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🔐 Self-Care & Mental Health Lessons Learned From LockDown #MondayBlogs

[ CW:// Stress, Anxiety  & Depression Mentioned in this Article (Content Warning) ]

Hey guys! Welcome back to my blog! Been ages, I know. Motivation went out the window unfortunately in 2020. You know, I thought I was the queen of excuses, the Pro of Procrastination before … but 2020 has taken my ‘laziness’ skill onto a whole new level! Not a thing to brag about, trust me I totes know!

But you know, 2020 wasn’t all bad.

Being stuck at home and unemployed for seven months has left me with loads of time to self-reflect on, well, myself. So I wanted to share with you what I learned about Self Care and Mental Health in case they help you as well if you’re struggling with survivor’s guilt of the pandemic, the stress of unemployment/job hunting, or just general anxiety about all the Sh* going on in this crazy planet.

I almost titled this post “Life-Changing Lessons Learned From LockDown” for more clicky-click’s but I felt like that was too much of a clickbait and I care too much about my audience (that’s you!) to fall into that temptation.  Plus, the lessons I learned weren’t exactly ground-breaking or revolutionary, but they helped me cope through one of the most stressful years of our lives. It started with the Toilet Paper crisis and ended in 500,000 deaths in the US alone and counting of the historical coronavirus. So now more than ever, I think it’s important we normalize discussing Self-Care and Mental Health. Make it more than trendy buzz words, sharing our process can help others go through theirs. That, I do firmly believe. Sorry for using ‘now more than ever’, if you’re like me, you probably cringe every time an advert uses that line. But sometimes, the cliches just fit.

Anywho – let’s get on with what you’re here for! Lessons on how to survive stress and help make the days count.

Just a DISCLAIMER! I am not a health care professional or a psychologist. I STRONGLY advise seeking help if you feel a strong sense of hopelessness for a prolonged period of time. These are tips that have helped me, and I hope by sharing, you might get some nuggets of mental health tips. Right-o, here we go!

The Art of Meditation & Chakra Balancing:

If you’re a fan of the original Avatar the Last Airbender, then you’re probably already familiar with at least the main principles of Chakras. Basically, there are seven balls or aura’s of energy that connects inside of you to a higher power. The goal is to keep all seven chakras open so that you can release any unwanted or negative energy back into the universe where it can be redirected to where it is needed.

Learning more about the Chakras and keeping an open mind of the existence of Chakras has helped me control my emotions, set my mood, and aided with my ability to fall asleep faster. For example, if I was feeling exceptionally anxiety-induced, had a bad episode of restless leg syndrome, or feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere I would focus on my ROOT CHAKRA. When I *finally* got my day-job at a call center (hey, it paid them bills!) and my throat kept hurting every day from making 100+ calls a day, you guessed it … the THROAT CHAKRA helped me get a little more comfortable being on the phone for so long and the courage to speak up. And I used the HEART CHAKRA many times to redirect negative or sad energy that I absorbed from others as an Empath, especially customers who were dealing with loss of a family member, that I couldn’t shake off without meditating on the HEART CHAKRA.

There are plenty of other examples of how the Chakras helped me cope, but that could easily be a blog post on it’s own!

And, before you say the chakras are pseudo-science or a type of placebo … I used to not believe in them either. I just didn’t think they were for me. Boy, was I wrong! I’m glad I rediscovered the world of Chakras because they’ve greatly improved my mental health. And now I check-in on my Chakras almost every day!

But I separate mediation with Chakra Balancing because to me they are not the same thing. Both have their place and are equally important. And if you prefer one over the other, that is perfectly okay too! You do not have to do them both. But personally, I enjoy doing them both because it helps me calm down, change the narrative of my mental chatter into a positive one, and generally just connecting with the Self and the Universe in a meaningful way. Yeah, this stuff really does go deep. 

But how deep you want to go is always up to you! That is important to remember. You are in control of your thoughts; your thoughts do not control you. That is a lesson I have to re-learn almost every day. But you now what? That’s okay. It’s about giving yourself grace.

