Monday, June 30, 2014

Relax. It's Easier Than It Sounds.

I suffer from depression and anxiety. A lot. And recently I put together a list of things that help calm me down. This list was born largely from wanting to show Jeremy the things that I like—the things that may not make my depression go away, but that I like having without having to ask. I also decided to share them here, considering I bet there are a lot of people who suffer from similar problems. Sometimes a little pampering goes a long way. This list is my top ten ways to pamper/indulge myself when I’m feeling particularly low:

APPLY HEAT: I made myself a re-heatable rice pouch a while back. I got the idea when I realized how damn expensive those adhesive heat pads are—the ones from CVS that warm specific parts of your body. Yes, those are much more useful for when I have to go out or when I used to work at the shoe store. However, when I’m sitting at home or laying in bed, a reusable pad works just as well. I didn’t have the money for an electric blanket, so I went online and looked up alternate solutions.
As it turns out, a pouch of fabric filled with rice heats up quite nicely. The rice doesn’t go bad, and obviously if you make the pouch correctly it will ostensibly last forever. I found some soft fabric at a Joanne’s that is soft and pink and has little dinos on it. I hand sewed mine, but they are also super easy to make on a sewing machine. If you really don’t know how or don’t have the resources to make one of your own, there are tons of options on Etsy (including my own). For my friend Hannah, I added some cinnamon to her rice and when she heats it up it smells like French toast. You can also add essential oils or lavender, or a variety of other aromatherapy options to your pouch if scents are helpful to your calming process. But more on that later.

I stick my rice pouch in the microwave for two minutes and it’s nice and warm for an hour or so. The pouch is great for menstrual cramps, but recently I started using it for my back and shoulders too. It releases tension that I carry there when I’m particularly stressed, and makes sitting at my desk typing a lot easier.

AROMATHERAPY: I really love candles. Ever since I was in high school I’ve been into burning candles or scented oils. I don’t like incense as much and I’m not really sure why, but damn do I love a good candle. Aromatherapy is a large part of that. I have a rose garden scented candle which makes my room smell like I’m outside. I have lavender and eucalyptus for when I’m getting ready for bed. I have tons of fall-scented candles of all sizes, if I want my room to smell like Halloween. Cucumber and lemon are two other scents I love when I want to fresh up my room or feel a little lighter.
I can’t pretend to be an expert on aromatherapy, but I know there are a lot of resources out there for it. It’s something that, even as an amateur, I’ve been able to use pretty successfully to get into the right mindset. It’s also something I plan on looking into a little more. My favorite resources are Yankee Candle (their outlets always have really good sales) and Bath and BodyWorks (also really good deals if you go at the right time).

ASMR VIDEOS: Okay so there’s the crazy thing on the internet called ASMR videos. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and it’s basically that tingling you get when someone whispers in your ears. There are a lot of triggers for different people, and even if you don’t have the full tingle response, these video are kind of hypnotizing. Some of them are more visual than aural, and they will help you calm down and even fall asleep. The first one I ever watched actually lulled me into a nap. It was amazing. Sometimes I play them while I work just so I have background noise that’s soothing. It helps me stay focused too because the videos are typically long and I don’t have to worry about choosing new music or changing what I’m watching. My favorites are by youtuber Gentlewhispering, but there are tons to choose from online.

CHATTING WITH FRIENDS: Depression is not easy to deal with, and it’s even harder when you work at home, alone in your room. Sometimes in order to alleviate that, I get on skype and video chat with some friends. I am lucky enough to have friends who also work from home, and are more than willing to video chat with me about absolutely nothing for hours on end. It’s nice to know there’s another person with me, even if they can’t be physically near.

CHAMOMILE TEA: duh, right? I am a huge Twinnings tea fan, but not of their chamomile for some reason. Something about their chamomile blend tastes soapy, in my opinion, so I drink Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings instead. I take mine with raw honey instead of sugar, which is a spoiled habit I picked up when there was a farmer’s market on my campus in undergrad and I tried raw honey for the first time. Since then, anything processed has tasted like plastic.
In my opinion, the honey makes the tea a little thicker which puts me in that drowsy mood before bedtime, but it also slows me down and brings my anxiety to a halt if I’m freaking out about something. The warmth of the cup and the tea itself also help with the relaxation. Basically chamomile makes me chill out, which may be part psychological but...whatever works.

FREE ART TIME: I am on the last of a twelve week “recovering artists” program found in the book The Artist’s Way. That book and the program in it has encouraged me to play with my art. It reminded me how fun it is to collage, or just cut pictures I like out of a magazine. It got me back into painting with watercolors, and looking up pictures of things I like and trying to recreate them. In my own way. Collaging and decoupage allow me to personalize things that would otherwise be kind of bland, like my desk blotter or the box I keep spare writing utensils in. I have a sticker addiction that’s fed by the blank side of whatever bookcase is closest to me. I recommend making something a little more “yours” through art.

FANFICTION: I have been reading and writing fanfiction for almost fifteen years. I love reading and writing in general, but there’s something extra comforting about returning to the universes I already know I love, and looking at them from a different perspective. Right now I’ve been favoring Captain America or Avengers fics, but I’ve never quite grown out of the Harry Potter universe. No matter how old I get, a good Ron/Hermione snuggle story will put me into a better mood than I was before. I know that won’t work for everyone, but the gist is this: return to something that made you feel good when you were younger. It will probably tap into a comforting area in your mind and let the challenges of today disappear.

WATCHING A MOVIE: Apparently, even when I was a baby, I would watch a movie, rewind it, and then watch it again. That repetition still hasn’t worn off. When I was in high school, finals week always meant daily viewings of Hercules. It put me in the right mindset to get focused and study. I’ve seen it so many times at this point that I can recite almost the first ten minutes of it completely. Much like with the ASMR videos, I like not having to think about what’s going on in the background. I need something going on in order to focus—and if I can’t get a movie or tv show wherever I am, I like listening to the rainymood app or coffietivity. But nothing beats my comfort films when I’m feeling down and out.

ONE-MINUTE CHECKLIST: This is something I picked up from the book The Happiness Project. Instead of wasting time putting tasks on a list, which will likely grow to the point of discouraging you, some tasks should just be done. If you insist on writing them down, write them after they’ve been done and cross them out immediately. Usually these tasks have to do with cleaning up the space around me, which clears up room to start something new or simply helps me calm down and eliminate clutter. It feels amazing and boosts your self-confidence almost immediately.

AT HOME SPA: Sometimes there’s nothing left to do but spoil yourself. There are really inexpensive ways to bring a spa experience into your home. I like to make a whole manicure experience out of painting my nails. I’ll soak my fingers in some warm water, apply lotion, heat up my rice pouch and put it on my shoulders, etc. etc. There are also .99 facial masks at CVS that come in all sorts of different varieties, some are moisturizing, some are self-heating, some are tingly and clean out your pores…and on and on and on. Depending on what you want to do, there are plenty of options at Target, Walmart or CVS in the beauty and hygiene sections. Sometimes just a long, extra hot shower will do the trick.

And that’s it. Those are the top ten ways I relax. What are some methods you have found really helpful?

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