Making a user journey map… for your brain

Mental Fitness, Personal, Values based living, Workouts

 

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve repeatedly run into an obstacle, which I will loosely dub ‘I’m not sick enough to deserve help’.

Whenever I would think about getting therapy or talking to anyone about what was going on, I’d say, ‘Well, I’m still going to uni and getting my assignments done. I don’t take drugs. I can leave my house. I might be depressed, and having panic attacks every other day, but I can sort it out. I just need to stop being lazy.’

I think a lot of us take that perspective on our mental health. But let’s flip it so we’re talking about physical health, instead:

‘I hurt my leg a few years ago, but I can still crawl around to places. It’s not ideal because I have to drag this dead weight around with me, and I can’t put weight on that side. Still, it can’t be that bad, because I can use the other leg. I’m not gonna bother getting it checked out until I lose function in both legs. I’m just lazy and need to work harder.’

Sounds dumb right? Granted, lots of us do ignore our physical health for too long, but I don’t think it’s as normalised in our society.

Why We Don’t Practise Self Care

Mental Fitness, Self Care, Workouts

Every time I get sick – usually by becoming so exhausted I can’t function anymore – I say the same thing to myself: ‘I’m shutting down purely because I stopped looking after myself. My body is forcing me to take a break so I can stop, and take care of myself.’ I remind myself that I need to integrate self care into daily life, instead of waiting until I am forced to.

So why do I (and you, probably) keep doing the same thing? Plenty of reasons, but here are some suspects:

  • Not feeling like I should care about, or like I deserve to look after myself. It’s easy to get into a slightly nihilistic, ‘nothing matters so why should I matter’ attitude about self care. In the end though, that thought path doesn’t offer much value to me — but it is familiar and actionless.
  • Enjoying the self-destructive cycle. Like when someone tidies after it’s been a pigsty for ages – there’s a weird satisfaction in getting back to square one. I’m the same with my room, repeatedly letting it get bad and then cleaning it in within about a week.
  • Not observing my limits for energy, etc. I’ve been experimenting with those limits at the moment, by seeing how much I can take. However, I’m not being mindful of my current level as a cut off point, only focusing on where I think I ‘should’ be.
  • Not being consistent in how, or when to practise self care. When I’m doing a lot of new things I fall back on fulfilling basic needs like sleep, eating and hydrating. I often underestimate the importance of just those things.

I think for once I have caught myself and started to rest before I got too bad. But there’s still room to improve. I have been very good at pushing into discomfort (the ‘push’) skills detailed in my post on designing a mental health workout. Regardless, it’s clear I’ve been neglecting the ‘pull’ (or self care) skills quite a bit, which is a bit like exercising vigorously every day without rest.

Looking over my plan, I can see I’ve dedicated hardly any time or thought to it in my daily plan, despite doing some extremely tiring and difficult things!

(Like karaoke… Never thought that would happen)

Actions:

  • Clarify what counts as self care and not self care for me: what supports me? What makes it harder to do what I want to do and how can I address those things
  • Make focus on ‘basic’ self care such as sleep, eating right, etc, a priority in my plan.
  • Plan in time to do that self care, and check in more often with myself.