If you are in imminent danger or are considering hurting yourself,
please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. You are not alone.
How to Help Yourself
(a work in progress, but aren't we all?)
* I DO NOT RECEIVE FINANCIAL COMPENSATION FOR ANY RESOURCE ON THIS PAGE. *
* I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH ANY RESOURCE BELOW. *
* THIS LIST IS HERE ENTIRELY TO HELP. *
I am so grateful you are here. Life can be a dark and scary place, full of suffering, struggles, and strife, but life is also full of people overcoming that darkness. Please know that you are not alone, but in order to overcome the dark, one must face it. The only one who can save you is you.
Thankfully, there are countless tools put out by others to help us all find our way. This site is one of them! Below is an ever-growing list of the tools and steps that have helped me pull myself out of incredibly dark times. In these 2020's, it is more important than ever to be able to help yourself. I fully admit that I was really hesitant to even consider some of these steps, but I am grateful I allowed myself to keep an open mind in order to to try things that previously made me roll my eyes.
I believe in you. I know you can do this. You are not alone. You got this.
Those are some of the phrases I also tell myself (on repeat, over and over) for encouragement and to help carry the weight of life. And that is one of many reasons to have this list - to provide encouragement.
First, take a deep breath and know you are not alone. Take another deeeeeep breath. Trust me on this one. My mom preached to me to "just breathe" when I needed strength, and my first thought was always, "Mom, what are you talking about... I am breathing." But it turns out, I was doing it wrong; I wasn't breathing deliberately.
After she passed, in a time when I needed strength more than ever before, learning how to do mindful deep breathing helped give me a sense of calm. Since then, I have learned there are proven health benefits to deep breathing (like lower blood pressure, as an example). I've also learned that sucking in your stomach trains your brain to think shallow chest breathing is natural and it is necessary to retrain yourself how to breathe. There are so many ways to do deep breathing, from simple to silly. I found this article particularly helpful because it talks about Teddy bear breathing (the article says it is for kids, but it is just as helpful for us big kids). Breathing exercises can help ground you into the moment when you are feeling overwhelming emotion.
Next, I need to mention two other things that (to me) sounded too simple to possibly have any impact on my emotions (but I was wrong) -- eating and sleeping. When you are NOT eating or not eating145 enough, or reversely, you are eating TOO MUCH, or you are consuming things that are not good for you, you make it nearly impossible to control your mood. The same goes for sleep -- when you are NOT sleeping or not sleeping enough, or reversely, sleeping TOO MUCH, you make it nearly impossible to control your mood. Something that has helped me overcome feeling unable to eat is to actually make myself eat.
It has not been without hurdle or hesitation that this list comes to life; With every step I take, a voice in my head asks incessantly, "why would anyone listen to me? What could I possibly offer anyone?" It has taken me over three decades, but I finally figured it out - it is thanks largely in part to the tools below that I was able to find that answer, which is a simple one: because my experiences can help others.
One of the greatest tools has been guided meditation, introduced to me by an app called Shine. I used to think that meditation only meant sitting on the floor repeating "ohmmm." I was wrong! There are actually countless types of meditation (and no wrong way). For me, guided mediation has been life-changing. Guided meditation is where a gentle voice helps you step back and evaluate yourself, your experiences, and your situation in ways that feel like a conversation with a friend. The Shine app provides a daily guided mediation that leads you through a concept of self-reflection. Each recording is around ten minutes long and cover a variety of topics. The presenters often suggest you close your eyes, but I absorb the information best by doodling and writing some of the key concepts onto paper.
I will admit that it can often be painful to reflect on who you are, what you've been through and are going through, and to unlearn lessons you hold firm. But once you let go and open your mind to endless possibilities, self-reflection can help you find purpose, to better yourself, to help you help others, and more. The free version of their app offers quite a bit, but I find it sooo useful that I opt to pay for the annual subscription even though I am poor (it is that helpful). Please note that I get no kickback and have no affiliation with this app; I just genuinely and wholeheartedly support their mission. [PS - They often offer their subscription at half price and I do not regret my purchase (I've had it for over two years now!)