Using Meditation as Escapism:

While it maybe isn’t the greatest thing to use escapism to help cope with stress, anxiety, depression or insomnia, as some would call it running away or hiding from your problems instead of solving them, at least it is a safe outlet that helped me relax during the fear of the coronavirus era.

I know I am not the only one, because when I shared a particularly relaxing binaural sleeping track from YouTube to my IRL bestie, she said it was the first night sleep in a while without nightmares and she works in the coronavirus ward in a hospital. There is strong science how binaural beats work and using sound to tell the brain how to feel.

It’s actually very interesting how sound really can impact the brain. It’s really fascinating thinking how you can tell your brain to either relax or hype up depending on the types of sound wave frequency played by the music. The military is even exploring using it to help vets with PTSD. I personally use the binaural beats technique to relax at night and stay asleep (this track was the one that gave my bestie so much relief), or focus when I’m writing or working.

There are lots of YouTube channels that use the frequencies to either unleash serotonin (the happiness trigger), mediation frequencies that help connect you with the Universe or God if you’re religious, or even frequencies that claim to give you as much energy as coffee

All it takes to unlock these magnificent, almost magical tracks is a quick YouTube search. I strongly recommend YouTube Premium, so that you can shut off your phone and still listen to the tracks and not be disturbed by adverts. Now, I’m not saying you NEED YouTube Premium to highly enjoy these tracks, but it really is worth it.

The binaural beats are an easy way to escape your mental chatter and just relax or focus on what you’re actually wanting to work on (like writing or studying).

However, these music tracks aren’t the only way to enjoy an escape.
Guided meditations have been almost an addiction for me for a year and a half now, and I find myself listening to them nearly every night since.

My fave way to drift off into dreamland for a relaxing night’s sleep is to the soothing voices of Jason Stephenson, the Honest Guys, SleepTube music, and more.
It started out on a particularly dark night of the soul where my insomnia and depression felt especially helpless. I think I searched for “sleep depression” on YouTube and that led me down the happy rabbit hole of binaural beats, guided meditations and hypnosis therapy.

Of course, you should speak to your healthcare professional as none of these are substitutes for therapy or medication. However, in my own experience, I found these worked better for me than some of my medication. Again, that is just my individual experience so please don’t go in thinking this can be a cure-all. I found the guided meditations and hypnosis sessions just helped me sleep, which sometimes with depression feels an impossible task. Just a warning, for me it did almost the opposite effect,and I found myself sleeping too much. So again, just a precaution. Definitely recommend you set up a few alarms to wake up in the morning, as at least with me, the hypnosis meditations especially would let me sleep for hours and hours … well beyond the recommended seven to eight hour recommendation of healthcare professionals.

Now I did do a little bit of meditation back in 2019; and it helped a little bit going through the motions of everyday shuffle, but it wasn’t until about March of 2020 that I typed that fateful YouTube search and as they say, the rest is history.

I definitely recommend Headspace App and the Calm App to get started with mediation. Is important not to worry about “doing meditation right” or have any expectations going in. Just concentrate on the breath itself and try to clear your mind.

If you have depression, I highly recommend the Headspace App. There is a course there that helps change one’s relationship with depression, and it helped me through a spell in 2019. I only canceled it because I started to prefer guided meditations on YouTube, but I recommend trying a few out and seeing what sticks with you. Please note non of these are sponsored! Just personal recommendations. I will probably do a full blog post on my fave meditation apps, so stick around for that and follow my blog / subscribe to my youtube channel for more good stuff on mental health tips!

Self Care Lessons Learned in 2020 and 2021:

So, this is a very much do as I say and not as I do. Because I know if I do most or even half of these tips I would be much better off for it. But I keep adding it to my planner and my calendar with the hopes that one day I will have a “perfect day”. But between my procrastination and TV addiction, half of this Sh* just doesn’t get done. But I still plan and advise on these tips because they have been proven by hundreds of people to be effective, maybe even thousands of people. I’m sure you have heard some of these tips before, and the days I actually do them, I do feel much better. So here we go!

