Two images one reads "rested today" other says "picked up my meds"

Hannah Daisy Illustrates #BoringSelfCare on Instagram

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There are many ways to practice self-care. Often, when self-care is promoted, the focus is on relaxing tasks like taking a bath, cuddling up on the couch, doing some gentle yoga or meditating. However, not all self-care is enjoyable. Sometimes, the best way to really take care of yourself is to cross off the more boring items on your to-do list.

“In my profession, we talk about self-care involving a much wider range of ‘occupations’ or ‘things you have to do every day,'” Hannah Daisy, a mental health occupational therapist, told The Mighty. “I started to feel that conversations online about self-care often alienated people.”

To help others understand that self-care isn’t just bubble baths and massages, Daisy created #boringselfcare – a series of illustrations highlighting less than luxurious self-care tasks like doing the dishes, getting dressed, household chores and other personal items.

The illustrations are shared on Daisy’s Instagram, makedaisychains, under the hashtag #boringselfcare.

Please take your medication as prescribed. If you take meds for your mental health and want to reduce or come off please make a plan. Talk to people who support you, whether that’s friends, family, healthcare professionals etc. Let them know and have a plan to monitor how you feel and if you feel worse, what you should do. Never ever just stop medication (unless you have an allergic reaction obviously. ) ???????? ???? #boringselfcare . . . . . . . #edfam #edfamiliy #therapy #mentalhealth #mentalillness #drawing #art #illustration #psychosis #ocd #depression #anxiety #gad #bpd #selfharrm #borderlinepersonalitydisorder #eatingdisorder #anorexia #promarker #art #illustration #chroncillness #spoonie #spoonies #spooniesunite

A post shared by Hannah Daisy ????️‍???? (@makedaisychains) on

“When you experience chronic illness or mental health problems, every single task can be a chore and uses up energy,” Daisy, who lives with mental illness and endometriosis, said. “Often people find they need to work out how much energy they have for the day and figure out which tasks are achievable for the day. With #boringselfcare I wanted to convey the message that even the really boring activities or chores are a valid form of self-care.”

In addition to creating illustrations based on her knowledge as a therapist, Daisy’s illustrations also take from her personal experience living with mental and chronic illness.

“While everyone’s experiences are different and I don’t claim to understand what it’s like for everyone, I can certainly say I have found some everyday tasks really difficult,” Daisy, who lives in London, said. “I really want people to recognize the importance of doing these tasks, and that they are achievements and that they are something kind you do for yourself.”

I’m terrible at this. I hate dealing with letters/mail ???????????????? Keep using the #boringselfcare ???????? . BORING SELF CARE series. ???????????????????????????????? The next few days I’m going to share drawings about how self care is often really really dull and unenjoyable. And not the “tumblr” kind of self care which is often lovely but not always real. Sometimes you just need to sort out gynae stuff . Even though these things often build up in your mind the actual doing is often not as bad (unless obviously you are low on spoons ????, which is another discussion really as picking up your clothes off the floor may use energy you need to say, feed yourself. ) What are your boring things you do which are self care? #boringselfcare . . . . . . . #edfam #edfamiliy #therapy #mentalhealth #mentalillness #drawing #art #illustration #psychosis #ocd #depression #anxiety #gad #bpd #selfharrm #borderlinepersonalitydisorder #eatingdisorder #anorexia #promarker #art #illustration #chroncillness #spoonie #spoonies #spooniesunite

A post shared by Hannah Daisy ????️‍???? (@makedaisychains) on

The response to her series, Daisy said, has been overwhelmingly positive.

It always surprises me when people reply to my Instagram posts either saying ‘urgh I hate this task’ or ‘I am going to do this today.’ I think sometimes we all go about thinking that each person goes along in everyday life thinking everyone else is fine, but as soon as I made a drawing about hating emptying the rubbish bin, so many people replied saying they hate it too and find it more difficult when they are in pain for example or depressed. I wanted to put across, that yes it’s boring but it is also a valid form of self-care.