The Shine app introduced me to Jamila Reddy, an inspiring woman whose calming voice and get-you-to-think meditations helped me when I was a shell of a human. When I could only get out of bed to take care of my kids and nothing more, Jamila was a friendly voice encouraging me to face my fears and over come my crippling self-doubt. She has since moved on to her own projects, but thankfully her meditations are still available in the Shine database and she can be found on her own website as well as Instagram. As a place to start, I recommend her post about using fear as fuel.
Bay Care Behavioral Health Chat Team's *free* weekly mental health webinars have been an incredible help to my mental health. The BCBH Chat Team gives two kinds of webinars that I know of - ones geared towards adults and the others geared towards adults who want to help children. They have covered a variety of topics including, but not limited to: anxiety, communication, goals, and the power of no. Some upcoming topics include self-forgiveness, bullying, and controlling anger. Each presentation is emailed to participants and is full of great resources on each topics. The presenters encourage participation and "give their all" regardless of whether the chat has four or 34 people in it. These webinars are offered completely free and I have never once been asked for money, neither to donate or buy anything. This helps me take away even more value so I do not have added guilt from not being able to support financially (though, I would if I could - these chats have been invaluable to me). On days I am struggling, I have used an alias and simply logged in to listen/follow along (there is never pressure to participate, just the offer) - yet other times, I find that I am able to participate or add thoughts, quotes, etc. Their webinar schedule can be found on Eventbrite. Also, Sandra Soares with the chat team encourages emailing questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAILY & WEEKLY PICK-ME-UPs
Tut - Tut is a free daily email with a short inspirational insight. Each day has a different focus, but the overall goal is the same: to remind you that anything is possible because you are the only you. Mike Dooley has a way with words that truly inspire. I truly look forward to my inspirational email from Tut (to the point where I refresh my inbox if I do not see it right away). They have taught me so much and have also helped me believe in myself. I often refer back to these emails and think everyone would benefit from reading Mr. Dooley's insights. To sign up, visit www.tut.com.
52 Frames - On the surface, it looks like a photography group (with thousands of participants, mind you), but a deeper look shows that it is a community that supports and encourages each other. The premise is that a new topic is given each week to help inspire a photo. The rules are simple: you can only submit one photo each week and it must be taken within the seven day time frame. Even if I do not submit my photo (though I currently have a streak!), I have found it helpful to have a mission each week to come up with an idea within the chosen topic. 52 Frames founder Yosef Adest gently encourages participants to post each week, no matter what, even if it is a "filler" photo that is not your best work. This philosophy of embracing imperfection is something that has helped me live boldly in all areas of my life, and I am very grateful. And one of the best parts is that it is completely free to participate! There are ways to support them financially, but it never feels pushy and they are open about where the money goes (they moved to their own site, for example). This group can be found at www.52frames.com.
Brass Ring Daily aka Kara Cutruzzula - is another free daily email with quick-to-read insightful thoughts and stories, as well as fun links, cute pictures, and other recommendations. I've come to look forward to her perspective and have found a lot of encouragement from her words. She writes in a personal way that feels like a friend. Her motivational book is listed below in the Book section! For more info, visit - www.karacutruzzula.com.
Deep breathing. It's that important, I'm mentioning it twice.
Mantras and Affirmations - These are positive sayings that you repeat (out loud, in your head, on paper, in your art) that help re-train your brain. "Thoughts become things," says Tut's Mike Dooley, and "the mind is a powerful thing -- what you feed it can affect you in powerful ways." I believe them both and use these ideas to train myself to be positive.
Calming kit. This concept is something of a mental first aid kit. It is easiest to put together (or at least decide what will go in it) when your mind is well in preparation for when it is unwell. My calming kit has a ton of great things in it, but yours will likely look different. Also, since there are no rules, you are able to create this kit in whatever way works for you - and then redo it if you find something that works better. In my "kit," which I do not keep altogether necessarily, just things that I go to when I need a mental health break: chocolate, a book to read, a book to write in, a book to draw in, stuffed animals, my childhood blankie, a blanket, a handwritten note from my sister,
Practice gratitude for all you have, for how far you have come, for people in your life including yourself, for having survived every day - good or bad, and for having the courage to "do the work" to pull yourself and keep yourself out of the dark -- even if it feels like you're still in it. You can do this! You are not alone.
