Okayyy, this post is going to be a little long, I can feel it.
First, the reason I’m writing this: I took a small break from writing posts for self-care purposes, but this post is also a form of getting over the effects of a breakdown. I’m just reminding myself of the things I can do to improve my life. Hopefully this helps other people as well!
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional psychologist or anything. I only have a BA, so all of this stuff is just things I learned in class, tried applying to my own life, and gotten good results from.
Let’s just jump straight into it with mindfulness I guess. Mindfulness is usually associated with meditation. As I understand it, it’s basically just living in the present and focusing on the “now,” as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I really like this idea, because it reduces my anxiety quite a bit when I remind myself to focus just on what I can do at this moment. Part of it is also just focusing on one thing at a time (i.e. no multitasking) so that you can really dedicate your attention to just one thing without distractions. In relation to meditations, research supports that meditation is beneficial for decreasing anxiety, among other benefits (stronger immune system, etc). Meditating properly for like half an hour everyday is generally good. I personally don’t really meditate that much, but I’ve been told that the guided meditations that you can find online are pretty good. Right now, I’m not super busy or anything, so it’s probably a good time to start practicing; it’s definitely something I’m considering adding to my daily routine.
Speaking of routine, having one is nice because it gives the feeling that your life is in order. I like routine. But too much routine can also be dull. You get used to doing all these things and you don’t find pleasure or meaning in them anymore. So obviously you should probably introduce some variety right? Yeah! Variety is the spice of life, they say. And research just support that having variety in life, especially for the good things in life, is one way of preventing hedonic adaptation (adapting to positive affect and the “good things”). Nature is always good- it’s why I take walks or jogs everyday around the neighborhood where there are a lot of trees. People tend to not adapt to nature. Taking breaks while doing something nice in order to prolong it makes the nice thing nicer. And doing things like buying vacations instead of material goods also tend to increase happiness. Practicing gratitude is also a good thing to do- it helps you appreciate the good things that you already have. Note that even though practicing gratitude requires you to think about the past, in this case it’s a good thing because you aren’t ruminating on the past (and therefore not letting go of it), you are simply appreciating and then not thinking about it too much.
Maybe it’s because my energy levels are still not really up there quite yet (my anxiety has been higher than baseline for the past few weeks), but I’m doing a really good job of being extremely concise. I mean, that last paragraph is choppy and all over the place, but it does get to all the points I wanted to say. So I’ll just move on to the last thing I want to write about, and that’s emotion regulation. Seeing as I worked as a research assistant for two and a half years in a lab that studies emotion regulation, I know the basics at least. There are a lot of types of emotion regulation, some that are more efficient than others. The more efficient ones tend to be the antecedent-based ones, like situation selection, where you can choose to not even put yourself in a situation where you would feel something you don’t want to feel. (Not good for dentist appointments though- you should still go for the sake of your dental health, even if it makes you anxious and scared.) My favorite strategy is reappraisal, which is thinking about something in a way that can change the emotion you’re feeling. For example, if you didn’t do very well at a job interview and you’re feeling down about it (I managed to forget the name of one of the interviewers, so…) you can think about it as a learning experience. Like, I’ve made this mistake, but now I know better and I definitely won’t make the same mistake next time. And then your interview skills just improved because you acknowledged a mistake and resolved to do better. Almost everything you do can be re-construed into a learning experience, even if the consequences are positive. So that’s usually the frame of mind I hold. It’s also similar to the growth mindset, where you believe that hard work and effort will be rewarded and improve yourself (as opposed to the fixed mindset, where you believe that people are born with a certain amount of intelligence and no amount of hard work can change that- this is a mindset that’s not very good for self-esteem).
There’s a lot more I could say about these topics, but some of them go more into negative consequences, and I don’t particularly want to think about those right now, so I’m not going to write about them. So there. Take that, intrusive negative thoughts. You can go away now. I’ve got better things to do than dwell on my anxieties and depressive thoughts, like actually being productive. It’s a battle sometimes, and sometimes I can’t force myself to do it, but hey, it’s the effort that counts too, right? Yeah. I’m just doing the best I can to live a good life, and that’s just the best I can do.