Five key strategies for avoiding self harming thoughts
This past month has taught me one thing: self-opposition is definite torture.
Depression and anxiety, when suppressed on a daily basis, often merge at the end of the day.
Nothing matters but, at the same time, every little thing I do matters heavily. A general impermanence is obvious. The drastic consequence of my own existence is disastrous and humiliating.
You get it. You know it.
In psychology, often avoidance strategies are thought of as procrastinatory distractions and behaviours, things we do to avoid stress. The strategies often fail. By adding distance between us and our “important tasks”, these kinds of avoidance strategies in fact create more immediate stress for us.
But, in evolutionary science, predator avoidance strategy is a term used for the adaptive mechanisms that species have acquired for the sake of reducing their predation risks. Birds migrate to safer nesting environments. Fish live in caves.
Hiding is key. For instance, we are currently all in hiding from a pathogen.
But, of course as humans, we have intellectual ways of problematizing even the simplest of strategies.
We begin worrying in opposition to our safety. We need to hide, somehow, from ourselves.
Here’s five key things you can do. Please listen, do none of these in excess. The stress of MORE will overcome you and your effort to will backfire. Instead, do everything just a little bit. Details to follow.
- Avoid Low Self-Esteem: Work
- Avoid Alienation: Ask for help
- Avoid Sadness: Laugh
- Avoid Purity: Indulge (a little)
- Avoid Meltdown: Hug Literally Anything
First I want to say, if you are thinking “I don’t have a job, I have no work”. Get a pen right now. Pick a number from 1-5 in your head, at random. Choose the corresponding thing from this list and fill in the blank:
- I’d love to learn how to:
- I feel light whenever I:
- I have always wanted to try:
- I miss:
- Wouldn’t it be funny if I:
Write it down. This thing is your job today.
Make an additional list of anything you’ve been putting off: A phone call, an organization task, cleaning out your e-mails, cleaning under the sink…Make something your job.
Endow tasks with meaning. We must endow life with meaning. Life doesn’t come “meaningful”. It takes work.
Keep it small: Write your task or dream or goal on a piece of paper. Break it up into micro tasks, things that might take you 15 minutes each. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Knock each item out of the park.
For balance: If you need extra time, no problem! But, keep moving until you feel you’ve made the leap you need for the day.
Ask For Help
This one is hard for me but, if you are anxious and sad about literally everything, avoid yourself. Ask someone to help you with the things you have to do.
I pass off things to friends for proofreading, I e-mail colleagues for help tracking down visual assets, I ask my bae to walk the dog. Let people help you. Don’t sit with yourself and worry. Avoid worry. Get help.
Keep it small: Ask for help. Take a break. Every time I send an email or text for help, I put my phone down and I recover. It’s a powerful effort. Give it resting room.
For balance: One good recovery method, if you have the opportunity, would be to offer someone help.
I like to laugh when I am alone, some people like to find company.
My secret weapon here is Conan. I have relied on Conan O’Brien to make me laugh since I was fifteen. Conan O’Brien saved my life.
Find a voice that makes you laugh. Rely on it.
Keep it small: I find if I spend too much time focusing on laughter, I inevitably arrive at crying. Same thing as your work effort, set a timer. Walk away happy and glowing after 20 minutes, like a nap or a coffee break.
For balance: Sit still and meditate for ten breaths. List ten things that really matter to you, ten things you are grateful for, ten beautiful images. Return to your life.
Indulge (A Little)
Indulge in whatever helps you. If you work out, if you walk, if you talk to yourself, if you lie on the floor and shake your limbs, if you smoke weed, if you eat chips. Do it A LITTLE.
The effort to be clean and good is stressful, especially now when we’re all at home, worried about unravelling. Avoid that pressure by letting loose A LITTLE. Enjoy it.
Keep it small: When I was a baby, my mother cured my toothache with a tiny bit of whisky, on her finger, in my mouth. Well, I work 9-5 and then I fill 1/4 of a shot glass with crown royal and I sip it while I watch Dr. Phil. Think about that when you think about the size of your indulgence.
For balance: Plan something nourishing and recreational to follow the indulgence. Make an actual time for that follow-up activity so that you can keep moving.
Hug literally anything
Yes, it’s that time in the article where I mention pillows again. I realize not everyone keeps a lot of pillows so, I will say, hug literally anything.
Lie down, squeeze. Tension is invisible but when you allow yourself to share that tension with literally anything, the relief can be immense. Whatever you’re about to throw. Think again. Give it a hug.
Keep it small: Please do not lie on the floor for hours. I keep saying set a timer but I don’t think that necessarily applies here. I think: If you’re sweating into your object, maybe it’s time to get up and shake it off.
For balance: Exercise! Not to be ableist, whatever “exercise” means to you, maybe it’s a brain exercise, maybe it’s lifting a car but whatever it is, and in many cases you might need to sleep, just do that thing, in your mind and body, without the pillow.
I want you to know that, above everything, my primary knowledge is the understanding that fear is death in sheep’s clothing.
Some days are torture. Some days are black-out. Some days I put everything I am feeling into a symptom checker and it asks me if I am in a coma.
Survive those days. Survive today. When you’re ready, try one of these strategies.
Take good care of yourselves, your families, your souls, the souls around you.
Never ever give up.
Until next time,