In all honesty, I didn’t really want to talk about mental health today. Which is weird, because this is the day to talk about it. But right now, in this moment, I’m happy. Happy being slightly relative because the pandemic has us all swinging back and forth like pendulums when it comes to mood. Cabin fever comes in and out, I get irritable pretty quickly and although I feel energised by small victories, small losses can set me off. (I cried the other day when I couldn’t find a parking spot, it wasn’t my shiniest moment)
And this is one of the hardest things about mental health, to keep working at it even when things are good. Mental health is like eczema. You have to constantly work to maintain a status quo. I know this because I have eczema. I’ve had eczema since I was a baby, I knew the names of topical steroids before I knew my parents’ birthdays. So, after 22 years, I have a fine-tuned, regimented system to keep my skin under control. Creams and ointments and moisturisers keep me looking like a human rather than a scaley crocodile. And occasionally I have flare ups when the weather changes, if I forget to fill a prescription, if I have an allergic reaction to something that leads to a bigger rash. But I still work at my eczema everyday.
Which is why I’m writing this. Because even though I’m happy right now, tomorrow and the next day and the day after that are unpredictable. And if I don’t keep working, don’t keep managing, I could get a mental health flare up, which is so much more difficult to manage than day to day maintenance. Similarly, to eczema, there are things that I do regularly to help manage my mental health. So, I’m going to take you through my favourite coping mechanisms.
Stuff I do regularly:
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it, but I swear to God it works. I try to have 3 “active days” every week, two of which I seriously get my heart pumping. So usually that’s one walk and two days where I kick my own ass and scream at Chloe Ting on my computer, telling her how much I hate her.
Don’t come at me and say, “But I don’t know how to sing” because anyone can sing. At least once a week I make sure to sing for fun. In the shower, in the car, in my room, I sing at the top of my lungs and let out all that pent up anxiety. Yes, I still do my warm-ups and sing more technically 3-4 times a week on top of that, but at least once a week I make sure to get all my jitters out by…well I guess it can be described more as screaming than singing but you get the point.
3. Making To-Do lists:
Anxiety and spontaneity are not friends. Anxiety lives in “I don’t know” so I make to-do lists and set alarms and arrange plans. Of course, my definition of “plans” has changed over the last year. Whereas a year ago plans involved seeing other people, currently my plans involve going to the grocery store. Still, I create structure when structure is sparse, and it has calmed my nerves.
Stuff I do occasionally:
1. Strip down:
Sometimes I when I feel overwhelmed, it feels like I am coated in anxiety. So, I go back to basics. I take off my makeup and my nail polish and shave my legs and cut my nails and clean my cuticles and wash my hair. Think about resetting yourself, putting everything back at square one, that way you can rebuild the way you see best. A hot shower can fix a lot of problems. P.S. Put on clean pajamas afterwards, it really seals the deal for me.
2. Have a dance party:
By yourself, with your roommate, with your friends. I have a playlist called “Health Coping Mechanisms” and it is all the songs that make me want to dance. It ranges from Motown to Rap to Musical Theatre, which I understand is a weird combination. I would suggest creating a playlist of songs you find irresistibly dance-y and keep it in your back pocket. Sometimes you just need to get out of your head.
3. Give something a deep clean:
Maybe you’re being triggered by your environment. A clean, organised environment can lead to a clean, organised brain. You’re likely a lot more influenced by the space around you than you’ve realised. Sometimes taking a couple hours and scrubbing your stove and washing that glass plate in your microwave and sorting all the random condiments in your fridge can give you that piece of mind you’ve been looking for.
Stuff I do when I’m going to have a panic attack:
Anxiety is an attention-whore. The more attention you feed it the bigger it gets. Time and time again I hear people referring to panic attacks as a spiral, but what if you cut the spiral? It has nowhere to go. Like cutting off the oxygen to a fire. Next time you feel a panic attack coming on, try to distract yourself before you start to feel out of control. It takes a lot of practice, and I’m still learning how to do it, but here are my go-to distractions:
a. Investigate an object:
My doctor told me this one. When you get really anxious pick an object around you and analyze every detail of it. What does it look like? How many colours are in it? How many shades of every colour? What size is it? Try to measure it. What are all the different ways you can use it? I once counted every ridge on a bar napkin when I was nervous at a bar. Pick an object and study it like you’re writing a PhD thesis about it. Like you’re trying to explain it to a sketch artist.
