Taking Care of Emotional Health

Published April 24, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yah I know, I’ve been quiet this week.  Between buying a new computer (I got a big mo-fo of an iMac!) and working my arse off, I’ve not had a real lot of time to myself this week, and sadly that means this poor blog has to take a back seat for a bit.

Mostly at the moment I am dealing with a high stress time at work, what with trying to juggle multiple projects to be finished by the end of the financial year (June 30th in Australia) and a colleague turned food-stalker who will not leave me alone about what I am having for lunch and how delicious it looks compared to her diet shakes and Chinese herbal weight loss “remedies.”

Of course, with rising stress levels, comes higher anxiety levels, but lower self esteem.  I am lucky these days that after years of working on my self esteem, depression and anxiety issues that I can recognise them for what they almost always are – symptoms of overwork, not enough sleep and un-resolved problems.  I am far more resilient to these down times than I have ever been.

But they are still there and take some work to sort out and get back on track with my emotional health.  Where normally I have confidence in myself, during the down times I tend to second guess things, or be very harsh on myself again.

I have learned that those times are not the time to cast judgement on myself, or the world around me.  That I need to just settle back and let myself get out of that frame of mind before I make any decisions on how I feel about people and situations and myself.  There are a few things I can do that are immensely healing and are part of taking care of myself in those times.

Music really means a lot to me.  I have a folder in iTunes of music that I know makes me feel good.  I have a list of videos on YouTube that do the same thing, most of them Craig Ferguson dancing around like an idiot to some cheery tune.  It’s what Craig does best.

I know being around water helps me.  I am lucky, I live in a river city, and within 10 minutes walk of the river itself.  Or I can travel for about 45 minutes and be by the bayside.

Sleep is important too.  If I can catch up on decent sleep (more than the 4 or 5 hours per night I have been getting on average), I know it works a lot towards undoing all the negativity, anxiety and stress.

Self esteem and a positive outlook are not things that you just get and never have to worry about struggling with again for the rest of your life.  It takes a lot of work to build them up, to work through depression, bad self image and anxiety, and then you constantly have to be topping up that work, honing it, working on keeping it alive.  But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you do slip up from time to time.  You WILL slip up from time to time.  You WILL have times that the black dog of depression gets you in his teeth, and that circumstances lead you down the path of feeling bad about yourself.  But with work and support, you become far more resilient and conscious, and able to pull yourself up or find help to do so, back into positive, confident, happy you again.

Do you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, poor self esteem?  How do you work through it to get yourself in a better place?  Do you recognise it when it sneaks up on you?

Let’s talk about it in the comments – knowing you’re not alone is one of the best tools you can have in your good emotional health toolkit!

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18 comments on “Taking Care of Emotional Health

  • Another great post Kath. My black dog usually sleeps on the front verandah, I always know he’s there and I’m wary of his response in times of high stress. I never want him coming inside again as they are bad times.

    Sorry to use an analogy but I find that accepting my depressional responses as being present but not integral helps me stop them from taking over. Weird I know as I am sure there are schools of thought that say to embrace them :-?

    On a more practical level giving myself HEAD SPACE really really helps. I recently started sewing again after many years away from the machine. This hobby is helping on many levels as it is stimulating and creative (and there are some too die for fabrics on the net) plus I now have clothes that fit better (bonus!!)

    Also, exercise whether it’s walking, riding a bike or whatever. Always clears a murky head.

    If all else fails then drinks with girlfriends never fails to cheer me up even if there are tears and sadness whilst doing so.

    Sorry for long post, keep up the GREAT work & Twitter posts
    :-)

    • Thanks!

      I like the analogy of the black dog sleeping on the verandah. I always liken mine to different breeds. When I’m emotionally healthy, it’s a manageable wee lazy breed of dog that just sleeps in a corner. Sometimes it becomes a very yappy Pomeranian that is annoying and takes a lot of grooming. Other times it becomes a huge slavering mastiff that eats everything in sight and drags me along by it’s leash behind it.

      I’m thinking I want to keep it something cute and harmless, like a Maltese or a Bichon Friese.

  • When times get stressful and depressing, there are a few things that really help me.

    One is baking. I’m really ridiculously good at it, so I know that making a cake, a pie, or a loaf of crusty bread will turn out well. That always helps. It reminds me that there are things I can do successfully every time, pretty much no matter what. Also, I find it nearly impossible to be down when there is homemade from scratch yummy cake or cookies in the house.

    Sometimes I just have to take out my aggressions on something, and that’s when I start playing Sims2 and use my evil hacks to kill them off in silly ways. By the end of the session I’m giggling like a loon and in a much better frame of mind to cope with whatever the real problem is.

    If all else fails, I head over to YouTube and punch up the Complaints Choir of Helsinki. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen/heard, and the laundry list of minor frustrations of modern life tends to put things in perspective for me.

    Other aids that help me to get through and get on include: bubble baths, cuddling with my cat, helping a friend through a crisis, and singing pissed off Melissa Etheridge songs.

    I may not be inclined to serious depression, but we all have dark times, and these are things that help me out of them.

  • I tend to over-stuff my schedule with things that are all very good by themselves, but taken together create a mind-numbing amount of stress. To re-build my reserves, I need time alone, and space around me.

    When I’m unhappy, I de-clutter. Creating order from physical chaos helps me create order from emotional chaos, and de-cluttering gives me a sense of control and accomplishment.