Take care of yourself! You cannot be at your best when you are not rested or nourished. Eat as best you can and get as much sleep as you are able. When I feel unable to eat or have no appetite, I have found that Ensure nutritional shakes help give me some energy (the only flavor I can stomach is vanilla - and it is best drank cold, in my opinion). Also, making sure to drink water even when you are not hungry is important. Dehydration will only add complications and not eating will make you feel even more tired. Reversely, when I find that I cannot stop eating, helpful ways to avoid unnecessary eating include chewing gum, having lollipops, and drinking lots of tea and water.
Learning about the inspiring lives and wise words of people who have helped shape the world has helped me gain strength, motivation, and wisdom. A few of those people and words include:
Audrey Hepburn - Oh what a light on earth, Audrey Hepburn has always been one of my favorite actresses (I'm a sucker for films from the 50s and 60s), but she became one of my idols when I learned how she used her pain, influence, and wealth to become a philanthropist and humanitarian, helping underprivileged children and mothers worldwide through UNICEF. She herself was aided by UNICEF as a child after surviving WWII. She also had a husband who was unfaithful - a trauma all its own - and she had the bravery to divorce him in the 1960s, when divorce was still in the 20%s. All of these testaments to her strength and resilience help remind me that trauma does not have to define you, but it can shape you into something beautiful.
"Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out." - Audrey Hepburn
"Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once." - Audrey Hepburn
"Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicization of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanization of politics." - Audrey Hepburn
"Nothing is impossible. The word itself says 'I'm possible.'" - Audrey Hepburn
"Most of us live on the skin – on the surface – without appreciating just how wonderful it is simply to be alive at all." - Audrey Hepburn
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Oh what a man! One of my greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist an minster who risked (and tragically lost) his life to free an entire race of people. His fearless actions and willingness to take a stand remind me of the importance of not keeping quiet or sitting idle about difficult topics that need to be addressed. A few of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr. quotes include -
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The time is always right to do what is right." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oprah Winfrey - Oprah is a powerhouse of a person, her work in philanthropy is only a part of what has made her one of my greatest role models. I recite her words every day to empower myself, a strategy that has been vital during the difficult times in my life. Some of my favorite Oprah quotes include:
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Oprah Winfrey
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher." - Oprah Winfrey
"Where there is no struggle, there is no strength." - Oprah Winfrey
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” - Oprah Winfrey
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” - Oprah Winfrey
“I trust that everything happens for a reason, even when we're not wise enough to see it.” - Oprah Winfrey
Roxane Gay - Her website lists her as "an author... a professor, editor, and social commentator," but she is so, so much more. Brave, bold, and brilliant are words I would use to describe this woman. I love her so much for speaking out about hard-hitting topics, like her rape, about why she kept it quiet, about insecurities, expectations, and thoughts she had, and and and I could go on and on. She writes and speaks out about other necessary topics like feminism, lesbianism, and her experiences as a woman of color and a larger woman. I find her incredibly relatable and inspiring. Her website is https://roxanegay.com and she can be found on Twitter.
