Self-Care and SuperBetter

I’ve been really terrible the last few days about writing these blog posts, and it’s not because I’m in a down-swing; actually the exact opposite, I’ve been feeling really good lately overall and as nice as it is, I’m not sure why but I’ll take it. The unfortunate side of feeling good is that it doesn’t require coping mechanisms, and guess what purpose this blog serves for me.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on self-care and coping mechanisms and what those terms mean to me versus how they manifest in other people. Just like medications I feel like there’s no one-size-fits-all cure or treatment, but the diversity in ways of dealing with anxiety and depression (or preventing them altogether) has allowed for so much variance in how those who are good at managing these issues are able to help those of us who need guidance.

Take, for instance, a quintessential ‘home spa day’: you do your skincare routine, a clay face mask and put your clean, wet hair up in a towel on top of your head and you might do your nails while watching a trashy drama-rom-com on Netflix.

That would be lovely if my best friend were coming over with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a rant about that lady in her office who reheats her fish and talks about her boyfriend that no one has ever met.

But… that’s not a reality for me, and to be honest that isn’t exactly something a lot of people can have on demand or as often as need dictates. Plus, on days where you can barely afford to expend your precious energy to get off the couch or actually give enough of a shit to pick out an outfit that isn’t meant for sleeping in, that spa day is exhausting to even think about.

Self-care for me is a series of small wins, like this blog. Some days it doesn’t work and I end up in bed and not eating for an entire day (I call it ‘unintentional intermittent fasting’) but what always pulls me out are little things that my brain does to show it still loves me, depression and all, kind of like my brain is a computer just booting up again with the flashing cursor quietly telling me “I’m still here, I still work!”

Reflection is a big part of it too, and sometimes realizing your enemies is the biggest hurdle. I recently found an app called “SuperBetter” that sets you up with a goal of your choosing “I’m getting SuperBetter at ________ so I can _________” which really could pertain to anything. If you wanted to get better at yo-yo tricks or managing people or brewing beer – you could do it all, it’s fully customizable.

There are really 3 big categories at first that you can use as a kind of quick-start guide on the app, and because the app was designed with depression and anxiety in mind they are a nice template to recognize good (helpful) behaviors and negative (destructive) behaviors.

You have quests, which feels kind of like I’m making my way through a school work-book. Sort of a ‘your mission, should you choose to accept it’ presentation of a task that will focus your thoughts, and you log this focus on your activity wall by doing something in the app. For instance…

It feels really cheesy at first, but trust me – there’s a method to the madness.

And then there are the Power-ups, which is probably the most relevant section to this blog post, because they are little acts of self-care that you can do almost anywhere and at any time. On good days, these power-ups come naturally, but the app is there to remind you of these little things that can improve your mood significantly at times (or at the very least keep you functioning long enough that you do feel good again). I am always shocked at how much better I feel when I hug myself.

The ‘Hug Yourself’ power up is a very powerful thing, but ‘Human Tag’ will be easy if you are at work or leaving the house at all.

Last but definitely not least is the Bad Guys page. This one is a sneaky add-in because I know that I certainly don’t like to admit my flaws or negative behavior when I’m in a down-swing. It’s counterintuitive to me, why would I want to kick myself why I’m down? (Yes, I realize how that is physically impossible…) But that’s the point – once you identify the negative parts of your spiral or your down-swing they become less of a boogey-man and more of a road block that you can avoid in a preventative way. SuperBetter presents these obstacles and negative behavior as a battle that you can either celebrate a win against or admit defeat to, and these battle outcomes get logged to your Activity Wall so that they become a track record for you to look back on and learn from.

Bad Guys is the really customizable section that doesn’t come easy at first but will be most beneficial in the long run.

I’ve only been on it for about a week and a half, but it is a nice coping mechanism to make you feel better. You can tell the app developers intended it to be incorporated into a social media platform, or at least treated like one (the ability to like and comment on Activity Feed logs and add friends or ‘allies’ function is ever present) but personally I can’t see myself sharing the details of my depression with anyone in this way. I don’t need updates on people’s every meal, so I don’t expect them to celebrate me hugging myself to feel better.

My only other complaint is that there’s no notification option, I would really like a reminder to log what I did that day and see how my day stacked up against yesterday or last week. I don’t work and I still keep forgetting the app is there, and it’s only after I’ve scrolled through Reddit a few too many times that, out of boredom, I look at my other apps and realize I haven’t been on it that day.

