Most of the stuff we have to do to get better, we have to do— or at least do some version of— every day in order to stay better.
I know, I know. “Every day” sounds like a lot.
“Every day” sounds like a lot to so many people, in fact, that it causes a subset of people to kind of want to give up doing the stuff that got them better. They figure that anything you have to do “every day” is simply too much of a hassle.
Well over half of the symptomatic relapses I see in my practice happen because people who have used certain skills and tools in order to get better, have for one reason or another quit doing them every day. They may have made those skills and tools into habits for either a little while or a long while…but in the end, the story is the same: they quit doing the stuff.
I hear you. Having to do something “every day” sounds like a drag.
But the simple fact of the matter is that most everything that makes your body and mind function better— most everything that makes you feel better— in the long run really does have to happen every day.
Every day your body needs good nutrition.
Every day your body needs physical exercise.
Every day your body needs hydration.
If you want to minimize the chances you’ll get cavities and suffer from tooth decay, every day your teeth need to be brushed.
And yes: if you have a history of depression and you want to keep from being depressed, every day it’s probably necessary to stop, listen to your thinking patterns, and identify and combat distorted thinking.
If you have a history of dissociation, every day it’s necessary to use grounding skills to make sure you’re oriented to place, time, and person.
If you have a history of anxiety, every day it’s necessary to take time to relax your body, corral and talk back to anxiety-provoking thoughts, and use self-soothing tools and techniques.
The good news is, once you make these things habitual, having to use these skills and tools feels less like a burden.
The better news is, there are ways you can make using these skills and tools every day easier. You can use a planner. You can use a checklist. You can make a “game” out of it. You can even engage the support of a group or online accountability partner.
The key to it all: keeping in mind the benefit of what you’re doing, rather than focusing on the burden.
If someone is frustrated by having to use their psychological survival tools and skills every day, it’s almost always because they’re focused on the cost of using them instead of the benefit.
What is the cost?
You lose a little time, maybe.
It’s inconvenient, maybe. A bit of a hassle, maybe.
Sometimes using psychological survival tools and skills brings up unpleasant thoughts and feelings that we THINK we can avoid by simply “stuffing” them down— the “out of sight, out of mind” technique (that almost NEVER works, by the way).
But what might be the benefit of using the skills and tools?
The benefit of using psychological survival tools is that you will have a much, much decreased chance of slipping into depression.
You’ll have a much, mush decreased chance of losing hours, days, or weeks to dissociation.
Your anxiety level is much, much less likely to become unbearable.
Why can’t we always see these benefits in the moment, though? Why are the COSTS of using psychological survival skills often so much easier to focus on rather than the BENEFITS?
For most people, the answer to this is pretty simple: they don’t like to think of themselves as someone who needs to use “survival skills” every day in order to just get by.
That’s right: good, old fashioned denial.
Most of the people I work with are not stupid. They know full well the benefits to using their tools and skills far, far outweigh any costs of using them.
They just struggle with facing the reality of how much they need them.
It’s a drag that you need these skills, let alone every day. I hear that, and I don’t disagree.
But it’s a drag that exists. It’s a drag that IS. We need to acknowledge and deeply accept what IS, if we’re ever going to have a chance to change it.
Accept the fact that you need certain skills and tools. Accept that you need to use them every day.
Don’t let denial trick you into thinking you’re beyond using basic skills.
No good comes of that.
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