Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

mental health

Nothing to do when you’re locked into vacancy? Here’s some ideas.

I’m pretty sure those of you who live in warm climates are sick of hearing about this but here in the Northeast, it’s motherfucking cold. Not like the cold in a movie theater (seriously, why do they do that?) or a conference room during a business meeting (again, why do they do that?) but so cold your fingers and nose and ears burn at even the thought of going outside, 45 layers won’t keep you warm enough, and your heater is slowly approaching temperatures only found at the equator.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s Canada cold. Or Alaska cold. Or Midwest prairie cold.

It completely sucks and kudos to those who live in places where it’s regularly like this. 

Anyway, because it’s turn your tears to icicles cold in my part of the world, I’ve been stuck inside. Which doesn’t really bother me because I’m as close to a hermit as you can get without people being worried but still, after awhile, even I contemplate going outside. Which I then think better of because frozen tundra. And then I’m left wondering, after 4 straight days with close to no hope of leaving any time soon, what do I do next? 

So I sat down to make a list. Because of course I did. Because I love lists. And since I love to share my lists, here’s what I came up with of some of the things to do when you’re locked into vacancy:

    • Read. Did you doubt this would be first? There is nothing better to do than read. And if you’re stuck in the house, the best way to escape is through a book. This is the perfect time to tackle the stack of unread books on your nightstand, pour through the dozens of links and blog posts you’ve been hoarding saving, dive into that extra long book you’ve been keeping for the day you can finally get to it, plow through the stack of magazines or clean up your eReader. There’s never any shortage of reading materials. And this can keep you busy for hours and hours. Especially if you combine it with naps.
    • Watch TV. I know those who are adamant that TV is a waste of time will disagree with me but I believe you can still be productive even with the television on. When you’re in the house, why not go through your DVR’d shows, start that show on Netflix you’ve been meaning to check out (here’s a helpful list if you need suggestions), or take some time to watch a classic movie or rewatch one of your favorites. Like books, TV and movies can be a good escape.

    • Be creative. Tired of reading and watching TV? I get it. It happens. And when it does, why not take an hour or so to color or paint a picture, write a short story or blog post, knit or crochet, try a new makeup look or hairstyle, sew, put together a scrapbook page, choreograph a dance, cook a new recipe, have a whole conversation in movie lines or song titles/lyrics, anything else you can think of that will get your creativity flowing and keep you busy. Keeping your mind occupied is a surefire way to stave off boredom and forget that you’re confined to your home.
    • Move. I mean, not your home or possessions but your body. Spending all that time on the couch or in a chair, while comfortable, can sometimes make your cranky and achy and kind of fussy. I know it can for me. So, when that happens, why not take 30 minutes to exercise? You can do a workout DVD, following along to a YouTube video, find an at-home workout on Pinterest, have a dance party or even make up your own. Just get yourself moving a little bit. It’ll help stave off boredom, keep your mood lifted, and you won’t feel like a big sluggish lump. And then you’ll also feel less guilty about the 230436 cookies you ate because your winter weight is helping to keep you warm, dammit. PSA: don’t forget to do this with your pets as well, especially if you have dogs. They’re most likely used to a couple of daily walks and when it’s this cold, they can’t get that activity either. Try playing a game of fetch with them indoors, if you have the space or just find some way to help them burn off some energy.

