The descent of the bleak greyness, the creeping winter chill, and the slowly diminishing light marks the rapid arrival of winter, and the final deathly blow to the summer we never really got. This can be a difficult time of year for many people whose mental and physical health takes a heavy blow from the withdrawal of summery goodness. In addition, many of my followers on Twitter have likewise been finding the past few weeks a struggle in the aftermath of the post-con depression. Attending conventions can be a wonderful experience of acceptance, love and surprising motivation borne from such an electrifying atmosphere. The return home can be a very unpleasant jolt back to the mundaneness of our everyday lives which can lead to a worsening of mental and physical health.
In my case, the combination of these two events has resulted in a severe worsening of my depression and anxiety, low-self esteem and an almost total destruction of my motivation. There have been many days spent lying on the sofa trapped in a tempest of despair; unable to move or look after myself, a situation that may be familiar to many of you reading this. During these times, I often feel so encumbered by guilt – the guilt of not being productive enough – that I feel like I don’t *deserve* to do nice things, even if I know it technically counts as self-care. And anyway, even if I did want to attempt to climb out of my deep, dark well of destruction, I often find myself unable to pick an activity. Read a book? Yes, but what book? What about playing a game? Well, what games am I can to play? Am I even allowed to waste time doing these things? Running into these obstacles can bring many well-meaning attempts to pick yourself up again to nothing. Instead, discouraged and feeling even more guilty because you can’t even pick an activity successfully, you return to your hole.
I am here to tell you: IT’S OKAY. It is okay to feel like this and you are definitely not alone in this battle. You are a wonderful, talented person who has much to offer the world. You may not see it yourself, but that’s the secret of the magic of you. You’re so awesome you’ve blinded yourself from seeing how truly magical you are in an attempt to live out a *normal* life. It seems maybe you have gone a bit overboard and now you can’t see that magic at all ever. But, everybody else can and we’re here to help you see your magic once again.
I am GIVING YOU PERMISSION to look after yourself until such a time when you can start giving yourself permission. Self-care is productive and this is something I think we could all benefit from learning. You have permission to look after yourself, to enjoy yourself, to view yourself and be viewed as something more than just a means of economic production.
And, I am giving you a cheat sheet of activities which you can turn to when your brain cannot come up with the ideas of things you can do to, hopefully, make yourself feel better. The surprise is that by doing such things and fashioning it into a part of your daily routine, you will likely find that you do feel more motivated because you’re looking after yourself and relieving that crushing boulder of pressure from your chest.
Seting Goals and Creating a Schedule
Before I provide you with that handy little cheat sheet, it might be worth thinking about making yourself some goals and a little schedule in pencil as these can be good tools to manage your expectations and actually allow you to see your progress. When we don’t write things down, or otherwise record them, it can be so hard to see all of the great things you’ve achieved that day. Instead, you’ll find yourself focusing on that one thing you didn’t manage to do and let that fester in your mind which is never a good thing.
I find it helpful to create small, easy, everyday goals on a sticky pad each morning which I write with a pencil. This helps me to structure my day and gives me great satisfaction in crossing things off. I might not manage to write a blog one day, but I maybe had a shower, did a little bit of tidying and made a plan to see friends. Those are all great things and we need to make sure we celebrate ALL of our achievements, not just the *big* ones. You might also find it useful to do this using something like Habitica, which is not only great for breaking things down into habits, dailies, and to-do’s but also rewards you with XP and gold for completing these which you can then spend on cool armour, weapons and mounts!
Schedules can also be a fantastic way to manage your time and break up the days into much more manageable chunks so you don’t fall into groundhog day (which happens to me constantly). Don’t feel restricted in making yourself a schedule and do not feel like you always have to stick to it. Changing it up is completely legit! I always write my schedules in pencil so I don’t feel trapped by routine and can easily rearrange things to suit my feelings for the day. Make your schedule however you want. Like being arty, maybe try bullet journalling? Really into graphs or timetables, try excel or google docs? There’s loads of options out there for you. It’s okay to keep cycling through until you find, or adapt, something that works for you!
