For various reasons, including high pain levels and horrendous sleep-maintenance insomnia (when you can get to sleep but can’t stay asleep, and your sleep is highly fragmented), I have days when I struggle with anxiety attacks and dissociative episodes.
Because I want this blog post to be a non-triggery safe space for people who may have found it because they’re having headweasels right now, I’m not going to go into detail about symptoms. Instead, I’d like to share a coping strategy that helps me. This is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice and it may not work for everyone. All I know is it works for me and therefore might be helpful to others.
I use my journal to do this because I find writing with my favourite fountain pen in a lovely notebook really calming, but if notebooks aren’t your thing or you’re not in a place to start laying out worksheets for yourself, I’ve included downloadable printable versions at the bottom of this post. They’re jpegs so you should be able to open and print them on pretty much any device. They’re A4 size at 300dpi so you can scale them up or down to suit. Anyone is welcome to download and use them. I’m fine with them being shared too, but please share this post directly rather than downloading and reuploading the files. Thanks 🙂
Self-care and comfort
Things to do today
This isn’t intended to be a giant list of super important tasks for work or hardcore housekeeping. It’s supposed to be a list of things that help you to stay safe and comfortable, and perhaps a few things that you really need to get done. For example, my list for today includes cuddling my cat, a short yoga practice, laundry, and a quick check on my emails and social media notifications. Depending on how you’re feeling, you might want to include some basic personal hygiene tasks, or a reminder to call or chat online with someone you love.
When my mind is imploding, I suck at remembering to eat. It’s generally a good idea to eat something a few times a day, so this section on the printable has five stars (they could’ve been boxes, but no, stars are better) so you can colour one in or tick one off every time you have a munch. Feel free to add more stars if you like – whatever works for you.
I’m referring to water or tea here, although if the only way you’re going to consume liquid is if it’s in a sugary or fizzy format, at least you’re hydrating so don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s a good idea to drink at least two litres of non-alcoholic, preferably non-caffeinated, liquid a day. I’ve included five stars here too, but you can scribble one out or add more to suit the size of your favourite mug, glass or water bottle. If thinking about amounts of things is too much at the moment, just use this as a reminder to drink something.
I’m not talking about doing five gym sessions or five long walks in one day. This is simply meant to be a reminder to get up out of your chair if you’re able to, or stop what you’re doing and have a stretch if you aren’t mobile. If you’re able to incorporate some exercise-exercise, great. If not, don’t worry. This is about getting you through the day, not pushing yourself to the point of collapse.
When you’re having a difficult day, it can help to have a list of some of your favourite songs, artists, playlists, radio stations or albums to listen to. You don’t have to work through the list – it’s supposed to be there so you only have to think about this stuff once and then have a resource to refer back to for the rest of the day.
Sometimes a favourite film or TV show can provide comfort, distraction or much-needed smiles. This is a space for you to make a short list of films or shows you love so that if you hit a point in the day when you need something to watch, you can just pick something from the list without having to start making big decisions.
This is a take-it-or-leave-it bit, but it really works for me. Make a quick note of something that helps you to feel better. It could be a mantra like I am fine the way I am, or a reminder like I am loved, or something that you’re looking forward to like The weekend starts tomorrow.
Honestly, I laughed at this concept the first time I heard about it but when the shit really hits the fan, I’ve found it super helpful to ground me in my surroundings and my body. A check in is basically time you take to go through what’s happening in your physical surroundings, what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. It can take two minutes or half an hour – it’s up to you.
What time is it?
Don’t guess. Look at a clock, your phone, your fitness tracker, your watch, whatever. This gives you context for this moment in your day.
Where am I?
Try and give a bit more information than simply at home. For example, my last check-in “where” was in my favourite chair in my living room. This creates some solid detail.
What am I watching or listening to?
This gives you another bit of solid detail to ground you in your surroundings and gets you using your senses of sight and/or hearing.
What am I doing?
Resist the urge to write a check in! This is a prompt to do something to ground you in your body – eating, drinking, brushing your hair, stretching, massaging your feet etc – and gets you using your sense of touch.
What feels comforting?
A check in is a reminder to appreciate comfort, and create some if you can’t immediately recognise any in your surroundings. My last check in “comfort” was my orange scanted candle. Yours could be your snuggliest sweater, the light from your favourite lamp, the feeling of the lawn under your bare feet, anything in your immediate environment that makes you feel good, even in the smallest of ways.
How am I feeling?
This can be a one-word answer, a short sentence or a stream-of-consciousness ramble – whatever you need it to be. It doesn’t have to show progress and it doesn’t have to be filled with positivity if that isn’t where you’re at right now. It’s simply a prompt to notice what your emotions are doing and accept them.
Seriously. It doesn’t matter what you draw or how detailed it is. It’s just a little task to do, something that gets your brain and hands working together. You can use it as a tool for expression or catharsis if you want, or you can doodle random shapes. It doesn’t matter. High-five for any Hannibal fans out there who are drawing a clock right now.
Grab your printables
If you’d like to grab the printables, click on the images below to open and download them full-size.
A final note
I created these tools based on my own experiences and needs, and you are absolutely welcome to edit them to suit yourself. For example, depending on your senses you might skip the bits about watching or listening to things, or add more touch-based resources. If writing isn’t accessible to you or isn’t something you enjoy, you might prefer to speak your answers out loud or just think about them without any external expression. If you think it would be helpful to keep your worksheets to look for patterns, you can totally do that, but it’s not what I created them for. If you want to throw them away at the end of the day, that’s cool too. You do you. You’ve got this ❤