    • Spend time with your family. If you live with people, why not use your home confinement as a way to bond with them? You can have a family game night, do Mad Libs, have actual conversations, tell stories, take some of the creativity you exercised earlier and have a showcase (talent show, art gallery, etc) where you all get dressed up and pretend it’s fancier than it actually is, sit down to a meal together, or whatever it is that your family likes to do. If you live alone, you can still connect with your family and friends via all the available methods like Facetime and text and phone calls. Just stay connected. Or, if you hate your family, you can figure out all the ways you can creatively avoid them.
    • Plan. One way I get out of my own head and away from the misery of subzero temperatures is to plan all the fun things I’ll do when it’s warmer. I like to plan our spring and summer day trips and vacations, check out which baseball games I’ll buy tickets to, who I want to be sure we visit, what we’re going to do to the outside of the house (flower beds and outside lighting and the garden and what our patio is going to look like once we build it) and doing some online window shopping for spring and summer clothes. Thinking about the warmer weather, and indulging my fantasies about it, makes the ice age I’m living in that much more bearable.
    • Chores. Okay, so this is last on the list for a reason. Chores suck. But if you’re stuck inside, this is a great time to dust and vacuum and do laundry and pay bills and sort the junk mail and put away the dishes and organize the pantry and write the grocery list and menu plan and go through your closets and all the other things we wish we had time to do but other things are more fun to do when you have free time. This is a great time to get this stuff done and not have them hanging over your head so when the weather improves and you finally escape your imprisonment, you won’t feel guilty doing everything else.

 I’m curious–what do you guys do when you’re stuck in the house with no end in sight?

 

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4 ways to use your smartphone for self-improvement

Some time last year, I posted a link to an article that talked about having a decluttered iPhone (I can’t find the link now. I’ll share it on Facebook when I do). I fell in love with that idea and when I got my new phone a few months ago, I decided to take the challenge. I realized that my phone was starting to take over my life 

While my phone isn’t as clutter free as it could be, it’s way better than it was. With the exception of Instagram and Goodreads, I removed all social media apps. Then I removed all news outlet apps (CNN, Huffington Post, etc), deactivated all push notifications, and set the do not disturb time frame. Next, I decided not to install any games except for a couple for my daughter. YouTube made the cut but that’s also more for my daughter’s sake than mine. I left Spotify because I’m borderline obsessed with it and I listen to music constantly, and a few other apps like MLB and my library and bank. Stuff I genuinely need and use.

Once I decided to declutter my phone, I also decided I would start using it for good instead of evil. So, when picking which other apps to add or keep, I felt that they needed to have a productive purpose. As in, stuff I can use to make me better instead of worse. To that end, here’s how I’m using my iPhone as a weapon for self-improvement instead of self-destruction:

smartphone self-improvement

Duolingo. If you want to learn a new language, Duolingo is the perfect place to start. I first heard about this app from my daughter’s Spanish teacher, which worked out well because I’d long been wanting to brush up on my French and I can do this for free, on my own time. You can choose from about 8 languages, how much you want to practice each day, it grades you instantly, the app tracks your progress, and even if you have zero knowledge of a language, you can use it. It has a game-type feel that makes it fun to learn and keep you interested.

Podcasts. Podcasts are sneaky little learning tools. My husband has long been a fan of them but they never did it for me. Then Serial happened and now I’m a fan. Rather than simply listening to entertainment-based ones, I’ve been trying to learn by downloading business-type podcasts from Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins, Book Riot’s podcast, and also Criminal, which is short, investigative reporting episodes, all related to crimes, old and relatively new. The criminal justice nerd in me rejoiced upon discovering this one. Not into criminal justice? I’ve seen one for self-improvement, science, money management and personal finance, religion, and dozens of others.

Exercising. Use your phone and create a gym in your pocket! (I’ve also written before how you can use your smartphone to achieve your fitness goals if you want more information on that). As someone who doesn’t love exercising, I’ve had to find ways to keep it interesting. After a 4 month lapse, I’ve started workingout again using my T25 videos but as an alternative, I downloaded a yoga app and a workouts app (literally. That’s what it’s called. Workouts. And Yoga). There’s a free and paid version for each. I recommend the paid version because you get more options and longer workouts. I use this in conjunction with my Couch 2 5K app (that’s more of a springtime app since my basement isn’t finished and it’s fucking cold down there) and with this combination, I barely miss my gym membership.

Gratitude journal. Lots of people recommend keeping one of these so I thought I’d give it a try since it seems like a simple enough effort to improve my mental health. After looking through lots and lots of apps, and not really wanting to pay for one, I settled on one called Grid Diary. What I like about it is that you can set up as many questions or prompts as you want, either by choosing from a library of questions or making up your own. It automatically reminds you at a set time every day to write in the journal so there’s no excuse not to. It’s a quick and easy, something you can do during a commercial. I think I might upgrade to a paid app at some point but for now, this one is just fine.

