Updated: Sep 23
FLASHBACK 19 YEARS:
Katherine is 10, crying, distressed over school.
Boys being the worst.
Homework that's late.
The world is ENDING.
Nothing can solve this crying fit except eventually collapsing from exhaustion.
Stress at work.
A distressed and overwhelmed 29 year old, sitting on her bedroom floor, eats her fourth muffin in pyjamas at 3pm, trying to find something to mindlessly watch.
NOW, the difference between 10 year old and 29 year old me (apart from two degrees and a different continent), is that my emotional intelligence has (hopefully) increased. DEFINITELY NOT every time, but most times when I start down a helpless stress spiral, I can see the state I'm in from the outside and begin to give myself the care I need.
In distress, I think the confusion of "where to turn" is torturous. It feels like you're just STUCK. You can only go in circles of problems, of failure, of self-abuse to have been found back here again.
So instead of trying to solve the big questions, let's K.I.S.S.
My method for sticking a crowbar in the wheel of runaway stress
is covering the most basic ingredients to a healthy physical self.
I'm going to give you four essential, deceptively simple questions to ask yourself that can start you back from a stress induced spiral: to get you off the floor and back on your feet.
"But Katherine, you're being reductive... four questions can't possibly address the complicated nuance of emotional distress."
Of course not and they don't have to. We can't solve the world in a day. Sometimes big picture thinking is part of the problem and we need to focus on WHAT WE CAN MANAGE.
We're always in flux, in passage with navigating our mental health, and sometimes a gentle reminder can go a long way. So let's go back to basics and treat ourselves like the wee children we are inside.
"When was the last time I ate vegetables?"
A) Invariably, the answer is usually too long ago and not nearly enough.
Let me emphasize this. This has nothing to do with "dieting" or restricting anything. I just find that often if I'm not feeling like myself, it's because I've had three coffees, a muffin and a piece of dry toast. My body is hungry for vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and everything else your brain needs to function. Sugar sends you into overwhelm, so perhaps a way to reset is a thoroughly delicious, heartily consumed meal heaped with colourful veg, some fish, or a vegan alternative and some enriched brown rice. It's one wee step in the right direction.
"When was the last time I had a proper nights sleep?"
B) For me this week it was three days of 4-6 hours that sent me spinning, so I buckled down, and decided not to set an alarm on my day off, just to give my body a chance to catch up and set me up to not waste my time feeling exhausted and then not sleeping because I needed to get stuff done so I stayed up and didn't sleep and blah blah blah, it goes on.
Stick a crowbar in the wheel of your runaway bicycle and grab a nap, go to bed earlier, cancel early morning plans. PUT YOUR SLEEP FIRST. I guarantee you will feel more clear headed and at ease.
"When was the last time I worked out?"
C) When I feel stress building up and I pull myself into an awareness with it, the answer is often "I can't remember."
The benefits of exercise are astronomical when it comes to resetting and gaining a better perspective on mental health.
This has nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with mental health. Fuck punishment based exercise, I want to sweat because afterwards I FEEL good about myself. I FEEL confident and I don't LOOK a jot different. The breathing that comes when you exercise releases muscle tension, it sends everything back to a single focus of "lift this thing, move this arm". Exercise DEMANDS presence and if you need a reminder on how living in the moment is the key to everything according to every coach ever, just GOOGLE IT.
Fourth and final pillar:
"When was the last time I drank water?"
E) I AM SO BAD AT DRINKING WATER. So bad. It is my toxic trait that I somehow believe hydration is something for other people. But holy shit am I wrong. Often, if I'm feeling drained, and YOU GUESSED IT, I ask myself when was the last time I drank water, the answer is.... what's water?
This is such a simple thing, but putting a glass of water beside your bed every night will build the habit of drinking. Also, having a glass of water before you eat is another way to add more H2O to your life and, well, you need to eat, so why not compound a habit?
It's a wee gift from yourself to yourself.
These questions are not earth shattering revelations, but that's why I love them. If I proactively address the lack in each area, I begin to feel better, and proud that I have had the awareness to see what I've needed and gave it to myself generously.
Nothing is a permanent fix. I've said it before and I'll say it again, mental health is about management and sometimes the big things are just too big.
So bite off what you CAN chew, and tick the basic boxes. Your inner toddler will thank you.
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