So this post is a little different to the rest, apologies in advance if it doesn’t resonate but I hope it inspires something good, even if just one of you needs to read it.
I think it’s important to chat a little about mental health in these times (currently in lockdown #3 over here in the UK).
January is a tough month for many of us anyway, not just financially speaking but now on top of it all, we’re also experiencing global emotional exhaustion.
Of course I’m in no way exempt from this, I have suffered from severe anxiety and depression too and I’m not ashamed to admit it. And these issues aren’t just 2020 symptoms for me either, they were present long before then…
One of my favourite quotes comes to mind:
“It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” – Krishnamurti
If I could, I’d like to save the forests, the animals and the entire planet, so of course I’m not always in happy-land. But before I digress and jump into that rabbit hole, I’d like to share a few things (aside from music) which help me find relief and escape from my mind when I’m experiencing a wave of depression/anxiety.
Our minds are magical things, capable of letting us experience utter bliss, as well as utter nightmares.
Learning to control and change this is a battle worth fighting for (and personally, I’m still fighting in intervals).
The more “conventional techniques” you’ve probably heard of
Mindfulness and Meditation
A few years back I was attacked by a stranger, with a loud air horn, held straight to my ear. Right after I finished my course in music production.
My hearing is fine (thank unicorns) but the anxiety and tinnitus were something I really had to work on. I got into meditation, to rewire my brain and created my own album to help with this.
The tinnitus is now 99% gone (only briefly returns when I’m really stressed or run down) but I’ll save the story of that journey for another blog post.
My preferred method of meditation is simple: I put on some relaxing music, close my eyes and breathe deeply. I only focus on my breathing, nothing else and treat my thoughts like clouds passing by – I acknowledge their existence but don’t focus on them. I just let them pass and don’t engage emotionally.
Doing this with your emotions and thoughts when you’re not meditating, is a powerful thing to practice.
Yeah I know, for some of us this is a pain in the butt. Or difficult to do if your butt is in pain. Either way though, something as small as a little walk around the block will help clear your head. Some people like to dance, so maybe goof off with your pets, kids or just on your own, put on a dance video on Youtube and try something new. You want to get those endorphins flooding your brain!
I don’t want to state the obvious but try your best to eat the rainbow and have some variety in your diet. This one is tricky when you want to comfort eat (hello ramen). I find that if you exercise before eating crap, the cravings for junk food decrease quite significantly.
Don’t get sucked into watching the news for too long. Keep up to date if you feel you need to but try not to overindulge. Same goes for social media.
There are plenty more things that I could include here of course. I know some people find medication helpful but since I’m only speaking from personal experience in this post, I’ll move on to:
The maybe not so conventional techniques
Actually, I think this one is well established but anyway. If you’re lucky enough to live near a forest or a park with lots of trees, take a flask and a blanket and spend some time there. The forest always seems to wash away my troubles. Countless times have I wandered into the woods, with a head full of despair but then returned with blissful tranquility.
I can’t remember the exact science behind this one (so take this next sentence with a pinch of salt). It was something to do with particles of the forest entering our systems through our pores and airways and stimulating well-being…something like that.
Or maybe it’s the invisible unicorns, the world of the Fae and science just hasn’t found them yet. 😉
Getting lost in a different world
I love classic point-and-click adventure games. I can’t even begin to tell you how much escapism they have offered me.
Yes, reading books and watching Netflix all have their place but these adventure games require you to think and act, in order for the storyline to unfold. This interactive component helps my mind stay focused.
Some of my favourite games of this genre are: King’s Quest (including ADG Interactive remakes), Mage’s Initiation, Monkey Island, Gray Matter, Wadjet Eye’s Blackwell Series and Unavowed.
Sometimes the best thing to do is focus on someone in need. It makes you forget your own troubles for a while and is productive for you both. Win-Win. Just be careful you don’t burn out.
I love Dylan Moran’s stand up comedy, George Carlin and everything from Oliver Kalkofe (for my fellow Germans). My mind (more often than not) also lives in Peep Show and Black Books.
Find something that gives you those precious belly laughs.
Dress up, pull faces, force yourself to smile. Even if a forced smile makes you look axe-murderish, it still triggers the right hormones.
I think I could go on and on with this post but I’ll stop here.
Thank you for reading this far and I hope some of this is useful to someone out there in Internetland.
If you have any other tips or experiences you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment. Together we’re stronger and just know that you matter and you’re not alone.
Love and Unicorns,
I don’t claim to have all the answers and give no guarantee that what works for me will work for you too. I’m no expert in any of this, everything I share here is based on personal experience. If you need professional help, please don’t be afraid to seek it.