The first question is, "When you're having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?"
That's a powerful question, especially for people who really struggle with mental health issues. I wouldn't want to trivialize the challenges faced by people with depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, addiction, or any other serious mental health issue by comparing them with the typical ups and downs in my life.
Certainly, there are days when I have to deal with problems that affect my mood. Sometimes it seems that everything happens at once. The day the garage door jams will be the same day I have an important business appointment, and that will be the same day I get a call from the caretakers at my mother's assisted-living facility, and that will be just before my Internet connection goes down and a water pipe in the neighborhood bursts and floods the street.
Or maybe it will just be a series of small annoyances, a bad hair day combined with the next-door neighbor's noisy remodeling project, five junk phone calls in a row, and a cat coughing up a hairball on the couch.
There are a lot of things I need to do, and I don't have time for all these obstacles. I can feel myself getting tense.
My method of coping is a sort of mini-meditation.
- I remind myself that this is all temporary. In an hour, a day, a week, a year, these problems will be gone.
- I focus on something simple and pleasant, like a vase of flowers or the tree outside my window.
- I sit up straight, breathing slowly and deeply, deliberately concentrating on each breath.
It usually takes just five minutes - ten at the most - for this technique to calm and relax me. I can think clearly, I feel more like I'm in control, and I'm ready to start solving problems.