Awhile back I asked you for your sanity tricks, techniques that help you fight the forces of the dark side. Here are some of the gems.
1. Learn the alphabet.
Do you know why the vowel “I” comes well before the vowel “U”? Because a person must take care of herself before trying to help someone else or the world. It’s the same logic that flight attendants use when they swear to you that your plane isn’t going to crash, but in the event that it does, you’d be smart to fasten your own oxygen mask before helping the kiddies. Do it in reverse, and you’ll all run out of air.
2. Stop the singing lessons.
I could have used this one a long time ago: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” In other words, you can’t change other people. Mean creatures inhabit every planet. But you can change yourself: the way you relate to them, or your reaction … to their singing.
3. Get a yellow light.
Some folks intuitively know how to relax and slow down. And some go to therapy to learn how. The latter group operates with two speeds: go and stop. They go, go, go, and go even faster until they crash. And that’s never pretty. Which is why they need a yellow light signaling … Hit the brakes! … Transition, dude! … Yo, Speedy! You’re missing the good stuff!!
4. Play out your hand.
This was an excellent reminder by a reader for those moments when I’m griping about the cards that I was dealt in life. Granted, in proper perspective, my hand is a winner. I live in a free country where I actually get paid for whining. I have two “spirited” kids who have all their limbs. And I have a freezer stocked full of dark chocolate. But I often focus on the stinkers in my hand: a severe mood disorder and some other health conditions.
Playing out our hand is about living the stuff of the Serenity Prayer: tucking away the loser card we can’t get rid of, trying to steal our opponent’s King if we can, and knowing when to draw.
5. Write it down.
In an August 2003 issue of Australian Journal of Psychology, University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker summarizes dozens of studies linking expressive writing to improvements in immunity, academic performance, social behavior, and mental health. In a 2003 British Psychological Society study, results indicated that writing about emotions might even speed the healing of physical wounds.
If journaling about pain can heal your knee scab, think about what writing might do for your heart, mind, and soul! Articulating my journey from the abyss of severe depression and back has certainly contributed to sanity in my life and I can vouch for others, as well.
6. Think outside the symptoms.
A woman who struggles with anxiety told me that when the panic minions whisper into her ear things like “this is the worst thing that’s ever happened,” “we’re doomed,” and “there is no way out of this,” that she scolds them. “I’m not buying whatever you’re selling, so save it for someone else,” she’ll say. I’ve been learning to use the same technique with my depression– to think outside my symptoms–so that when I hear myself repeat to the person staring back at me in the mirror unfair assessments like “you’re a failure,” “you’re lazy,” and “you’re good for nothing,” I know that it isn’t me talking, it’s my mood disorder.
Therese J. Borchard writes the daily Beliefnet.com blog Beyond Blue (voted by Psych Central as one of the Top 10 Depression Blogs) and moderates Group Beyond Blue, the Beliefnet Community online support group for depression. Her memoir “Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” will be released in January of 2010. Subscribe to Beyond Blue here or visit her at http://www.ThereseBorchard.com.