I’m also starting to use iBooks a bit more, particularly while I’m waiting on the school pick up line or for an appointment, and I have a few store cards loaded onto my phone. I have the Disney app on my phone that my sister and I are using to coordinate our vacation to Disney World this spring so we can be clandestine and surprise the kids. And finally, I’ve taught my mom, sister, and mother-in-law how to use the photo sharing option so we can trade pictures without sending 2340832 texts. 

I’m sure, if I wanted, I could pare down my phone even more but for now, I’m okay with the way it looks. And I can tell you that by removing many of the negative influences from my phone, it’s not only improved my state of mind but it keeps me more present and focused when I’m out and about. 

Which is really the most important thing.

How are you using your phone for self-improvement? What should I add to my arsenal?

 

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On getting rid of perfection

How to Fold the Perfect Fitted Sheet

How to Make the Perfect Cookie

How to Scramble Eggs Perfectly

How to Host the Perfect Party

How to Write the Perfect Blog Post

How to Craft the Perfect Blog Title

These are examples of actual pins that have come across my Pinterest feed. Often. As in every day. And quite frankly, I can’t handle the word “perfect” any more. 

I’m not sure when the pressure to be perfect set in. I’m even less sure as to when everyone started thinking that they had the solution on how to be perfect. Because I don’t even know what perfect means. It’s such a subjective word. What’s perfect for you isn’t perfect for me and vice versa. So how are so many people all of a sudden authorities on being perfect? How can they tell me what to do? 

And why is it so important to be perfect? Why can’t it be good enough just to be good enough? Just to try your best? 

I don’t know about you, but when I see that word, perfect, I don’t see something to strive for. I don’t see success and hard work and a beautiful, awe inspiring end result.

I see pressure. 

I see a standard I can’t achieve.

I see never having self-acceptance, never being satisfied, and never being happy.

I don’t like living like that. It’s too hard. It’s too emotionally draining.

So I’m done with perfect. And you should be, too. 

Because perfection isn’t that important.

No, what’s important is trying your hardest to get through. To do what you can within your limits and your standards. 

The standards you set for yourself. No matter how high or low they might be to someone else. 

Because when you strive for perfection as set by societal normal or blogger edicts or Buzzfeed decrees, it begets depression, intimidation, sadness, and frustration. 

But when you strive to do your best according to your morals, values, and goals, even if it results in imperfection according to everyone else, you get satisfaction, happiness, productivity, and gratitude. 

I’m aiming for those. Because I’d rather be happy with burned cookies than be sad with perfect ones.

Life is what happens inside the imperfections. 

And I’m completely fine with that.

imperfect

 

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The struggle with enough

Lately I’ve been struggling with the word “enough”. Not as in “I don’t think I’ve read enough books” or “I haven’t watched enough Netflix” or “I haven’t had enough tea today” but more in the sense of:

I don’t work hard enough on my blog. 

My topics aren’t focused enough.

My writing isn’t creative enough.

The idea for my book isn’t interesting enough.

My platform numbers aren’t high enough to make an agent interested in me.

I’m not organized enough.

My house isn’t clean enough or nice enough to have people over.

I don’t play with my dogs enough.

I don’t play with my daughter enough.

I’m not nice enough to strangers.

I don’t call my grandmother enough.

I’m not friendly enough.

I’m not generous enough, and I certainly don’t volunteer enough.

I haven’t lost enough weight.

I’m not talented enough.

I’m not motivated enough.

I don’t try hard enough.

I’m not enough.

The list goes on.

It’s all completely negative. And I can’t make it stop. 

Just when I get to a place where things are going well, my creativity is flowing, I’m content with what I have (and don’t have), I’m comfortable and confident with my choices and where I’m going, something (I don’t know if it’s my depression or lack of self-confidence or too much time on social media and buying into lifestyle construction or what) gets ahold of me and talks me out of everything positive thought I have and puts me right back in the place where I can’t get off the couch and I think I’ll never amount to anything or achieve the level of success I want and convinces me I’d be better off just quitting everything so I stop trying.