Designate set times when you work best to minimise sad feelings as a result of working during times when you are not very productive. It can be super helpful to assign easier tasks for the morning. I find it easier to start the day washing or tidying up before launching into harder work activities!
Social time can be essential for easing periods of loneliness especially if, like me, you are currently at home for long periods of time. Social time does not have to be in person! Hanging out with others on forums, twitter, twitch, etc are all totally encouraged forms of social time. Make sure you also assign yourself leisure time to engage with hobbies or maybe even learn new things. Both leisure and social time is not to be underestimated, particularly for those who have dependants. Not devoting enough time for you can lead to you harbouring feelings of resentment towards your dependants. Time for you is crucial, but don’t forget you can also involve your dependants in some fun leisure time activities!
Lastly, assign self care time. Many people overlook self-care activities but its super important to devote time to looking after yourself. This can include accessing support networks, showing, eating, taking your medication, as well as anything else!
Share your goals and schedules with me either on here or through twitter. It can be great to support each other, as well as be inspired by each others plans ❤
Below is a list of activities that I’ve assigned myself for when my depression has gotten really bad. Trying to think of activities on the fly when my brain has melted out of my ears never goes well, but having a preconceived list of activities which you have permission to do can alleviate a lot of anxiety. During times of illness, I find myself becoming quite co-dependent on my partner which leads to me convincing myself that I can’t play Mass Effect or watch Mad Max without him because he enjoys those things too. Of course, he would enjoy all the things I want to do so I end up talking myself in circles until I’m unable to do ANYTHING. If you’re also like me, a cheat sheet can also be a great opportunity to come up with activities with your partner so that, if you need help, they can give you permission to do certain activities without them. This may alleviate co-dependent feelings and help you to find an activity. Lastly, this list is a list I made for myself as an example for you all. Please use anything you find useful or make your own list with entirely different activities. Everything is valid!
- Plan to create, even if you don’t end up creating – I love planning projects, new worlds, and novels. Happiness should not be dependent on the outcome but on you enjoying the activity. If it means you don’t end up writing the book, then it doesn’t matter! You had a great time anyway.
- Go to Lewisham (insert your equivalent town or area) to browse in the shops, have a coffee or unashamedly read books in Waterstones – you don’t have to spend any money to enjoy this. You could take a packed lunch and a book you own if you’re low on money. You could also draw, write, or simply people watch.
- Go out for the morning/afternoon/evening to a museum or gallery, a comic book store or video game cafe, or to the park.
- Listen to podcasts or the radio, or watch videos – I really like doing this as I’m often home on my own a lot. Listening to a fun podcast like Box Not Included or watching Critical Role on youtube fills the silence and provides you with some virtual people to hang out with for an hour or two (or 4 as is the case with Critical Role).
- Check out websites like meetup.com to arrange to hang out with some fellow geeks who share the same interests as you – This is something I’m currently trialling to help me make friends outside of my partner. There are loads of cool groups like Feminist Book Clubs, Coding, Writing groups, and even a super cool Sci-Fi club in London. Some of these groups, like X, even offer buddy schemes so you can meet up with a group member beforehand to help with anxiety.
- Play Mass Effect, Dead Before Daylight, or Ori and the Blind Forest – Coming up with a list of video games that my partner doesn’t mind missing is really helpful in helping me to give myself permission to enjoy these games without him! During times of depression and loneliness, games can be a great way to escape from the situation which is making you feel like poop and that’s totally okay! Sometimes, escaping for a little while can make you feel a lot better or like you’ve been productive (yes, I’m talking about the Sims). Just try and remind yourself to drink and eat throughout your gaming spree.
Remember, you are magical and you deserve to do nice things even when your brain is telling you otherwise. I am here to give you permission to do these activities and this blog will always be here for you to revisit to remind yourself. Bookmark it, tweet me, do whatever is helpful to keep this permission fresh in your mind.