    When my mind is overcrowded from stress and I cannot hear myself thinking anymore, I need to get out. Long walks, preferably in the rain or at dusk/into the night, so I don’t have to see other people.

    Singing helps when I’m discontent with the world at large, and everything irritates and bores me. For the music to have a really good effect, there need to be harmonies, though, which means being around other people, and reduces my alone-time. It’s usually worth it, but not always.

    Just listening to music usually does not have much effect, but to calm down, heavy metal music (played really loud) is my medication of choice.

    Hm. Looking at that list, there seems to be a trend that to regain energy I have to spend it.

  • Sleep is a big one for me, but I try to get about 8 to 9 hours a night, which I know is a lot, but it’s what I need.

    I’ve also started making my own yogurt and ice cream and I try to come up with the best combinations of flavors.

    I’m also pretty good at baking, not as good as Twistie as I have a lot of misses, but it’s not a competition. A few years ago I was super depressed and for some reason became fixated on find the perfect homemade pizza dough and it took several months of failures, but I have a great New York crust and a really good Chicago deep dish, I’m still not happy with the thin crust yet. I credit pizza with saving my life.

    Spending lots of time with my dogs is a big one too.

  • Whenever I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it seems like such a simplistic thing to do, but I have found the best thing for me is to cart myself off to bed – no matter what the time of day. If I fall asleep and have a nap that is great, but if I don’t I just read a book, watch tv or just lie there.

    It really does help me a great deal and often I have woken feeling much calmer & more able to make better decisions.

    Really enjoyed your post!

    • Thanks Julie. I find a little down time is really good for me too. Bed with my iPod on, and a tattoo magazine… can really help reset the depression clock.

  • Sadly not much seems to help when I’m depressed. I can’t have pets in my apartment so no cuddly kitty for me, and unfortunately I had a falling out a while ago with my ‘friends’ and I haven’t found anyone to really hang out with since.

    Mostly I just try to work through it as best I can, getting up and keeping on with my daily things. But it really doesn’t help where school’s concerned, and this semester has been especially brutal on me.

    I think a good snuggle would help…but those are in short supply, and probably will remain that way for some time.

    • You know, one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learnt? You can’t look outside yourself when dealing with depression. While friends, loved ones and pets are all helpful, you really have to find the space within yourself to move through it. Because there will always be times in life when the external help just won’t be there for whatever reason. If you find it within yourself, it’s always there, no matter what.

  • I have to admit…..sometimes I wallow in it – a LOT! After I get through that process, I can move into something that will help me. At this perimenopause stage of life, I do believe my hormone levels have a lot to do with it.

    For me, having a lot of down time will automatically put me into a depression. If I stay home sick from work, I get depressed. If my husband works very late and my son is out or otherwise occupied, I get depressed. It’s pretty quick. On the other end of that, I have panic attacks, although fairly well controlled with medication.

    One of the most important things for me to do is to check my mindset. I have to be very conscious of what my mind is dwelling on because it can get bad real fast. I have a lot of “what if” thinking. What if….my loved one gets in an accident, that tyhpe of thing. If I notice that coming on, I immediately make an effort to take control of that.

    I also do a lot of the things mentioned above – I love to bake as well and I am very good at it, I like to do “crafty” things – knitting, scrapbooking, etc. Reading and music and my puppy, Buddy Lee, are also very important.

    Also one of my oddities and immediate depressants is if my house is dirty or cluttered. Now mind you, I don’t get up and clean it right away – I just sit there and ger mired down in the creepy-crawlies. Having a teenager in the house (with size 15 shoes) can cause quite a bit of clutter and many disagreements about picking it up. I just have to remember that he will be leaving for college in two years and I will miss him so very much – clutter and all. So, I try to cherish that time no matter what.

    One more thing that I cannot stand is the television being on 24/7. The commercials drive me crazy and the way that life is portrayed on a lot of shows is so unrealistic that it makes me sick. If I have a good book, I can read while the others in the house watch TV.

    That’s just a few thing and I’ve rambled too long…AGAIN!

    Thanks for this post – I love it that you cause us to think about things we don’t necessarily pay attention to and that can cause issues.

  • One thing I can’t let myself do is wallow. That’s a big no-no for me, I simply cannot allow myself to go there as it only spirals worse and worse. I need to take a little quiet time to rest and recouperate, but then I need to do something that makes me feel good to occupy my mind and time. Wallowing only gives me time to dwell on the wrong things.

    I have a sensitivity to noise when I’m in the depressive zone. Sounds that would never bother me normally suddenly become unbearable. I also have issues with scent, light and taste when I am nearing depression or am in depression. I become hyper sensitive to a lot of things at those times.

  • I never thought of the scents….but, you’re right, I can’t stand them either (especially floral smells) and the hyper-sensitivity comes with my mood swings. I do find comfort in the smell of a lovely pot of soup simmering on the stove or a loaf of bread baking. It’s a homey thing.

    Noise is huge for me as well…that TV being on and the commercials at such a higher volume than the show can really startle me and stress me out. I can handle soothing music though.

    We are very complex beings….I think it will take us our entire lifetime to figure ourselves out.

    • I’m with you on the bread and soup. There are few more comforting smells in the world for me than baking bread. So soothing and comforting.

      I may bake today.

  • Floral scents do my head in too. Sweet or floral – just makes me want to scream sometimes.

    But yes, bread is a really comforting one. And coffee.

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