Bag of Tricks

With having depression or any mental illness it becomes vital to have a few tools that can be easily accessed to help in times of chaos. What some people don’t understand about mental illness is that even if you choose to take medication, you aren’t healed. Medication, most often than not, helps with the symptoms of depression. They also can help to level different chemicals. But, we still have to work at our healing, just as someone may need rehabilitation after a surgery; we need to practice healthy ways of thinking. To improve ourselves, our lives, and the lives of those we love, learning tricks helps us deal with the ups and downs and promotes a healthier way of living for us and our families.

Figuring out what triggers, or starts, a hard, sad day or moment will give us a reference point to work with. For example: if loud noise is a sensory reaction for me, I need to take note of this. Maybe most of the day, loudness doesn’t bother me because kids can play outside, I have more patience, or maybe I can handle loud bouts in short periods. But if at night the loudness of the children, music, or shows start to bring anxiety, I need to write this down as a top trigger. It may take some trial and error to figure out the top triggers. It can become frustrating when we aren’t sure what’s making us lose control. In this case if you have no idea what is making you angry, please call your doctor. I had to get on medication before I could even start to find triggers. My anger levels and anxiety were so high I was living in high stress constantly, so I couldn’t feel any warning from my body.

After finding triggers, then you can move onto a plan and tricks. Plans sometimes need to be adjusted so that they work easily with routines and schedules in your life. If you are one who can’t handle big messes like decorating gingerbread houses or eggs around holidays. Plan it with friends or family that can handle that kind of chaos. The planning is to help eliminate the extra stress that triggers our depression. So, a strategy I use in the evening is that it’s quiet after 7:30. If we are playing board games, we keep our voices down. If we are watching a movie we don’t blast the volume. Music needs to be more calming or earbuds used. You get the picture. I have come to know that my brain can’t process excessive noise in the evening. My kids say I’m just old, and though there is truth there, it is also the way my anxiety and stress work in my body. I have been able to self-regulate all day, but once I’m tired it’s harder on my body. My trick is telling my kids that I am hulking out, or I feel the hulk transforming. They like Marvel and the reference is a perfect visual of how I feel with too much noise. It also reminds me that I have a breaking point. Knowing what plan I have put in place (quiet after 7:30), I can then give reminders (these are your tricks). Make sure your trick is something that helps you, your kids and family understand that you are close to losing it.

Identifying Triggers, coming up with a plan and having a trick can really improve our interactions with our family. Track your irritabilities, sadness, and anger. Then take time to see what can help limit some of these feelings. The feelings are going to happen, this is not pushing things under the rug, but we want to minimize the emotional ups and downs around them. After you have both the trigger and a plan, come up with a key word as a reminder for both you and your family. Your survival bag will eventually be full of some tricks to alleviate your stress.

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