Other than that, I think this is a really good tool to help manage depression specifically, and it serves as a useful guideline to self-care that is still flexible and customizable to allow for the user’s specific self-care methods. You find that watering your plants is beneficial? Add it as a power up. Is there a routine your therapist has suggested to help you feel better by making a list? Add it as a recurring quest. Do you see that procrastinating folding the laundry results in a down-tick in your mood? Make it a new Bad Guy.

Try it out, let me know what you think.

It’s the end of the world as I know it – how do I feel?

Moving across the continent (and into another country) has been hard on me, but for my mom it’s been a whole other ballgame. She deals with anxiety just like I do, and sometimes I think she blames herself for how I am. Based on her personality I really believe she is a very high-functioning ball of anxiety – not because that’s the nature of her anxiety but because like me, she deals with anxiety by keeping busy, like a coping method, and she does so with gumption. She is by far one of the busiest people I know, and in her defense her anxiety hasn’t turned into depression like mine so maybe there’s something to keeping busy.

Regardless of her management of her anxiety, she was very concerned about my move (in the truest ‘Mom’ sense – my baby is 2000 miles away!) as well as how the move and lack of a job would impact my struggle with my anxiety and therefore my depression. I’ve often wondered how similar my experience with this has been to someone who has recently retired after three decades of being a slave to their career and going from go-go-go to… nothing. When my mom and I were chatting yesterday, she again brought up the same question that she brings up every time we chat – “Have you found a purpose yet?” It sounded like something you’d ask a recently retired person, which I suppose I technically am.

I brushed it off as usual, mostly because I don’t know how to answer it. I questioned it briefly internally a bit later in the day but how do you answer that question in the moment?

“Yes, I have one definitive purpose”?

“No, I have a lot of things to do but I’m only 50% invested in them all”?

“I don’t know; I guess so”?

Our conversation ended (about 2 hours later because you know how a 28-year-old daughter and her mom can get on the phone) and later on I was scrolling through Twitter because I, like most other millennials, tend to get my news from Twitter and Reddit, and I came across a post that hit me like a slap to the face.

Just try and tell me my phone isn’t listening to my conversations…

Of the seven offered ways to find meaning, the majority were not something I hadn’t considered before. It’s pretty standard stuff, specifically ‘develop relationships’ and ‘create something’. I know that I feel best when I’ve gone out to be around friends or volunteer, and my artwork, cooking and tending to plants are all manifestations of ‘creating something’ but the bottom left one caught my eye.

Accept the Worst.

I’ve seen a few therapists in my path to ‘feeling better’ (wow, I hate that term, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t accurate) and a few have mentioned going to a happy place or thinking positive thoughts when you feel anxious – basically, try to reverse the negative downward spiral.

But… what happens if you go full speed ahead into the anxiety? Turn it around and make yourself experience the negative path on your terms instead of letting the anxiety pull you down there. You’re afraid your car might get broken into – okay, let’s assume it happens. You can’t prevent it, so that’s out at this point. The window will probably get broken, some of the things you keep in your car might get stolen. Worst case scenario they might steal the car itself.

Ok, that’s awful, but what do you do?

Probably call the police, file a report and maybe it ends up with you getting the car back, maybe not. Let’s go ahead and assume the worst, you’re not getting your car back. You call your insurance company and go down that road. Even if you aren’t covered, you are now just going to have to Uber back and forth instead of driving to work and yes, this will all suck – but you’re okay. You will survive.

If you accept the worst and go through the steps of the worst case scenario while asking yourself ultimatum questions (Is this really the end of the world? Can you come back from this? Will this matter less and less as time goes on?) you’ve effectively driven straight into the eye of the storm, and stopped it in its tracks.

This is all a theory, I have yet to actually try it but to me it seems like a refreshing take on anxiety attacks and generalized anxiety about some things. Sometimes I develop anxieties about things that are truly terrible, like my husband getting injured on the worksite and not making it home – those anxieties probably wouldn’t be the best time to apply this because yes, sometimes the event could be the end of your world, and delving into the anxiety head on is a way to escalate the anxiety and make it ten times worse.

Here’s to hoping I can tell the difference.

*It is worth noting that I did download the app featured in that Twitter post, it was rated 4.6/5 on the Google Play store, so I plan on trying it out for a few days. If I remember to use it, I will definitely give my thoughts on the app in my next blog post.