b. Number patterns:
When I get anxious my dad tells me to count to 62,357. In sevens. I’ve never gotten to 62,357, but the point is I’m focused on counting. 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and so on. Try counting to 100 and clapping on every prime number. Do long division and try to go as many decimal places as you can. Do BEDMAS equations. Solve basic algebra. Math being math makes it perfect, because it requires focus and energy. All of which you have to take away from your anxiety, therefore not giving it the attention it needs to blow up. And don’t use your phone as a calculator, that’s definitely cheating.
c. Play a game on your phone:
Download one or two games that, similar to the other two examples, take some serious brain power. You want it to be more complex than 2048, and more fast-paced than Words with Friends. My go-to’s are sudoku, Tap Tap Revenge (yes, I’m bringing it back) and this game I have with a kiwi bird (it’s kind of like Flappy Bird). You want something that takes extended focus, because the point is distraction.
Exercise, singing, cleaning, distracting, all these tricks took time to develop. The list has shuffled with time, and I am still fine-tuning it – it’s no eczema-routine. As you all know, exercise just recently made the list this year, whereas singing was a coping mechanism before “coping mechanism” was a term in my vocabulary. And I’m guessing in the next year this list will change again as vaccinations allow us to live a life that resembles normal.
I know that accommodating the change can be exhausting. I know it’s tiring and frustrating and working at this everyday feels like an uphill battle. Sometimes mechanisms that used to work start failing, and sometimes it feels like nothing works. Like every tool in Batman’s tool belt is broken or in the wrong place or missing. But I promise you’re doing a lot better than you think you are. Just trying, just working at it at all is a step in the right direction. You’ve got this, and remember I’m always in your corner, with an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and a very weird playlist to dance to.
From me, with love, to you,
Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/
Canadian Crisis Hotline: 1 (888) 353-2273
Better Help: www.betterhelp.com
So obviously the dating game has been a little dry. It’s a pandemic.
I was on the dating apps for quite a while, but deleted them all right before Christmas because I realised how futile it all was. I was never going to meet up with any of the guys I was talking to, Toronto is currently under a “stay at home” order. However, upon deleting the apps, I’ve realised my brain has a lot of space to think about things I wouldn’t otherwise. So, my brain stumbled across the topic of blind dates.
I have a slightly backwards opinion about blind dates. I would be happy to set someone up but for some reason I’ve always been opposed to being set up. Which seems silly in and of itself. It’s even sillier knowing my family history. Blind dates are commonplace in my family. My family has a good history with getting set up. My parents, my grandparents and two of my uncles have marriages that resulted from blind dates. That’s 80% of my maternal family. That’s a lot of family. So why don’t I want to be set up when I know so many successful instances?
Blind dates make complete sense. My dad always said, it’s the most personal dating app you can have. Two people get set up based on interests and personality, not a random algorithm. Let’s say you know Fred from high school. Fred loves family, the Toronto Raptors, cooking and works in finance. You also know Michael because you and Michael do yoga together. Michael is a chef who is runs a family restaurant (because he really values his family). Michael is also an avid follower of the Raptors and appreciates financial security. It would only make sense that next time you go to yoga you say, “OMG Michael, I have a guy that’s perfect for you.” And then Michael and Fred have a Raptors themed wedding and BOOM the rest is history (okay, I may have lost you on Raptors-themed wedding, but I didn’t create very dynamic characters so I didn’t have a lot to work with). The point is, you set up Fred and Michael because you saw that they would work well together. And maybe, if you’re quite the psychologist, you would see that Fred and Michael have traits that compliment each other. Maybe Fred is strong headed and can help Michael become more confident. Maybe Michael has good ideas but doesn’t have the execution skills that Fred has. The point is Fred and Michael weren’t a random match. They weren’t strangers that met at a bar or swiped on a dating app, you saw potential and created a scenario in which that potential could be acted upon.
And, because it’s me, I thought of How I Met Your Mother. For those of you that don’t know, HIMYM follows the adventures of Ted Mosby as he attempts to find love, settle down, get married and have kiddos. And Ted doesn’t just stumble through his own love life, but consistently dive bombs it. Just crash and burn after crash and burn. So, during one particular episode, Ted goes to friends Lily and Marshall and requests a blind date. While the episode is good, there is one line in particular that stands out: Ted says, “I’m bad at picking [dates]”. DOES THAT NOT HIT HOME? Because holy shit that hits home for me.
I’m terrible at picking dates. When I want a relationship, I find boys who only want to hookup, and when I want to just hookup, boys are looking to settle down. I pick fuck boys, frat boys, boys with commitment issues, boys that are still hung up on their exes, or boys that want to get married tomorrow morning. Oh my god…I’m Ted Mosby.
