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Mental health, Jamie Hale (part 2)

Planning my day for good mental wellbeing.

In yesterday’s blog I talked about having struggled with depression and adapting to disability, and how I slowly got on top of, and overcame, aspects of it. This article is less about mental illness, and more about mental health – because we’ve all got that.

If I want to have a low-pain, easy breathing day, I have to make time for physiotherapy and cough assist. If I want to be comfortable I have to take time to be repositioned regularly. I have to monitor and take my medication on time. These things feel broadly normal for me. 

In the same way, if I want to have a good day with my mental wellbeing, I have to make sure I take some basic steps to manage it from the beginning of the day. I’m prone to getting very overwhelmed and anxious, so I really benefit from using strategies.

Regular strategies.

These strategies are something I try to implement every day, just to help ensure that my mental wellbeing.

Planning my day.

Black and white day planner with the words Happy Monday at the top.

If I have a plan for the day, I’m calmer, happier, and more settled. Obviously things change, but I find knowing (roughly hour by hour) what I’m intending to do, I have a far better chance of being calm, collected, and getting my workload done (very important when I am juggling a lot of different projects. I use a filofax for this, with a page-per-day that allows me to copy my virtual calendar onto something physical, so I can see my day laid out in front of me. I also plan in rest breaks, so I’ve got something to look forward to.

Making an achievable to-do list.

Black and white cartoon style illustration of a notebook and pencil. At the top of the note book it says “To Do List”.

On my to-do list, I have all the tasks that I need to complete – but I also try to have a vision. Where do I want to be in five years? I always make sure there’s something on my to-do list that relates to my five year plan, and I always do this. It feels great, and it keeps me focused not just on the day-to-day but on where I want to be.

Journaling.

Open diary page for the first and second of January.

In theory I do this every day. In practice I do it every few days and catch myself up. I use two separate journals for this – one is about how I feel and what I did, and the other shows me the entries I wrote on the same day for the previous few years, so I write things that I want to have remembered in that one – special, important, or significant things.

Creating.

I’m a poet and writer, and every day I make sure I do something creative – whether it’s writing a silly limerick to my partner, or working on my poetry, essay, novel, or screenwriting (told you I was busy), I find that if I access that creative part of my brain in the morning, it sets me up far better for the rest of the day.

Spending time with loved ones.

My partner and I sleep in different rooms, but every morning we spend 15 minutes together, usually having a cuddle. This is lovely and calm, and makes me feel better about the day I’m facing. It’s a chance to start everything off well

.When things go wrong:

Taking five.

A black and white picture of a countdown clock with the number five on the top left.

If I get stressed or anxious about something, my rule is “take five”. I stop what I’m doing, take a five minute break, and either think about something else, or work through what I’m upset about. I have a very rigid thinking style, and if something goes wrong, I just freeze and can’t think. This strategy gives me the space to emerge from my frozen stress and slowly work out what to do without any pressure.

How bad is it?

If I’m really worried, I think (and credit to my partner for these questions), if I mess this up:

  1. Will anyone be seriously harmed?
  2. Will anyone thank me for having tried?
  3. Will anyone remember in a year’s time?

Generally, the answer to these is “no”, which calms me down considerably.

Your happy place.

A picture taken at sunset in Cordoba, Spain. Overlooking a bridge going over a river, there’s buildings on the other side. Architecture is Spanish.

I was happiest wheeling the streets living in Córdoba, and when I want a happy memory, of a happy place, there’s where I think of in my head. I can’t visualise it (can’t visualise anything), but I somehow remember it anyway. This is somewhere where I start to feel calmer and more able to address whatever was upsetting me so much.

Ask for help.

It doesn’t have to be a crisis for me to text my partner, also working from home, and ask to borrow a pen (as an excuse for getting her to come through to my room!) – talking to someone, even if you’re not talking about what’s upsetting, reduces emotional isolation. 

I hope this helps! What strategies do you use for managing your mental wellbeing?

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