Monday, 9 May 2016

Self soothing & distractions!

When I was in a psychiatric hospital a few months ago, the staff would constantly say to me, "use your distractions!", "try some self soothing", or "make sure to take care of yourself". Every time a staff member told me this, I wanted to scream at them, because I really thought they didn't work. When I'm not feeling very well, I hate self soothing and looking after myself, because I feel like I don't deserve it. As well as this, I also thought distractions were pointless; they don't exactly make things better, or make things go away, do they? It's only when I was discharged from hospital that I started to realise the importance of self soothing and distractions. They don't make mental illnesses go away, but they can help, even if they only make a tiny difference.

So why IS self soothing and distracting yourself important? 
How do they help someone with mental illness?

These are questions that I used to ask myself, and only now that I'm out of hospital have I come to find the answers. They're important life skills, and can help to aid recovery from mental illness. These techniques can be used whenever, whether you're feeling down/struggling, going through a crisis, or even if you're having a good day. In no way whatsoever do they make anything go away, however they can prevent a bad situation from getting even worse.

What are the benefits of self soothing and distractions?

1. You're doing something nice for yourself. So often when we're struggling or not feeling well, we feel like we don't deserve to do something nice for ourselves, or we forget to. Sometimes doing something nice for ourselves can help to lift our mood, even if it's only a tiny biit.

2. You're taking your mind off your current situation. Whether you're in a crisis or just struggling, using self soothing and distraction techniques can help you to forget about the situation you're in for a while. Even though it doesn't make the situation go away, taking your mind off it can sometimes help you to think of better ways to cope with it.

3. You're taking care of yourself. Mental illness can make us feel so low and tired at times, that we completely neglect our personal hygiene. With certain self soothing techniques, such as taking a bath, means you're taking care of yourself. Not only this, but it can help you to relax.

4. You're concentrating on the here and now. Sometimes we can be so caught up in worrying about things that have either happened in the past, or are happening in the future, whether it be a few days, weeks or months, that we forget to concentrate on the current moment. Carrying out self soothing or distraction techniques can help bring us back to the present moment. 

My self soothing & distraction box

For my 18th birthday, a close friend bought me a self soothe/distraction box, which she filled with different things that I can use. Over the days and weeks, I've been adding to it, and it's the first thing I go to when I know I need to look after myself, or use my distractions. It's good to have them all in one place, as it means I can just open the box and choose something, instead of having to look around and find something.

My box looks quite empty at the moment, as there's things I need to add into it, but here's a list of what I usually have in there:

Books; they help me concentrate on something other than my thoughts, and I can lose myself in a book and create a whole new world
Colouring books & pens; they can help distract me from my thoughts and bring me back into the present moment
Bath bombs, Lush bath stuff & Radox bath soak; I use these to self soothe and to make me feel nicer 
Coloured threads; when I'm feeling anxious and irritable, I use these to create bracelets, as it keeps my hands busy and serves as a distraction
Headphones; when the voices get too loud, I grab my headphones, plug them into my iPod, and put my music on as loud as I can stand it
Diary; when things become too much, I turn to my diary - writing has always been one of my main distractions!
Sketchbook, watercolour pads & paints; sketching and painting helps to distract myself from how I'm feeling, and you can never go wrong with art
Tangle toy; when I'm really anxious, having something to keep my hands busy really helps
Soft toy; when I need to feel something that's nice, I have a soft and cuddly toy owl that I hold in my hands or rub up and down my arms
Positive notebook; the day I was discharged from inpatient, some of the patients and staff wrote a positive message in a notebook I'd bought; when I feel down, I go and read through it and it can make me remember why I'm trying my hardest to fight mental illness 

Life is like a book. Some chapters are sad, some happy and some exciting, but if you never turn the next page you will never know what the next chapter holds.

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