Here’s the curious part. As much as my family is full of blind date success stories, I can’t think of a single couple my age that resulted from a blind date. You see them in movies and TV shows, but nobody I know is the result of a blind date. I’ve never even met someone who has gone on a blind date in the last 10 years. The idea seems so simple, so obvious, so untapped.
And maybe it’s an idea that has simply fallen out of favour. Blind dates feel a little antiquated. Why would you need blind dates when you could use a dating app? And sure, Tinder, Bumble and Hinge give you more options, but they’re not setting you up for success. Yes, Bumble has made some strides by adding features like “I’m a dog person” or “I want to have kids when I’m older”, but I don’t think it’s the same as getting set up by a person who knows you very well. I’ve really given dating apps my best shot, but I’ve come up a little empty handed. I want a boy that has the same type of humour I have or at least is kind enough to laugh at my crappy jokes. I want someone family oriented with good communication skills and likes to ski. I think dating apps have great algorithms, I think they’re giving it their best shot, but they will never know me as well as a close friend or family member.
Anyways, so I’ve decided, blind dates are the bees’ knees. I know right now they’re not really an option, dating is kind of off the table entirely for the time being. But when the world opens up again, I’m thinking this is the way to go. I mean, I hear the success rate is pretty high, so what do I have to lose?
From me, with love, to you,
In November I wrote about how I was struggling with the lockdown:
Because I was. I found the shorter days and increased social restrictions difficult to manage. I had a wealth of coping mechanisms, but none of them seemed to do the trick. I watched Marvel movies, I ran, I played piano and guitar, I sang, I talked to my friends on the phone, but still felt extremely anxious. However, the lockdown was going to persist with or without my anxiety, so I had to figure something out.
Christmas provided distractions to the anxiety, with my sisters coming home and the organization of the holidays. I got back into baking after a brief hiatus, however I need to take another break because I’m a little sugared-out. I took on the challenge of attempting a more consistent YouTube schedule, a little unsuccessful so far.
But I wanted a better way to waste my time. I love watching YouTube and Tik Tok and movies and Netflix. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and just getting absorbed in the lives of other people. But everyone knows that social media and mental health mix like oil and water.
At this point it’s important to remember that wasting time is healthy. You shouldn’t be productive 100% of your day. First and foremost, your brain literally needs to take breaks, it gets fatigued and your productivity will drop. Secondly, you need to do things for the sake of enjoyment, not everyday is about “checking things off your to do list”. As satisfying as productivity can be, your entire life shouldn’t be geared in one direction. You’re going to burn out if you never pause.
So, in a pure lightbulb moment, I remembered a de-stressor I picked up during university. Painting. In second year, I bought a bunch of paints, brushes, and canvases from the dollar store and just played around. I mixed different colours and made essentially colourful blobs on my cheap canvases. And then painted over them. I painted flowers and trees and butterflies. And then painted over them. I had probably four canvases and each was covered in layer after layer of paint throughout my time at UBC. I would simply let my painting dry, be satisfied with my hard work, and then paint something new.
Painting wasn’t about being good or producing something meaningful. In fact, being mediocre was part of the draw. The whole event was low stakes, there couldn’t be associated anxiety. If it turned out pretty, it was a pleasant surprise, if it turned out okay, that was expected, and if it turned out awful, then I laughed at myself and painted over it. There were days I skipped the brushes and finger painted and made a mess as well as days where I tried to paint meticulous details to no avail. But no matter what I attempted I felt better.
It gave me a way to step back from all my stress and take thirty minutes, an hour, sometimes longer, and do something for enjoyment’s sake. Once I sat and tried to paint every bit of the canvas perfectly black, and it took probably only 30 minutes, but at the end it was oddly satisfying and I painted over it in two weeks.
Painting doesn’t take a lot a space, isn’t a large investment if you’re just playing around, and can take as much or as little time as you want. Yes, there are fantastic artists with big studios and expensive acrylics who spend hours painting individual hairs on someone’s head, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to be an idiot for a bit and then start over and be an idiot all over again.
Over the break I dragged my younger sister into my schemes and she and I turned my room into a mini painting studio for an evening. We listened to music and painted and chatted and mixed colours and tried different things until it was midnight. And she reiterated the same sentiment, “I don’t care what happens, because I don’t need it to be amazing”. When I dropped her off at university, we stopped by the dollar store so she could get her own supplies.
