knowing what you want to do.
  4. Schedule / pencil in stuff you WANT to do and GET to do as well as stuff you HAVE to do, so that the schedule doesn't feel like an endless list of obligations. Remind yourself why you want to do it, too.
  5. Make notes about stuff you want to remember that happened each day or month or whatever works for you. I make quick notes in the calendars, and I keep a list of the best parts of each month, because I will definitely not remember them later. Also, make it pretty. Pretty things are easier to look at all the time.
And as for Planning:

  1. At the beginning of the year (or, usually and actually, in December the year before) I print up all my life goals workbooks from all over. Google "free life goals workbook printable" or something similar, and you'll get piles of them.
    1. My favs are Desire Map from Danielle Laporte, the Biz and Life workbooks from Leonie Dawson, the Dragontree Apothecary Dreambook, Monique's Visionary Planner, and Susannah Conway's Unraveling the Year book.****
  2. I go through slowly, assess the last year and decide what I want to change and continue and then make plans and break them down.
  3. I also break them down at the start of each quarter so I know what to think about for the next three months, and check in each month to make sure I'm keeping up with them.
  4. I've had to accept that I'm Slow AF at actually doing things; everything always takes longer than I think, and there's always days when I can't do anything because of my health. I move on, and I've given myself permission to just start over at any point when I need to.
  5. Figure out hacks for yourself. What makes your planner and your planning easier to use? Pinterest is FULL of good ideas; spend a day finding them and trying them out, and keep the ones thare are good. 
Study
I've started doing a personal daily study to help me understand what's even going on with me. It's calming and enriching, and there's no pressure. One page from the Shine Text, one page from whatever insightful or helpful book I'm reading. School grounds me and giving myself school brings some of that grounding back.

Making an effort
After someone who was once like a sister to me died and I didn't even know she was sick, I realized that I'd been so wrapped up in myself that most of my friendships had dropped off. So now I have a list of people I love, who I want to keep touch with, and every few days, if I haven't heard from them, I send a text or a message or whatever and see how they're doing.

One just went back to school and is stressed. One is going through a bunch of stuff. One is starting a new business. One just moved to a new country. There's lots to talk about, and I don't want to lose them again. And they all know that I'm working through things and help me when they can. It's so great, you guys, to not feel alone anymore.


How do you cope? What are your coping mechanisms and support systems? What links and methods have been helpful for you? Let's share and talk about mental health in the comments!

*Like, for instance, this week, Sunday took over for Friday as shopping day, since Friday was Black Friday and ain't nobody wanna go regular grocery shopping when everyone else in the world is trying to buy the cheapest TV for something.
**Like what seems to be cPTSD from working retail for 15 years with no purpose and no joy. Like deep feelings of unjustice and being a broken misfit because of culture shock that I'm apparently not actually over. Like self-esteem issues and memory problems. Oh man, isn't psychology fun.
***These last two are from Mari McCarthy; sometimes she does guided journaling classes, and one of them is when I really started journaling with a purpose.
****This is an old link to the one for 2016 released in 2015, but the questions can apply to any year.


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