I apologise for the lateness of this piece, I was unwell over the weekend and with this being quite personal, I wanted to make sure I got the right stuff down. So today I will be talking a little bit more about what I have learned throughout therapy. I do wish to stress that therapy is a very individualistic process and what I am sharing is not representative of what anyone else has learned; it is as unique as every person is themselves. I am hoping that what I share might allow to you understand the kind of journey and evolution towards wellness I have undergone. So without further ado, these are the lessons I learned…
1: Plan your days, even if you are low
Early into my time in therapy, I was struggling to find motivation to do anything, every day was a struggle and nothing was ever accomplished, so my psychotherapist suggested a therapy that helped me build goals to achieve (more on that later) and boost my mood through activity. It got to the point where I was planning my days with a mixture of pleasurable activities and activities that had do be done, like laundry. We would then discuss how accomplished each activity made me feel and how I felt in general. I found my activity times boosting and that I would feel better for doing something as simple as reading and tidying my room in a day.
At this point in time, I plan the day in advance the night before so that I know what is ahead. I have found it helps to keep my mood stable and my brain focused. I do sometimes plan a few days ahead when I know there a lots of things to be done e.g. university work and studying. It has become a key point in my nightly routine and has done wonders for my sense of wellness.
2: When low days arrive, stick to the foundations and basics of self-care
I have spoken about self-care
previously. I have had wobbles and blips throughout therapy where my energy was low, and I couldn’t find motivation. So the solution I learned was to still plan the day ahead, especially, when feeling low. I do this by planning in all the basics like brushing my teeth, having a shower and reaching out to someone. It helps to give me a sense of accomplishment that even on my lowest of days I am still doing something positive: I am taking care of myself.
3: When good days come, don’t overdo everything to then suffer burnout
This can happen to so many of us, we have a few low energy days and then when we feel good all of a sudden, we feel like we can get everything done and often do: to only feel exhausted at the end of it. This happened to me so many times once I started to feel well more often. I would overwork the body and brain and then become burned out in a matter of minutes after completing a long to-do list. Life is all about balance. To remain in a good energetic state, it is all about balance. Whilst I have not perfected the art of not overdoing things, I do feel I have vastly improved over time. So when I feel well, I place in some relaxing activities and a few little activities I need to do such as budgeting or planning work. This has helped me to lessen the burden of burnout and lengthen how long I feel well.
4: Goals can help
Everybody has goals. Be it long term career plans, or short term financial goals. I will be going more in-depth as to how goals can be used to improve your well-being in a later post. For years, I either had goals that could be not accomplished or I just was not wanting to make them due to depression really digging its’ heels in. Goals were one of the first things I practiced in therapy, making small achievable goals to get out of the house a couple of times within the week. I found the goal of a short ten minute walk to the shop helped me to feel just that little bit better. They helped me to feel freer. I have learned how to plan a few months into the future at the time and have an idea of a long term career plan which I am still developing. Life, of course, does not always go to plan so I have been taught how to deal with this when issues arise. But having a goal is me having the option of learning how to better myself, to actively intend to do something I feel will be good for me, or make life just a little bit easier.
5. You cannot do everything all the time
This is a big lesson I have had to learn. When I started therapy, I wanted to get as much work done as possible. This is not how therapy worked for me. Patience was needed. As I learned more tools for my well-being the more I tried to be this ‘perfect’ person who could be amazing in all areas all the time. It soon came crashing down and I was low again. I couldn’t figure out why this had happened as obvious as it may seem. Until I spoke with my psychotherapist and she showed me that trying to do too much at once will inevitably burn me out.
I found the things that I knew I wanted to do regularly that helped me to function and thrive and have based my life around these practices. Other areas I want to improve myself upon are a process, it takes time to build positive habits. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model. It is a process of trial and error and finding things that can be committed to. But constantly being ‘on’ and trying to do every single thing I want can be exhausting. This is not a healthy pattern. So now, I am comfortable practicing what feels right for myself, and when I feel ready, I may take on another challenge.
I often remind myself of all the positive things I do regularly; running, reading, meditating, having a morning and night routine, planning my days, yoga etc. I remind myself it is still okay if I may falter occasionally, it happens, each day is different and I have to be okay with switching things up to match the day and my mood.
6: Plan pleasurable activities into your days
This is a big one, in a world where productivity and working hard is the key, having ‘me-time’ can be seen as a negative point. But I disagree. I learned very early on in therapy that pleasurable activities are what sustain me, knowing I have something that brings me joy ahead feeds my soul. It keeps me going, revitalises my mind and I can carry on with the harder activities after refocusing. I have learned we all need some down time to process things, to regroup and conquer whatever is next in our day or week.
7: Practice meditation/mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness have almost become buzzwords in this technological and social media age. A ‘guru’ will speak of its benefits endlessly. It has become a popularised part of therapy because of how much research backs the findings. I got into meditation myself last year when I wanted to learn how to calm my mind from spiralling thoughts and just be present in the day. I myself have felt the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, even if it is just a short 3 minute practice every day. Some people find that this does not work for them and that is perfectly okay, but I do find it helps me.
8: Exercise helps
Over the recent years I have never really been a fan of exercising regularly, I have never had the most healthy relationship with exercise from my younger years. I did have a fear of returning to unhealthy patterns but I came into therapy with wanting to create a stronger, healthier self and this didn’t just mean my mind. I wanted a stronger body to create a unification in my wellness. So I undertook the Couch 2 5K programme, my partner helped me along with incredible support and I have learned balance and do incorporate running into my days when I can. I also do yoga at home which helps me to refresh and refocus.
I hope you enjoyed reading a bit more about what I learned in therapy, maybe you find you can relate to some of it? Let me know!