Every person is unique. Every person’s recovery is unique. This is obvious. And this is what makes recovery hard, frustrating, and disappointing at times. In a land where instant gratification is everything, recovery is not instant. Recovery has no steps to follow. Recovery has no pill to pop and you’re cured. Recovery is the most treacherous, scary, rollercoaster-y journey you will ever take flight on. Thus far in my recovery journey, I have discovered one thing that has stuck with me at all times and pulled me out of the deepest, darkest funks I’ve ever had. Enter Personal Toolbox.
The Personal Toolbox was one of the first things I learned about at my in-patient treatment recovery. I admit, I thought it was quite silly at first, to refer to a set of recovery “tools” as my “Personal Toolbox” to help when I’m feeling low and confused. Hello, I was 23 at the time not in kindergarten! But my skepticism upper-cut punched me right back in the jaw. Because the Personal Toolbox is literally EVERYTHING!
I’m a visual learner by nature so being able to envision an actual toolbox filled with things that help me in recovery was pretty life-changing. I no longer find myself nervous and anticipating a low to happen because I know I have my handy, dandy TOOLBOX stored with me at all times.
It does take time to find the right tools and the right way to use them, but once you start finding them and actively using them, your quality of life improves immensely. AND you never stop finding tools; there’s a never-ending supply out in the world for you to explore. You can fill your toolbox with specific things you have done in the past or know you can start doing, like being mindful or even keeping up with a hygiene routine, art to indulge in, like books, music, movies, etc., reading a daily mantra every morning. The list can go on and on.
Here are 10 of my most useful tools!
This one is key for me and used many times per day. Being mindful does not necessarily being in touch with your present being 24/7, though there are people out there that partake in these meditative practice. It does mean being able to recognize cues that your body and brain are giving you or from your surroundings. It also plays a part in acceptance and being able to attend to these cues without judging them. An example of this is when I start having anxiety. I get mini panic attacks from time to time and I never knew what they were, how to know when was coming, or how to calm them down. Since I have been practicing mindfuness l, I have had a significant decrease in these panic attacks. Now I know what my body feels like when one is coming and no how to slow them down or even stop them before they come on. Click here for more information on practicing mindfulness.
“Muahaha.” -Art of self-compassion to me. I literally work on this tool every. damn. day! I am the most critical person I know. But the funny thing is that I am only critical of myself and extremely accepting of every other person in the world. (So maybe this isn’t such a funny thing hehe). I put out so much love in the world, that I forget to love myself most of the time. Being self-compassionate goes hand in hand with being mindful because I have to recognize when I am being mean to myself instead of treating myself how I would treat a friend. It’s definitely a difficult habit to break, but its fruits are monumental once you do. Swear! Read Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff for some you-time!
Exercise & Activities You Enjoy
Planking for Pizza. Burpees for Beer. Hold on, wait just one second! Isn’t this supposed to be a mental health blog? Isn’t it technically not mentally healthy to plank for pizza? Hehe. JK Kidding, JK Kidding. But for reals! Exercise is in my Toolbox. Every. Damn. Day. But not just any exercise. Fun exercise! If you loathe going to the gym. DON’T FREAKING GO TO THE GYM! Take this back to a child’s way of thinking. Remember when you were little and you’re mom put you in like every after school activity? Dance class, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, baseball. What do all these have in common? ACTIVITIES! There’s so much room for activities! Do stuff you like. My favorites include, dancing, boxing, nice long walks and hikes in nature, reading on the treadmill, yoga, and my outdoor bootcamp that my beloved pup Cholula can come to. It’s scientifically proven that daily activity makes you a happier person! So find something you love to do and make that your daily activity. Too much money you say? Wrong! There are so many hacks to get in your daily activity for the low low. Click here to find out how to move on the cheap!
Expressing Gratitude & Journaling
Never have I ever been a journal-er. I tried in like 8th grade once but I would write like one entry every 6 months. I always wanted to be a journal-er but I didn’t ever know what to write about. I was so self critical that I couldn’t even be open and honest in my own damn journal. Sad story. But, in-patient treatment changed this for me. This place was safe and encouraged journaling and openness and honesty. We had nightly homework assignments and I always did them and I was good at them too. There were specific questions that I could answer that helped get my mind rolling on how I was actually feeling and I was able to express myself out into a journal. It felt like such a relief, like a weight had been lifted from my chest. My heart rate/anxiety literally lowered from being at in-patient treatment, but I believe a great deal of this was because of journaling. Every night I write down 3 things from my day I’m grateful for. Sometimes I just jot down the list and sometimes I end up writing 5 pages, but expressing gratitude is always a great place to start. Pro tip: Not only is gratitude a great place to start for journaling, but it’s also a great thing to practice in your everyday life. Tell your mom and dad you appreciate them today. 🙂
Find Your Art: Country Music & Singing Out Loud
LOL. I laugh at this one because if you knew me irl this would also make you LOL. I love music, all types of music. But it was not until this past year that I was so in touch with myself that I knew country music literally made me feel the most mentally sane. Bare with me here. I’ve actually always been a die-hard rap and hip hop fan. I love singing and R&B. My mom loves country. My Pappy loves Frank Sinatra and all those guys. Dad loves old rock. When I started getting really in touch with myself and being aware of internal and external cues, I noticed a difference in how different genres made me feel. My Dad’s music makes me want to either turn it off or go hang at the lake with my family. My Pappy’s music just makes me miss him. Rap makes me feel like a boss and want to party, and also try really hard to be cooler than I am. Lol. And also makes me angry sometimes because the lyrics are dumb and demeaning, but I still like the beats. Haaaayyyy! *Body Rolls* But Country and R&B always make me want to sing at the top of my lungs, especially Country. That’s why it’s in my tool box. Singing out loud makes me feel happy and it’s a good form of expression. But with that being said, find your art. Find a hobby that allows you to express yourself. Some of my other favorites are making jewelry, graphic/web design, and watching endless amounts of TV shows. But beware of watching too much TV and/or movies. Do that in moderation.
