Updated: Mar 21
(This entry is directly taken from course material used in a peer led group support session in Second Life and as such, was designed to be used in an informal group situation. Please bear that in mind when reading)
This week’s section of our eight week course is:
Introduction to basic mental health skills and HALT
Why are basic mental health skills important to know and discuss? Because that’s the foundation to your mental health care. Everything else depends on your basic skills.
If you were building a house, you wouldn't walk up to a rubble heap and think, "oh.. this is a great spot to build..." and then just start building the structure over the top of the bricks and rubble. If you did, you would find that your structure would not be stable or easily maintained.
This is mental health 101. You need to make sure you have basic good practices involved. You can see your doctor, engage in therapy, take your medication, use alternative therapies, hypnosis, meditation, or ASMR - and so much more but if you have no decent foundation to start from, you're eventually going to end up right back at square 1.
Even if you suffer from an incurable condition, you’ll find that it’s much harder to maintain balance, and that you are much more unstable if your foundation isn’t good.
So many people overlook the basics, or aren’t even really aware of them but it’s so very important.
Things to bear in mind as we travel through this course:
✦ Break it down
Looking at everything as a whole can be overwhelming and intimidating. It's often unhelpful and counterproductive. If putting basic care into practice feels like too much, break it down. Make it smaller.
Don't feel like you need to wake up tomorrow and have a perfectly balanced diet, routine, activity plan together. You don't need to have everything figured out straight away. Take small steps and build on it. Try just adding one thing at a time and when you have that one thing established, add another.
We say it constantly - small steps. Don’t try to take giant leaps - it rarely works especially if you’re building from the ground up. You need to go slowly and work at a pace that you can easily manage.
✦ Be kind to yourself but take responsibility.
We’ve talked about responsibility in this meeting before and it really is important to recognize that we have to choose to be responsible for our mental health.
We all have crappy days where we just don't feel up to anything. It could be because of low mood, anxiety, low motivation and/or drive - but you're still responsible for your actions and your choices.
If you know there are things you can be doing or at least trying to make yourself feel better, and you choose not to do them, you're responsible for that. You can't say "well I'm depressed, so it's depression's fault". While it's ok to go easy on yourself and say "I don't feel like it today" you need to be responsible for making sure that that doesn’t become a cycle.
Be kind to yourself and say “it’s ok that I only did the minimum today, or, that I didn’t manage any of it today” but then tomorrow you need to start fresh. You need to decide, before you even go to bed that night that when you get up in the morning, it’s a new day and you’ll make the choice to take care of your basics.
So for example - this year I started a new self care routine. It’s not always been the easiest thing to do, especially after years of neglect in some areas. When I created mine I put into place “minimums” and these things I do every day no matter what. They are very small things that allow me to feel like I haven’t lost everything I’ve been doing completely. So - say today was a crappy day and I was in a very low mood and low energy state. Then I probably would have just had a basic wash, brushed my teeth and climbed into some fresh pajamas.
But then I go to bed telling myself what I need to do when I get up tomorrow - Have breakfast, drink water, clean my teeth, shower, do my hair, skin care and then maybe makeup if I’m going somewhere or feel like playing with makeup.
I’m not going to lie - some days, If I’m not going anywhere I might take till midday to get all this done before I start on the other things in my routine - but the point is that I then get it done. I don’t focus on the days where I don’t manage, it’s ok that I didn’t. I show myself kindness. But I make sure I don’t have too many of those days in a row either.
This is an example of me, things I struggle with and have been neglecting - you might have a different list but doing that with YOUR list, can help you avoid getting into a cycle of self neglect.
✦ Keep going
This all sounds so simple when it’s laid out, but in reality it can be really hard. We all slip. We all fail. If basic skills are something you struggle with - you are likely going to screw up or fail a few times. You may slip for a week.. That’s ok.. Be kind to yourself and then keep going. Pick it up when you’re able to again. There’s no one keeping score. There is no score. You won’t get knocked out if you lose too many points. That’s not how this works. You can absolutely pick it up as soon as you’re starting to get back on your feet.
✦ Don't suffer in silence
Honestly, this applies to all areas of your mental health - not just basic care. If you're struggling, if you're having a hard time with any aspect of this, reach out. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, reach out to social media support groups that specialize in your particular condition and of course, our community here at SOS is always here for you. Jump in the group chat, slap one of those mentor boards (seriously - that’s why they’re there) or you could always send a message in world to Kitten Meridoc or leave me offline (Again, you can contact me through my mentor board - please don’t be afraid to use them). Don't forget, we're here in SL, we’re on facebook and we even have our own discord channel.
There are always ways for you to reach out and connect with other people. Please don't ever feel like you have to struggle alone or suffer in silence - this is not true.
✦ Take credit
Recovery, management or treatment all take work. It's hard. There's just