I hate that I think, and subsequently act, like this. I hate that this pattern is part of my life. I know, in my head, that it holds me back. I’m pretty sure it’s rooted in some sort of fear and there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy tucked in there somewhere, too.

It’s a fun little package. 

It’s one thing to deal with someone else telling you that you suck or stomping on your dream. It’s another thing to deal with the internal chatter. Because those voices are there with you all. The. Time. They’re loud and annoying and they’re difficult to ignore. Like really obnoxious sports fans cheering for the wrong team. 

And if you’ve ever experienced those types of fans, you want to punch them right in the face.

That’s how I feel about the negative committee in my head.

It’s not that I don’t want it to change. I try some of the techniques in my cousin’s book. I think back to some of the techniques I learned in therapy (despite the fact that my therapist was horrible and, on some levels, made my issues worse) and attempt to apply them. I read blog posts and articles on how to alter negative thinking. I try to stop comparing myself to others. I stay away from social media. 

And none of it works. 

I’m still trying to figure out why.

It might be that I won’t let myself think differently. It might be that I simply can’t do it. Old habits and all. 

They’re kind of a bitch.

I know that everyone deals with self-doubt at one point. And for many, they take that self-doubt, channel it, and use it to make or do something great. 

I want to be that person.

I want to go to bed each night and say “I did enough today” and really believe it.

I want to tell myself I am enough and really believe it.

Because I know, in my heart, that whole list of “I’m nots” is a lie. 

Now I need my head to believe it.

Do any of you struggle with the same issues? What works for you when you get mired in this line of thinking?

 

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A few words on depression, suicide, celebrities, and everyone else

I hadn’t planned on writing a post today but I have a few things I need to say.

In case you haven’t seen or heard the news, actor Robin Williams died yesterday, and the cause of death was suicide. It’s a tragic, horrible situation and so many are mourning the loss of an incredible and talented performer on social media, in the news, or in private. And that’s fine. You do what you need to do to make sense of it.

For me, though, it’s a bit different. It is frustrating to me, someone who battles depression every day, to see this hyper focus on mental illness and suicide simply because a celebrity dies as a result. Depression is an every day battle for millions of people, and every day, many of them take their lives. Yet no one floods their Twitter or Facebook feeds with pictures, memes or quotes from those every day, yet equally special, people. I get that perhaps people are taken aback with this because there is a cultural perception that celebrities are invincible. They have money, fame, and everything we place value on. They bring joy and happiness to others. So how can they be depressed?

That, to me, highlights just how misinterpreted depression is. Depression is a mental illness, caused by internal factors, not external ones. No matter how incredible your life may seem on the outside, depression wreaks havoc on your insides. Mentally, emotionally, physically. Depression skews your perception of everything and it feels impossible to make anyone understand what’s going on (for a great depiction, check out Allie Brosch’s comics on depression. She says is better than I ever could). Depression makes you feel alone and isolated. Depression takes away all the things normal people take for granted.

Depression is more than just sadness.

Robin Williams’s influence on pop culture is undeniable. Some of his movies are among the best ever, and are some of my personal favorites, and it is no doubt because of the talent he leant to those movies. His talent was unique. His mental illness was not.

And for me, that’s the tragic part.

We, as a society, need to take the stigma out of mental illness and start making it okay for people to be open about their struggles. And those of us who have it need to break the barriers and make sure we talk about it (besides Allie Brosch, two others who are fantastically open about their depression are Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Joe Pantoliano’s book. There’s also some wonderful TED talks on depression, including this one from a comic). We need to let others know they’re not alone. We need to encourage those contemplating suicide to seek professional help rather than inundate them with glib sayings about how happiness is a choice and it will all be better. We need to generate a better understanding of the disease.

We must support, and remember, everyone who is fighting against depression and other mental illnesses.

Not just the celebrities.