Because the Earth is beautiful and deserves to be appreciated and you deserve something beautiful to appreciate! Getting rays of Vitamin D and feeling the air of the outdoors on my skin makes me feel grateful. If you go outside and you really focus on staying present, I bet you will feel what I’m talking about. I’ve never been an outdoorsy person, and still would not consider myself an outdoorsy person, but I have developed a great appreciation for the Earth that I live on and realized that it gives me a happy, comfort feeling when I am present and outside. Over the last few years, and since practicing mindfulness, I am able to feel everything in such a different way than I was before. This feels silly explaining it but every ray of sunlight that hits my skin, every drop of water that falls on me from the shower, every kind word that someone speaks to me, I feel it in such a deeper way than I did before. I feel my heartbeat deeper and need to remind myself to breath because I can feel the appreciation orbing off me so powerfully. So when I go outside I feel this great powerful emotion and it just feels good. Go on a walk with no distraction, just go sit on a bench in the park, go for a dip in the pool, whatever your cute lil heart desires – do that!
Be You! & The Art of Saying No
So this is where I got my blog name. Well actually, years ago Flosstradamus tweeted “*bumblebee emoji* u” and its been my favorite tweet of all tweets in the history of twitter, and that’s where I got the name from. But the whole idea behind that, BE YOU, that’s important. I have high-functioning anxiety, so I am constantly running my brain, biting my fingernails, making lists in my head, thinking about what everyone else is thinking about. When your brain works this way it is really hard to come down and remember who you are. For a long time I lost myself. I lost my voice. I literally did not think anyone cared that much, because I stopped caring about who I am and my own voice, because I had no room in my brain to care. This leads to a slippery, exhausting, dark and scary slope. Being you is the most important thing. It leads to ultimate happiness. One thing that has especially helped me is to remember the Art of Saying NO. I am a Yes girl. I say yes to everything, because I don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings and I want to be liked, even if this means that I am being dishonest to myself or saying yes to something I really hate. So I taught myself the Art of Saying NO, and this little trick has improved my day-to-day life and eased my anxiety. Instead of saying my normal impulsive yes, I usually give a maybe and say I have to think about it and look at my schedule. This gives me time to reflect on what I really, really want. Sidenote, one of my favorite quotes ever is all about being yourself. Clickity click here to read it.
At in-patient Eating Disorder treatment you learn a shit-ton about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle/diet. So I could pretty much be a nutritionist at this point, but now I’m getting off subject. Anywho, something to note here is that the word “diet” does not mean low-carb, atkins, weight watchers, paleo, gluten free, juice cleanse. It literally just means the food you eat everyday. Something that makes me feel good day to day is putting nutritiously, delicious food into my body. And that means I GET TO COOK ALL THE TIME AND I LOVE COOKING! Hehe. But more importantly, it means that I have a better day physically and mentally when I eat good foods for my body versus a day that consists of multiple bad decisions. This doesn’t mean that I never eat Taco Bell or have a hangover, because that’s definitely what my Sunday looked like, but I try to be conscious about how much and how often my treats are incorporated into my regular diet. I have Taco Bell dupes, swap sour/sweet fruits like strawberries, nectarines and kiwis for sour gummies, and can make a mean peanut sauce with spring rolls, which takes care of my thai/sushi cravings. Physically my body functions better and I have more energy and less cravings. Mentally I feel satisfied knowing my body is getting the best nutrients it can get. All the while, I still get to have my mug-cake and eat it too! I learned a ton about a healthy diet/lifestyle from Fit Girls Guide.
Self-care is so important and it comes in so many forms! This can be anywhere from painting your nails to going on a walk to laying on the couch for a few hours. When you feel bad inside, detect your feeling. Do you feel not so cute? Do you want to be active? Do you feel exhausted? Get in touch with your inner cues and act on them. The important thing is all the cues are totally OK and right for you. My hardest one is when I want to lay on the couch for a few hours. I feel like a lazy girl but it’s totally normal and ok to want to lay on the couch, so don’t say mean things to yourself (like calling yourself lazy) for wanting to relax. I mean laying on the couch for a few hours is the same as going to the spa for a girl on a budget right? The point here is to participate in self-care when you need it. And there’s nothing wrong with needing to lay on the couch or taking a personal day from work! Here are some good self-care ideas!
5 Item To-Do List
Whenever I’m in a funk or don’t have the motivation to get up and at ‘em, I make a short 5 item to-do list. They can be tasks as easy as brush your teeth to as daunting as clean out your closet. But I make a list of 5 attainable tasks for the day. Once I finish the first one, it’s usually pretty easy to move on to the next task and eventually finish the list. This not only makes me get up and my mind off of my funk, but it makes me feel productive and that makes me feel better. Even if I’m still feeling funky, at least I did something with my day!