Asked for help ???????? This is the British Sign language (BSL) for “help”. When you move your hand towards yourself, it’s “help me”. It’s also the sign for therapist ????. Probably a good time to say…. I’m changing OT jobs. Off to work in a specialist Deaf Mental Health unit ???? in two weeks time. But is full time so I will be changing how I run my shop… depending on how well I cope with full time work vs tiredness and mental health. . . Keep using the #boringselfcare ???????? . BORING SELF CARE series. ???????????????????????????????? The next few days I’m going to share drawings about how self care is often really really dull and unenjoyable. And not the “tumblr” kind of self care which is often lovely but not always real. Sometimes you just need to sort out gynae stuff . Even though these things often build up in your mind the actual doing is often not as bad (unless obviously you are low on spoons ????, which is another discussion really as picking up your clothes off the floor may use energy you need to say, feed yourself. ) What are your boring things you do which are self care? #boringselfcare . . . . . . . #edfam #edfamiliy #therapy #mentalhealth #mentalillness #drawing #art #illustration #psychosis #ocd #depression #anxiety #gad #bpd #selfharrm #borderlinepersonalitydisorder #eatingdisorder #anorexia #promarker #art #illustration #chroncillness #spoonie #spoonies #spooniesunite #bsl #britishsignlanguage #signlanguage

A post shared by Hannah Daisy ????️‍???? (@makedaisychains) on

For more #boringselfcare, follow Hannah Daisy on Instagram.

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How My Newspaper Yarn Designs Mirror My Mental Health Recovery

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The process I go through to make my newspaper yarn designs mirrors my therapy and recovery journey. It has mainly been about building a new way of “being.” I can’t change my brain or my history, but I can try to dismantle some of the power held by the stories which make up my ingrained feelings, thoughts and behaviors. These are stories which do not help me to thrive (though they have helped me survive). It’s not possible to get rid of these well-rehearsed stories, so it’s more about accepting why they are there and reshaping my response to them by not buying into them. It’s about creating something new from these stories.

Much like recovery or therapy, the process can be painful, difficult and tedious.

newspaper yarn design daisy from side

So I take stories that seem so sure of themselves, printed in black and white and presenting themselves as fact. And to start I crumple the paper, to soften and ready it for the process. I liken this to the fact that sometimes it is a “breakdown” or crisis, or some other major event that triggers me to seek help. The softening produced by this crumpling is the safeness and calming created in a trusted therapeutic and in safe supportive social relationships.

Without this, the process will just result in the paper ripping apart.

newspaper yarn design of colorful cloud with raindrops and text saying "love the rain"

I then cut strips of paper, paying attention to the colors they contain and the slow process of twisting it through my fingers to turn it into yarn begins. I keep the colors I want and mold the paper yarn using my fingers – a part of my physical body.

In the same way, experience of new feelings and ways of being have to be felt with your body to truly understand and learn. Our feelings are real physiological, biological things which happen inside our bodies. All the thinking in the world cannot change your feelings. We need that embodied experience to really learn new ways of feeling.

We can learn from hearing about something or seeing something done, but we only really understand when we do it ourselves. It seems to me we often concentrate on the words and thoughts of our lives and can easily forget the spaces in between, where our essence of simply “being” resides. I think this is where compassion, soothing and connection acts, on the spaces between the words. Only in embracing the whole can we recover a fulfilling life.

This is a slow, messy process resulting in sore ink-stained fingers, but it’s needed to create something new. I can create anything from this yarn. It was once a set story (full of bad news and trauma) as well as sometimes misinformation. It is now flexible, pliable, stronger and more beautiful and can be used to create any design. The words have got new meanings in their new contexts as part of the yarn itself, or lifted from the newspaper to be given new life as little tags on golden thread.

We are not our history. We can be so much more.

Follow this journey on GoodNewsFromBad

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What We Can Learn From Olympians Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt About Asking for Help

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Olympians Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt are stepping out of the pool and into the spotlight to share their experiences living with mental illness. On Thursday, both Phelps and Schmitt were awarded special recognition awards at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event. The pair used the opportunity to speak candidly about how mental illness has affected them.

“For me, for so long, I was so afraid to ever ask for help and I found myself at a very low dark place and I was finally able to realize that I needed help,” Phelps, who grew up with ADHD and depression, said in a press call. “Finally I understood I cannot do it alone and for me, I needed somebody else to help me go through some of the hard times I was going through.”

“I felt ashamed, I felt embarrassed for months when I was going to see a psychologist,” Schmitt shared. “There’s such a negative stigma around it, and it took until a traumatic event, my cousin losing her life to suicide, for me to finally accept that it’s OK to not be OK.”

In addition to being friends outside of the pool, Phelps and Schmitt have helped each other through periods of mental illness.