Check Your Chatter:

One thing I really liked about Headspace, was it helped me recognize the voice in my head, my inner critic, isn’t always your friend. For me, it more often was my worst enemy. My self-doubt grew to gigantic proportions after my debut novel Quest of the Prodigy got so many negative reviews. I felt I failed as an author, and therefore as that was what I recognized the most, failed as a person. I know, calm down the drama right? But that is what self-doubt does, blows things way out of proportion.

And Headspace helped keep myself in check. It seems every day I have to re-learn this lesson, but it’s always a good reminder. Sometimes when I feel so crippled by self-doubt I want to scream, I try to write down my thoughts in a journal or a voice-memo on my Apple Watch if I don’t feel like writing. Brain-dumping is a very useful tool for self-care! 

If you hate your handwriting like I do, I strongly recommend using your phone or smartwatch for a voice memo to brain dump. Even if you never listen to the voice memo’s again, which I usually don’t, it feels good just to get it out there. Imagine chatting with your favorite human to connect with like a parent or a bestie, and unload your thoughts onto that voice memo. Don’t worry, it should be that only you have access to it, so don’t worry about others judging it. And, try not to judge yourself as you speak into the microphone, just let all of your thoughts go.

Think About Others: 

I’m in no way calling you a selfish person! But sometimes when you have Depression or Anxiety, it’s easy to only focus on your to-do-list or your problems. I believe that’s just natural.

But when was the last time you texted your friend or family member? Or better yet, when was the last time you called them? Can you go shopping with your friend (even if it’s shopping online together)? Can you call your sibling and ask how their day was going? What about a cousin? The point is, try to make an honest connection with someone else. At least for that time you’re on the phone with them, you’re not thinking about yourself.

Dont’ have an inner circle? That’s okay. Think about volunteering to a cause that’s important to you. Like a food pantry or soup kitchen. Or donate to babysit a neighbor’s pet or child. You know, just throwing examples off of the top of my head. I heard that volunteering is very good for the soul. I should probably take my own advice and try it sometime!!! LOL 🙂

Get Moving: 

Okay! 🚨 MAJOR HYPOCRISY alert here! 🚨

I’ve had “workout” on my calendar for three years now, and have yet to get started lol.
In 2019 I was able to do Yoga a few times a week, but I quickly fell out of it when I failed to see results. I know, weight doesn’t get lost overnight (wouldn’t it be great if the fat could actually get up and walk away?) – so definitely don’t lead by my example, lol.

But time and time again do I hear that even walking 10 minute a day can boost dopamine, and I really need to try it!

Maybe tonight I will dust off my treadmill and do a 10 minute walk. Anyone want to take a challenge with me and hold each other accountable? Seriously just let me know!  Totally game!

But even if you don’t have any equipment at home, there are LOTS of free YouTube on equipment-free workouts you can do in the comfort of your living room!

I personally am not a gym person. I feel like I am judged too much by other patrons of the gym. But if you’re the competitive sort or enjoy taking group classes, I highly recommend it! Just bring your own hand sanitization wipes to reduce the possibility of getting the coronavirus that is still at large at least as of March 2021.

Cook At Home:

Not only is it healthier to cook at home, it also helps the brain. Lots of preservatives, extra fat, MSG and other not good stuff found in fast food and restaurants these days makes the food you eat go straight to your waistline. Not only does it help you gain weight, it’s not good for the brain.

In about 2017ish I gave up fast food for one whole year. Yes, I really did! I found I had more energy and my cognitive thinking was clearer. I did not lose the weight I wanted, but it was a good start.

In 2020 I ordered pizza about five+ times a month. Not only did I gain 45 lbs, I found I was sluggish and tired all the time. Gee I wonder why, right? The Pizza Diet is not one I can recommend, lol.

But back then I didn’t eat healthy because I didn’t think there was going to be a tomorrow. I did not think humanity was going to survive the coronavirus outbreak. Hella dramatic, I know. But that’s what depression does. Warps your reality. One could say Depression is a gaslighter. Tricks you into believing the worst.

So, I spent my days during lockdown glued to the TV and eating pizza. Papa John might have been happy taking my money, but my body wasn’t happy. And neither, was my mind.
But it wasn’t all pizza and takeout. I became a much better cook during lockdown!

