Tag Archives: unsolicited advice

Crisis Response (2)

The purpose of this post is to give a more general picture of how I live and deal with my mental health on a day-to-day basis. The hope is that through following practices and exhibiting behaviors that are good for my overall mental health, I will need to rely on acute crisis response behaviors less frequently.

Much like my previous post on the matter, this is about what I do and works for me.

Make schedules

Make a physical or digital schedule. Don’t just keep it in your head, but actually write it down in a way you can look at it. This helps you hold yourself accountable to getting these things done, because they’re on a schedule.

Explicitly add things like breaks, exercise, and meals to your schedules.

Build routines

Wake up at the same time each day, go to bed around the same time each day. Pick some times to have meals, or take breaks.

I work in two-hour chunks and then take 30-60 minutes off, depending on which break it is. I take these breaks away from my computer and read, exercise, stretch, nap, or have a beverage, snack, or meal. I’ve gotten back into taking care of my skin, as it gives me more ritual for the day.

Routines are not just on a daily basis. Come up with weekly routines as well: play games on Wednesday nights, have coffee wit a friend (via jitsi or whatever) on Tuesday afternoons. Call a family member Friday night. Watch a movie Sunday afternoon. I wash my hair twice a week – Sunday and Wednesday.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to have days and times blur together. Having things that happen on certain days help mark the passage of time, and having different times you do things also helps shape your day.

Have separate mental and physical spaces, and mark them however works for you

I do not wear leggings on a weekday, unless it’s under a dress or skirt. On the other hand, I don’t wear work clothes on weekends (unless there’s a particular reason to). I work from the kitchen, so I take breaks in other parts of the apartment (we are very lucky and have a large apartment). If possible, stay out of your bedroom (see more on that below) during the day. Work on associating different parts of your home with different activities.

Find things you can be in control of

Many, many people are struggling with the lack of control they have over the world around them right now. Find little, healthy things you can control. I make my bed every day, even if it’s just spreading the blanket and putting the pillows on top of it.

Keep your space clean, organize the fridge and cabinets, open the windows and get some fresh air in. Decorate. Rejoice in the fact that you have things you can control, no matter how small they are.

Exercise!

Exercising and being active is basically one of the best things you can do for your mental health. I exercise in 15-30 minute blocks, several times a day, so it doesn’t feel like a big commitment. I do body weight exercises, yoga, and go for runs. Sometimes I dance or do barre videos from YouTube.

When I take my work breaks, I walk around the apartment or stretch or both. Sometimes I just carry something up and down the stairs.

Sleep Hygiene

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is the second most important thing you can do. Here are somethings you can do:

  • go to bed at the same time every night
  • wake up at the same time every day
  • no devices in bed, unless you’re using something to provide sound/white noise
  • only use your bed/room for sleeping
  • do the same things every night the 30 minutes before bed
  • sleep without lights on, or get a nightlight designed to be gentle on your eyes, or automatically go off after some time
  • don’t eat too close to bedtime
  • wear socks if your feet get cold
  • if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, leave your bed/room and read or whatever it is you do when you can’t sleep

Focus on your Second Thoughts

You’re going to have a lot of stressful, terrible, questionable, disturbing, and anxiety inducing thoughts. These will be your First Thoughts, that come in response to something. After you have your First Thought, intentionally create a Second Thought that challenges your First Thought.

For example: Your roommate finishes the eggs, so you cannot bake the cake you were planning on making. You think they’re mean and terrible and unreasonable and selfish. Then, you remind yourself that maybe they were just hungry, or forgot you were going to bake a cake, or were not feeling well themselves and really needed those eggs to feel better about their current situation.

Build a team

Find 3-6 people in your life you can reach out to when things get really bad. Ask them explicitly to be on your team, and lay out what the expectations are. In general, my expectations for my team are that, should I become overwhelmingly stressed or anxious, I will reach out to one of them to vent, distraction, or for help planning how to respond or overcome the situation that is causing me problems. Also, explicitly state to each of them that it’s okay if they don’t have time for you at a specific moment – that’s why you have a team. I’ve found that people on my team will frequently make time for me when I need it, even if I have other things going on.

If you have trouble reaching out for help when you need it, suggest a code phrase that will communicate that you need your team. Some I like are:

  • What have you been reading lately?
  • Did you see the new Werner Herzog documentary?
  • Have you seen the new Homestuck?

So

As another reminder, these are things I do, and they work for me. Not all of them work all the time, and sometimes I don’t do them even when I should. Experiment and see what works in your life.

Writeup

One of the hardest things about speaking at a conference (beyond getting over anxiety, a fear of public speaking, and imposter syndrome) is doing a write up about the conference and, more specifically, your talk. You want to provide a useful summary of your thesis, some details, and maybe a joke or two to convince people that they should watch your talk. Post-conference video views are important: you can beat your friends by having more views or judge your self-worth by how many people responded positively to your presentation–or both!

I was talking with Spencer Krum (credit where credit is due) about these problems. Presented below is a slightly less late-night, post-dinner-lull inspired solution than the one we originally came up with.

I’ve found that when I’ve needed content from people, it was extremely effective to give out surveys or conduct interviews using a set of questions designed to touch on the major important points.

By the end of the conversation, we agreed that conferences should send you a post-talk survey (as opposed or in addition to a pre-conference interview). Filling out this survey would give you a basis for a blogpost, and the conference a little more content for their blog. In theory, you would get this along with a link for the video to your talk.

Here are some ideas I had about what would make some good questions.

  1. Talk Title
  2. Organization or project represented in the talk or at the event
  3. Conference presented at, including year and location
  4. What was the thesis of your talk?
  5. Why did you want to present this talk? Why this conference was a good venue, or why was it relevant to the audience?
  6. Do you have an outline of important points? What do you think are the most important takeaways–either big ideas or details–from this talk?
  7. What do you want people who attended the presentation to understand or walk away with, that they might not have known before?
  8. Did you get any great questions or valuable feedback?
  9. Did you learn anything in preparing or presenting?
  10. Would you be interested  in giving the same or a similar presentation at another event in the future?
  11. Is there anything else you think is super important to know about your talk?

Some of these questions are kind of similar (4, 6, and 7), but I think they can help you think about the content of your talk in different ways, in order to create a more in-depth understanding of what was important.

I’m going to try and go back to the talk Deb and I gave at HOPE and see what I can come up with using these questions.