“I’ll never forget that day when Allison called me,” Phelps shared. “I saw how Allison was and from that point on I encouraged her to see somebody. For me, going through some of the events I went through in my life and some of the challenges I had in my life, I was able to start seeing somebody. For me, there were days of course where I didn’t ‘want to go,’ but you know what, I knew that if I went, and when I went, every time I came out of that office, I felt so much better.”

For both athletes, a turning point in their lives came after realizing it’s OK to ask for help. “I think a lot of people have this thought that if you ask for help it’s a sign of weakness,” Phelps said, adding:

For me, at one point, I was even afraid to ask my friend to give me a ride to the pool, or a ride to the grocery store. I think the biggest thing was I didn’t want to get turned down. If somebody says no, they just can’t do it at that time. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be there to support you or help you. To get over that was a huge step in my life.

“There is help out there. There is hope to getting better,” Schmitt added.

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6 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Finals

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Julie Wolfson is an Academic Coach at Fountain House’s College Re-Entry Program, which helps academically-engaged 18-30 year-old college students, who withdraw from their studies due to mental health challenges, return to college and successfully reach their educational goals. She has a master’s degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and helped to create College Re-Entry’s overall program. 

Final exams are stressful for all college students, wherever they go to school. Students who experience mental health challenges may be especially susceptible to this additional stress. During any periods when stress is high, I like to help students come up with a plan that outlines both how they will tackle the work and also take care of themselves.

It is best to create any plan before finals begin. If, however, your finals period has already started, you can still create a plan to get you to the end. Planning ahead is a great way to avoid getting overwhelmed, particularly if you know you are headed into a stressful time.

What should you include in your plan? Consider incorporating some of the suggestions below:

1. Set daily study goals and study times for each day

It can be helpful to come up with specific study goals for each day. In the evening, look at what you got done that day and the most important tasks to pick up with the following day. Remember to leave extra time for when things don’t go according to plan (because let’s face it, they often won’t. Life doesn’t always stay on schedule and that’s OK!).

2. Use proven study techniques.

I advise the students I work with to use the Pomodoro Technique, which alternates 25-minute dedicated work sessions with fiv-minute breaks to keep your brain on task and alert. Please avoid those six-hour cram sessions! They are exhausting and not the way that most people learn best.

3. Set aside time to do things you enjoy.

While it may feel like you should spend every minute of the day studying, the time you take do so something enjoyable is just as important! Consider spending time with a friend or volunteering for a cause you support… anything you enjoy that doesn’t keep you up all night. Getting away from the books for a little while can clear your head and give you needed energy.

4. Take care of your physical needs.

Eat, sleep and drink lots of water! Healthy food is your fuel and will keep you going during stressful times. Sleep is also especially important during finals, when your brain is busy processing a lot of information. There may be times it feels more important to stay up and get in an extra few hours of studying, but try not to do it! You will learn more efficiently and process more information if your brain and body are well rested. Lack of sleep can also trigger symptoms of mental illness, so it is especially important to make sure you are getting enough zzzz’s.

5. Exercise.

Yoga, Zumba, a quick run, a brisk walk…whatever you like to do! Exercise decreases stress and increases focus — exactly what you need during finals.

6. Make use of all available resources.

Finals are a great time to check in with your Office of Accessibility and make sure all your accommodations are in place. Often, these offices host a variety of stress busting activities including animal visits, free yoga sessions and more. Remember that no matter how crunched you may feel for time, this is definitely not the time to cancel appointments with your support team. Your therapist may not be able to help with your schoolwork but s/he can help keep you in a positive place to study.

Finals period is a stressful time for everyone. Just remember that planning is important and the support is out there if you need to help make it through! Come up with a plan, take care of yourself and stay in touch with those who support you.

And, good luck!

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Thinkstock photo via shironosov

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To My High School Clarinet Teacher, Whom I Stigmatized for Mental Illness

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To my high school clarinet teacher,

We haven’t spoken in four years, and I doubt you’ll ever see this, but I wanted to write to you to say I’m sorry for what I did when you told me why you were hospitalized.

In 9th Grade, I got a phone call saying I would miss a class due to your absence; the following week you told me it was due to an accidental medication overdose which ended with you being hospitalized. When I asked why, you said it was because you were bipolar.

