A tool is a “device or implement, especially one in the hand, that is used to carry our a particular function.”
We use tools every day. Computers can be tools, wrenches are tools, obviously. A camera is a tool used for taking pictures.
Living with mental illness requires the use of different types of tools as well. There are thought records. There are a bunch of different acronyms, such as STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed), DEAR MAN (Describe the situation, Express your request, Assert yourself, Reinforce your request, (stay) Mindful, Appear confident, and finally Negotiate your request), and others.
For someone who deals with mental illness, these tools can change your life, as long as you use them.
Just like all the tools in the world won’t help a mechanic repair a car if he doesn’t use the right one, the tools that I learned in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have changed my life.
I’ve written before about how I conduct thought autopsies as a check on my emotions and feelings.
The tools can help anyone who deals with mental illness, but the problem is practising these tools takes work. It takes time. It takes effort. Learning the tools puts you into uncomfortable situations.
I can’t stress enough though, that they can make your life better, as long as you practise them.
There is a saying in the military, the more you work in training, the less you bleed in combat, and mental health skills are no different.
The time to learn and practise the skills is before you enter crisis, not during.
I use several tools in my toolbox to cope everyday.
I used to use distraction as a tool everyday, though I rely on it much less than I used to.
Currently, fitness is one of the biggest tools I use to work on my mental health. I find that the more I work on my fitness, the better my mental health is.
I use the aforementioned thought autopsies. If I have reason to question the validity of a thought, I will break it down to it’s elements, and try and figure out if it’s valid or my mind just exaggerating issues.
Another tool in the tool box is talk to Lynn, or someone else in my life, bounce the thoughts off them and get some external input.
Music is another tool I use regularly. Thanks to the ability of the average cell phone being capable of holding several thousand songs, I am never far from my music collection, and when my anxiety peaks, it’s easy to throw in a headphone and focus on the music.
Finally, the last tool I want to talk about that I use is riding the wave. Riding the wave is a distress tolerance skill. When emotions and thoughts are at their worst, the wave is huge. Too options; ride it or get pancaked by it.
Just like a surfing wave, the wave of intense thoughts and emotions may come on Fast & Furious (See what I did there :D), but as fast as it comes on, it will recede. Whether it’s for 30 secs or 30 minutes, the intense wave of thoughts and emotion won’t last forever, and sometimes all you can do is hang on and white knuckle the ride.
These techniques are what I use to get through the day. They won’t work for everyone, nor will they work every time. They do however, help me most of the time, band when they don’t, I have contingencies in place, such as a trip to the hospital. As discouraging as those times can be, they are definitely not failures, they are yet other tools.
Comment below what tools you have in your mental health toolbox.
Thanks for following along,