I couldn't always afford therapy.
The co-pay of $60 US per session was ridiculous to me, and for the therapist I was seeing at the time, listennnnn, it simply wasn't worth it. Read about the tea here.
On a serious note, I was at one of my lowest points and felt like a failure in every aspect of my life: my career, my finances, my relationship with my family, my romantic relationships, my church life and even my spiritual life.
I needed realistic and affordable ways to cope.
Let me start off by saying, I am not a qualified therapist. I'm just willing to share my experience hoping that someone out there doesn't feel alone.
I know what it's like to function through a mental haze at a traditional 9-5. I know what it's like to exist without boundaries and be everything for everyone while being completely drained. I know what it's like to struggle with self-worth. I know what it's like to be disappointed when you wake up in the morning while everyone's thanking the big man upstairs for life.
Burn out? Not fun!
For a while I had to work through those issues by myself -- not by choice.
I couldn't afford a therapist. At the time, there was still this stigma and misunderstanding around mental health, so my friends couldn't quite grasp the severity of what I was going through either.
I was quite certain my parents would either pray for me or send me to read the bible (this happened once during a break up). But as Jackie Hill-Perry and Preston Perry's viral hoodie asserts: Jesus and Therapy can co-exist. So this kid, sort out therapy!
Until this kid realized she couldn't afford therapy!
So, what to do when you can't afford therapy?
I had to invent my own. And here's what that looks like for someone who doesn't have the means or accessibility to it.
SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE
I'm so grateful to be living on an island. The beach is a stone's throw away. It's therapeutic not just for the body but also for the MIND! I spent so many afternoons here alone or with a loved one as I tried to make sense of the various shifts around me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the beach saved me.
TAKE BATHS IN SOUND...ERMM... I MEAN SOUND BATHS
I've always been an anxious mess. When stress was in excess I went to sleep with heightened emotions and woke up extremely worked up. I found the solution in the form of Tibetan singing bowl videos on YouTube.
So what are Tibetan singing bowls? Tibetan singing bowls are inverted bells that are typically bowl shaped. They produce a sustained note when struck with a mallet. They're usually used during sound baths.
Usually, to get the desired sound, you run the mallet around the inner or outer rim of the bowl to produce an ethereal note. They're usually the key instrument used in sound baths.
Sound baths have been making the waves recently, especially during quarantine, where virtual sound baths were all the rage. Just think of a meditative, quiet space that's immersive and have Tibetan singing bowls as the central instrument.
You sit in a quiet space, your body relaxed and eyes closed as you let the gentle sounds wash over you -- just like a bath!
It's so calming.
Singing bowls are used during yoga, for meditation, to reduce stress and anxiety and helps to center the mind.
Falling asleep to singing bowls and playing them first thing in the morning have helped me to have a calm countenance throughout the day. Or, at the very least start my day off right.
DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE...PROPERLY
It could just be me, because I'm as awkward as a panda but I don't breathe as well as I should. I have a tendency to breathe very shallowly ESPECIALLY when I'm anxious.
I never knew how important proper breathing was until doing it wrong started affecting me in detrimental ways.
I was always tired, couldn't concentrate, had poor memory and was always irritable. I wouldn't blame that all on poor breathing habits but it definitely contributed to it. And once I made an active effort throughout the day to correct subtle things like breathing and posture I noticed my focus improved.
For all my fellow human pandas out, here's what I did to improve my breathing and by extension, my mental clarity.
Check your posture. Make sure you're sitting up straight so your torso isn't restricted.
Breathe deeply. I was breathing shallowly. My rule of thumb is to breathe deep enough so I feel the air hit my lungs. It usually feels like a subtle chill to my airways.
Feel your stomach expand. If you've ever been on a choir you're familiar with breathing while resting a hand on your stomach. The goal is to feel your stomach expand while you inhale to make sure you're breathing properly/
Yeah. I have yet to master this, BUT, I still try. And I've slowly felt my breathing improving.
If all else fails, heck, I'd just google: How to breathe properly?
SLEEP BEFORE 10 P.M.
It's ridiculously cliché. So let's start off with the science.
So we know the drill. We've heard it since we were kids.
A good night's rest helps reduce stress, manage weight and maintain energy throughout the day. But it's not just about how long you sleep (8 hours anyone?), it's also about when you sleep as well.
It's not feasible for everyone to sleep during the night hours, i.e. people who work the night shift, parents of newborns, college students and frequent flyers don't have the same sleep schedule as someone else who has a more flexible and less hectic schedule.
But if you can manage it, the benefits of sleeping before 10 p.m. help us to cope with anxiety because this is when we get the most regenerative sleep.
You see, the brain has an internal clock. It's called the pineal gland and it acts as a sleep regulator. It receives information about the sun through your eye's optic nerve. As the sun sets the pineal gland secretes melatonin which prepares your body for sleep.
By 10 p.m. the body needs a reduction of mental and physical activity in order for the transformational phase of sleep (triggered by melatonin) to increase metabolic activity. This metabolic activity helps to repair and restore the body helping you to feel refreshed and physically, therefore mentally fortified to face the day.
DOING WHAT YOU WANT
Stop asking for permission. No, seriously. External validation is the thief of joy.
From social media, to the nosey church aunties, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in expectations and keeping up.
Word of advice -- DON'T.
Don't keep up.
Fail. Stumble. Mess up.
Critical voices are miserable voices. Nothing is ever good enough for them. It's difficult to please them. They're unhappy with their own lives.
What we don't want, is for those critical voices to seep into our psyche and live rent free in our minds.
One thing that's been vital for my mental health is no longer asking for permission when it comes to things that affect me. And that might not mean literal permission. It could just mean articulating your desires to friends and loved ones, or even the world (social media) hoping for positive feedback as encouragement.
Don't do that!
We are responsible for our own happiness. We are responsible for our choices. We wield more power over our journey than we realize we do.
The cages we put ourselves in are reflective of various factors: our upbringings, our friend circles, society, tradition.
But once you focus on your desires you'll realize that you live a freedom never deemed imaginable.
And guess what?
You deserve it!