The only experience I had with bipolar at that point was my friend, who was undiagnosed so we didn’t know, and the media, which portrays bipolar people as unstable, violent, unpredictable, aggressive and dangerous. Even though we were friends for the better part of two years of this point, I was scared and took a step back in preparation for a lash out. You reassured me you weren’t a threat and that you were fine and safe to be around, and after our lesson I was fine and embarrassed with my knee-jerk reaction.

Now, I am approaching 21 and have had more experience with mental health. I now understand bipolar better and know what the media portrays is a pile of rubbish — that you are not aggressive, unpredictable, dangerous. I remember you as funny, talented, caring and an amazing person.

I need to bring this up now in light of my own diagnosis because although I have only had an official diagnosis for a few months, I have faced stigma for my mental illness for most of my adult life.

In November of 2016, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) with depression and anxiety. Out of all the friends I had, the majority left me because people with BPD are seen as aggressive, unreliable, manipulative, toxic and dangerous. People with depression are seen as liars or lazy, trying to fit into the “cool” group of people with mental illness. Anxiety is seen as just an excuse to get out of things I don’t want to do. My family viewed and still view my depression as laziness — that there is no excuse for not having a clean room and not feeding myself, or for my piles of dirty clothes and dishes. They view my anxiety as just something I shouldn’t let “control my life,” or something to roll their eyes at. They think that when my mind is filled with fog and I struggle to even get a sentence out, I am just tired or have nothing to say. They think my binging is just me being greedy and the “fat” person I am, not me struggling to deal with an itch, an urge that is eating away at my very being.

I have been fighting stigma my entire life without knowing it, and what I am now experiencing is something I did to you. Now, with this extra knowledge I have, and now I have entered my second year of nursing at university — intending to become a psychiatric pediatric nurse — I feel horrid for the way I reacted to you revealing something so personal. I now struggle to be open because of fear of people leaving me, or thinking I am dangerous to be around. I can’t imagine how you felt when I reacted as if I had just woken up in the middle of a hungry lion’s den, ready to run at the first sight of danger.

I am sorry for my naivety, and I wish to thank you for triggering the beginning of my education with mental health. Thank you for making me realize we need a better education covering all types of mental health, and thank you for helping me accept my new diagnosis. Sure, there will be days I will feel toxic, manipulative, dangerous, broken and unable to be cured, but you helped me realize people with mental illnesses don’t fit into the box that the media and society stuffs them into.

Thank you for everything you did for me without ever knowing.

From,

Your very grateful ex-student.

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Thinkstock photo via Furtseff

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'The Spoon Theory' Applies to People With Mental Illnesses, Too

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By now most of you out there have heard of “The Spoon Theory,” by Christine Miserandino. She opened up the discussion about having an invisible illness, what it was like living with something that hurt but didn’t make you “look” sick. Since then millions have started using the words “I am out of spoons” for all manner of illnesses.

Yet, there are people who still cock their heads or roll their eyes when someone with a mental illness says they are out of spoons. How can a mental illness even need spoons? I’m going to answer that.

So, the spoon theory says you start out the day with just so many spoons to complete tasks and do self-care. I start the day arguing with my brain as to the number of spoons I can have.

“I’m taking these spoons, you don’t need ’em. You can make do on just those.”

“But I have to give a presentation today. I need more spoons, give those back.”

“No. I’m keeping them. So there.”

And then I have to negotiate using spoons for things that require me to really focus, think and respond. Like driving.

“You just used up 10 spoons driving to your appointment.”

“How am I going to drive back?”

“Don’t ask me, you insisted on using your spoons.”

For someone who is struggling with mental illness, running out of spoons can lead to all sorts of bad things. Meltdowns. Crying. Upset stomach. Vomiting. Disconnection from reality. Hallucinations. Or just wanting to be away from people and noises in a classic “blanket fort.”

Trying to do things while negotiating with a mental illness can play havoc on any sort of well-being. Taking medications can only shore up the spoons I have; it cannot replace or add any.

“I’ve taken my meds today.”

“Oh good, you can use the spoons you have.”

“Great. Today I have to clean out my room, I can’t function or find things anymore.”

“On second thought, you shouldn’t do that. You don’t have enough spoons.”

Even if I want to do things, my brain may not want me to. And it starts taking spoons and flinging them everywhere. Oh look – shiny! Whereupon I cannot finish a task. And I get further lost in trying to sort out my life.

Spoons do apply to mental illness. And today I have just enough spoons to write this for all you out there.

Follow this journey on Written Talk.

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Thinkstock photo by Aryut

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