I picked up an Instant Pot Omni Plus (not sponsored) and got into cooking big time!
I made a Copy-Cat Chick-Fila sandwich, amazing Pork Chops and Gravy and other dishes that made me almost want to become a professional chef!

While cooking was a fun hobby and created meaningful bonding moments with my mom as we cooked together,  it also was a dangerous one as I wasn’t watching my portions. It also helped contribute to my 45 lb weight gain, so I definitely recommend putting AWAY leftovers before you eat, so not tempted to eat the entire servings like I was. But, that’s just a tip from me on my own experience. If you have self-control, don’t worry about it! But for me, self-control, what’s that? I’m a totally all-or-nothing kind of girl, and I would love to be able to get better at that.  But hey, 2021 is still young, maybe I can work on that!

That is the great thing about your Self. There is always room for improvement!

So yeah, this article is a long one. But there are so many lessons when can learn from a stressful time like the era of coronavirus has been for hundreds of millions of people around the world. The stressful times are in no way over, but if we keep our own mentality about the times we live in, in check, then maybe, just maybe we can learn to enjoy existing and making every day count, just like those corny greeting cards tell us to.

Happiness doesn’t always come easy, but it’s easily always worth it. And yes my friend, YOU deserve to be happy. Don’t let anyone else, even yourself, tell you otherwise.

I hope these “lessons” have helped! A lot of them are stuff already known but forget every day.  I think the biggest thing I discovered in recent years was how amazing binaural beats and guided meditations / hypnosis have been. You do have to be careful who you let in your head. Do some research and make sure the person is legit, like a certified hypnosis. But even if they aren’t certified, read the comments of the video and see if they’ve helped others. If they have a large following i.e. subscriber count, and/or lots of positive comments on the channel, chances are you can trust them.

But people know these are stressful times. And bad people take advantage of that. So just do a little searching to make sure the guided meditation videos are there to help you. I personally haven’t come across any harmful ones, but just wanted to throw that caution there. Not to make you paranoid, because I genuinely believe most people want to help, but you know. Some people just suck. Not you though, I’m sure 🙂

ANYWAY sorry for that tangent. I think that is a good stopping place for this article. I hope it helped get you ideas on how to manage stress, depression and anxiety! My condition runs in the family, so I don’t think depression will ever truly leave me. But I refuse to be defined by it, and I refuse to live the rest of my life like I lived in Lockdown. A depressed pizza-holic who was anything but productive.

That being said, I am pleased I survived. And I will continue to work on my stress every day so that it doesn’t control me.

One thing I did re-learn was that I control my thoughts. My thoughts do not control me.

And I hope you have a safe and happy Monday, my friends! Be well! Stay safe! Stay Creative & Geeky!

~Claire

The BreakDown:

  1. Give Yourself Grace
    • Reflect Daily or Weekly in a Journal or brain dump
    • Treat Yourself As Kindly as you would your pet, a stranger or a friend
    • Make the space you spend the most time in comfortable and inspiring
  2. Keep Routines Simple
    • Keep it Simple! Instead of listing every single step on your to-do-list, try to group them in a category instead
    • Be kind to yourself if you don’t have energy to do everything on your list, even a little progress is better than no progress at all!
    • Keep trying then next day! Don’t give up on a goal just because you’re not on a winning streak, keep going!
  3. Life Does in Face, Move On
    • In 2020 it reminded me the world moves on whether you stay in bed all day or are actually productive. So do what is right for you! Do you boo, do you!

Got any tips of your own that helps you manage stress and mental chatter? Share in the comments below! Might help a fellow Creative Geek 🙂

Catch the Video version of this blog here and if you could kindly subscribe to my YouTube channel you’d be my BFF!!!! Cheers! 🥂

Author:

Welcome! I'm Claire & I'm a Geek, productivity nerd & author! This blog is an outlet for my passions and to connect with fellow humans! Please help support the Club by grabbing a copy of my adventure novel the Quest of the Prodigy if you love time travel stories! Don't forget to say hello because I follow back! And sign up for my newsletter for once-a-week inspiration! Keep Cre8ting!

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