I’m not saying it will fix all your struggles and your strife. It won’t make the lockdown go away and you can’t see your friends and everything is still closed and 2021 is still rolling out to be a magical shitshow the way 2020 was. However, maybe for a little bit you can think about something else. And then let it dry and do it all over again.
From me, with love, to you,
Okay, I’ve been on Tik Tok a lot lately (follow @VictoriaStaff21) and there are an ungodly number of posts that talk about the “hottest things that boys do” or the “hottest things that girls do”. Obviously, a lot of these videos are about (teehee) sex things; actions, behaviours, things people say that are “turn ons”. However, there is a second category of these videos that surrounds behaviours, personality traits and characteristics.
A lot of this second category talks about traits that could fall under “maturity and human decency”. The creators on Tik Tok are just looking for a good communicator who will be honest and give you a hand when you need it. I must agree, all these traits are super important. Communication, honesty, and support are definitely huge pillars in a relationship. Although, I would like to propose a new “hottest trait” that puts all other “hot traits” to shame.
Taking care of yourself.
Now, before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s define this term. I’m not talking about someone who makes 6-figures, has a huge house, is in ridiculously good shape and drinks green juice daily. I don’t need, nor do I want, the pinnacle of perfection, because those people don’t actually exist. Nobody is perfect, and people who think that they are generally aren’t. The person I’m talking about understands how to make a budget and stick to it. They have open and honest conversations about their mental health. They eat balanced meals and are active. This person is not perfect, but they're working on it.
So, why is this so attractive? Why have I claimed it “the most attractive”? Because it tells you so much about a person. Can they stick to a budget? That shows self-restraint. Can they support their own mental health? That shows maturity. Do they have successful social relationships? That shows good communication.
Do I want a lot of attention in a relationship? Fuck yeah, I’m super high maintenance. But I also want someone who can acknowledge when they need some personal time, because sometimes I need that too. Stepping back from socializing and just unwinding is important. I want to be with someone who appreciates a night in after a long work week. Someone who takes time for them is someone I really respect, because it’s not always easy to admit you need time alone.
Someone who understands that a healthy doesn’t always mean drawing harsh lines in the sand about what to eat or what not to eat. I’m not talking about “my body is a temple” and “I can’t eat fast food people” but I’m just talking about people who keep health in their mind when they make decisions. People who want to stretch their legs and walk places.
I know I’ve already said this but: someone who can talk about their mental health. Fucking, HOT. Wanting to be proactive about stress? Super attractive. Understanding the differences between normal and abnormal anxiety levels? I will propose. Creating positive coping mechanisms? I will have your children.
All these traits are so attractive because it shows that person is ready for a relationship. Relationships are hard and complicated and require effort. How can someone be asked to manage a relationship when they don’t have a hold on their own life? How can someone be asked to support me when they can’t support themselves? Don’t be mistaken, nobody needs to take care of me. I can take care of myself. But I want support in a relationship. I want a sounding board to bounce ideas off, and someone to help me clear my head. However, its unfair to ask that of someone who can’t do that for themselves.
Plus, and this cannot be overstated, your significant other is not your babysitter. I have been in relationships where I have been the babysitter, and I have been in relationships where I have been babysat. I will be the first person to admit that I have asked other people to take care of me, which is not fair to them. But I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I don’t want someone to hold my hand when I cross the street or wipe my nose. I want someone to be my cheerleader and help me make the big decisions. I’m an adult and I want an adult relationship, one that is built on support not dependency.
Finally, taking care of yourself is not a something you achieve and have forever. You have to constantly work at it. (IT’S AN ESCALATOR) You need to be in it for the long haul. And what does that show? Commitment! Someone who can commit to a job, to a plan, to a budget, to social relationships, is more likely to commit to you.
Friends, you know I’m right. Someone who can take care of themselves is hot. It’s refreshing to see someone who is open and honest and working on themselves. Someone who wants to learn things and grow and mature. All super attractive traits. Traits I’m trying really hard to take on personally. And it can be difficult to go for runs, but I know it’s good for my mental health. It can be difficult not to order McDonalds, but I don’t want to have a heart attack. It can be difficult to pass up on plans for a much-needed nap, but it’ll be worth it.
Ladies, gentlemen and all in between. Selfcare is fucking attractive. So hit the spa, call your therapist, and balance your books.
From me, with love, to you,
What's going on?
Here's a place where I'll try to keep you updated on what's going on in my life and with my music to keep you connected.