Tuesday, October 07, 2014

This Writing Life 11: Mental Health: Because your body is only half the battle.

And I’m back! Great weekend at Can-Con 2014! Good panels, good friends, good fun. Now back to the real word. This week (and only a week late): Mental Health.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional. If you think you suffer from a mental health issue, the Health Information Page on the CAMH website has good information. Read it and visit your doctor.

If you are in crisis, if feel you want to kill or hurt yourself or someone else, please call 911, or your local emergency number. 

I like you and want you to stick around. Get help.

Meanwhile, for me...

Mental Health Issues don’t always go into the clinical spectrum. Many people feel depressed, sad, lonely and stuck in their lives that are not actually mentally ill. I’m regularly one of them. These feelings can crop up even when things are going relatively well.

My Big Issue: Isolation

I spend a lot of time by myself by choice so I can work. Sometimes, it becomes too much of a good thing. Too much time alone can lead to strange behaviors, like nose-picking and thunder-belching (… I’ve heard) and unhealthy habits like not cleaning the house or showering or shaving regularly (… yeah, that happens).

It can also mess with your head.

For me, isolation, leads to loneliness, leads to ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation and excitement) and usually results in procrastination, exhaustion and the inability to focus when I am working.  It’s annoying as all get out (see how I managed not to swear there?). Fortunately, it can be fought:

Solutions (round 1): Exercise, sleep and sunshine

What helps your body also helps your mind:
  • Exercise: creates endorphins that make your body feel good. It also improves your muscles and breathing and posture, which also make you feel better about yourself.
  • Sleep: You need sleep. Sleep rebuilds your willpower and your sense of wellbeing. The more tired you are, the easier it is to slip into negative thinking which can lead to the problems above.
  • Sunshine: Sunshine on my shoulders makes you happy (two points for the musical reference).  Seriously. Vitamin D.  Getting outside, especially among nature and trees, helps restore your strength and clear your mind.

The Solutions (round 2): Get out of the house

Staring at the same 4 walls all the time can drive a person around the twist.  So take yourself out, preferably with company. Even if you are an introvert, you need to spend some time with other human beings.
  • Have coffee with a friend: Get outside, walk to the nearest coffee shop, and meet someone there.  Talking to a friend will help recharge your batteries and make you feel better, even if you’re a massive introvert. 
  • Have some fun: See a movie, shoot pool, swim in a pool, go for a hike, go for a bike ride, go for high tea, go visit your best friend, go play with a friend’s dogs. Whatever you think is fun, go do it.
  • Change your workplace: Take yourself to your local coffee shop and work there if you usually work at home. Studies show the background noise level at a coffee shop is actually conducive to creative work, so take advantage of it and be creative.
Remember a mind is a terrible thing to waste (and so is a mime, so be nice to them. Miming is hard!), and if you are using yours for a living, you need to keep it in good shape.

And now, back to work.

Next Week: Non-Believers And What To Do With Them


Helen said...

Write on, Mr. Buchanan!....poignant, profound...perfect capture of a life 'working from home' I'm seeking my groove again - would be totally up for that green bean coffee again...If you'd prefer, I can each bring our computers and make coffee shop white noise as background :-)

Erik Buchanan said...

Any time, Helen. Email me and let me know when works for you.

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