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How to Make a List of Your Health 'Difficulties' and Why You Might Want To

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As my pen hit the paper, I started to jot down all the difficulties, symptoms, and barriers that regularly come up in my life. It wasn’t a moment of self-pity, depression, or lament. Rather it was a gentle reminder to be compassionate toward myself.

You see, I often struggle with thinking I’m not enough. It’s a whole thing. I’m not a good person; I’m lazy; I can’t do anything right. In my case, having a mixture of depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, and past trauma makes up the recipe that brings on those particular thought patterns. Your reasons may be different and can include both mental and physical health.

As I started the list in question, my brain was being self-critical because, for the previous two weeks, my energy and mood had been very low, resulting in me falling behind on many things. Yet uncharacteristically, I took a breath, slowed down the gloom, and remembered that in those same two weeks I was getting used to a medication adjustment and some new responsibilities.

Wow, it turns out that I’m not a monster, and this is the origin story of my list of difficulties.

I’d love to share with you how to make your own using these four steps.

Heidi Fischer's how-to list for making a list of your own difficulties. Text appears below.

It reads:

1. Consider if you are in the right headspace to think about this. If the answer is no, it’s OK to try later!

2. Choose your fave writing instruments, sit yourself in a cozy corner, or do whatever you prefer.

3. Write down your difficulties:

  • symptoms you regularly experience
  • things that can worsen those symptoms
  • triggers or stressors you are aware of
  • systemic barriers that impact you

4. When you find yourself thinking you are a bad person, lazy, or otherwise not enough — read over your list and compassionately remind yourself that you are not to blame.

And that, my friends, is how you do it! Bonus points if you also write down some of your coping tools and important reminders.

I’m a visual person, so I’ll show you my list as an example. Yours doesn’t have to look the same, make it your own!

text reads: @mentalhealthyxe MY DIFFICULTIES CHECKLIST HAVE I RECENTLY EXPERIENCED ANY OF THE FOLLOWING? • Family stress • A loss or death • Unplanned expense · Significant world events • Rude, mean, difficult person • Emotional or tiresome appointment • A fight, disagreement, or misunderstanding • Utilizing coping that may not be the most healthy option for me • Therapist or other supports on vacation or otherwise not accessible • Unable to enjoy, have time, or motivation for hobbies • Triggers and/or activations of trauma responses • Continual oppression and micro-aggressions • Friends busy or lacking companionship Take care of • Crying, panic attacks, difficult anxiety yourself, make an • A disappointment of some type appointment, see a friend, get some rest. • Something else You know what to do! Remember, things will eventually shift.

Since coming up with this idea, I have already used it a few times, and it really does help me. The day before I typed up this story, I was drained, listless, and ended up laying on the floor telling myself how much of a loser I am. Then, I yet again recalled my list, read it over, and saw about four things that were impacting me. The self-hatred spiral stopped.

I also want to acknowledge that this idea is likely not everyone. It could be triggering or worsen your mood, and we don’t want that! Additionally, for some folks, it may be useful to take on this project with the help of a therapist or someone you trust. It is likely best to work on this idea before you need it, and it’s OK if you go about it slowly. However you do it, I hope that it helps!

Do you ever find you easily turn to self-blame and forget to acknowledge the barriers and symptoms that occur in your life? Would having a list to remind yourself of these things be helpful? Did you decide to give this a try? How did it go?

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Images by Heidi Fischer

Originally published: April 8, 2022
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