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…
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.
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.
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.