“There is a before and an after. In the after I was broken, shattered, and silent.” - Roxane Gay
"People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they f*ck it up. I regularly f*ck up. Consider me already knocked off." - Roxane Gay
“In our culture, we talk a lot about change and growing up, but man, we don’t talk nearly enough about how difficult it is. It is difficult.” - Roxane Gay
“I have been broken, so I am prepared should that happen again... You have no idea what I can take.” - Roxane Gay
Emily Dickinson - A poet born almost 200 years ago whose words continue to inspire to this day. She taught herself to read and write in a time women were not supposed to be book-smart. Despite criticism that her poetry was worthless, she kept on writing. Unfortunately, it was not until after her death when her sister published her poems that people appreciated her work. One of my favorite quotes helped inspire my company's philanthropic mission:
"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain." - Emily Dickinson
J. K. Rowling - A creative genius I deeply admire, J. K. Rowling triumphed in the face of trauma and struggle (the loss of her mother, domestic abuse, sexual assault, divorce, repeated rejection from publishing companies, and more) to go on to release one of the most successful book franchises in history. She contributed to a neurology center named after her late mother Anne who passed away from multiple sclerosis. She wrote her first book at age six! The life lessons and topics addressed by some of her writings are inspiration in themselves and she is a person I have deeply admire. In 2020, as if the world needed any more negativity, an uproar of people twisted her words to accuse her of having hate in her heart for a certain group of people, but she has never wavered about her support for all people. She has done so much to make the world a better place and empowers others to do the same. Some of my favorite J. K. Rowling quotes include -
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - J.K. Rowling
"You place too much importance... on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!" - J. K. Rowling
"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better." - J. K. Rowling
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." - J. K. Rowling
"Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success." - J. K. Rowling
Charlie Chaplin - A b&w film actor, comedy genius, and activist.
"Let us strive for the impossible. Remember the great achievements throughout history have been the conquest of what seemed the impossible." - Charlie Chaplin
"We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery." - Charlie Chaplin
"Nothing is permanent in this wicked world - not even our troubles." - Charlie Chaplin
"I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying." - Charlie Chaplin
"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down." - Charlie Chaplin
"Imagination means nothing without doing." - Charlie Chaplin
Brené Brown - A motivational author and speaker who helps people embrace their vulnerabilities.
“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” - Brené Brown
"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." - Brené Brown
"Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change." - Brené Brown
"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions." - Brene Brown (This quote demonstrates one of the many reasons I found alternative ways to treat myself beyond pharmaceutical medications.)
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” - Brene Brown
"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness." - Brené Brown
"What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human." - Brené Brown
More of my favorite quotes:
"What you are going through will soon be what you went through." - Unknown
"If you are going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill
"There is only one you and that is your power." - Mel Robbins
"Just breathe." - Drew Barrymore, Ever After
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Nelson Mandela
"I didn't come this far to only come this far." - Unknown
"I am not the opinion of others." - @HumdingerDarling
"You bring to this world a uniqueness all your own." - HumdingerDarling
Activities to Bring Light into Your Life
Clean up litter- safely - with gloves and grabber (currently $1 at the Dollar Tree in the US, or a better one on Amazon for $10ish) . Please note: bees like to go inside trash and might sting if disturbed (which is why I recommend the grabber). Some benefits to this include helping the environment, getting outside, and grounding yourself in the moment by having a mission on which to focus. For more tips, visit the Protect Our Planet page
Create - color, draw, paint
Dance - and do it unabashedly
Deep Intentional Breathing - Intentional breathing is on this page for a third time because its benefits are amazing - it is free, it is incredibly helpful, and it can help almost instantly.
Go for a walk - not just any walk, but a walk where you actively look for awe-inspiring beauty. Or talk a walk in the woods. Studies show that both of these dramatically improve mental health.
Learn - a fact, a song, a new language
Play a game - board game, card game, video game
Play dress up - Whether dressing black-tie, cosplay, or other costumes, have fun and don't forget to selfie!
Send letters, cards, or post cards to loved ones, sick kids in hospitals, or people in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Even more benefits to making them yourself!
Sidewalk Chalk Notes of Joy - This gets you outside, it gets you creating, and it helps others when you write motivational notes like "You got this" "Smile" and "There is only one you."
Spread joy, volunteer, or help others (see Volunteer page here)
Take pictures - Both cell phone cameras and regular cameras count. Get weird angles, create stories with your photos, and do not be afraid to look silly to get the shot. Mindfully having to focus on your shot helps ground you in the present.
Teach someone something - how to bake, how to dance, how to do a craft like painting or papier-mâché
Volunteer - There are opportunities for endless causes , both for introverts and extroverts alike!
Write - blog, journal, write poetry
APPS - APPS - APPS - APPS - APPS - APPS
Airbrush - creative photo editing app, good for both mindless and mindful times. Free, but paid version is my go-to editing program.
Audible - books on tape, some are narrated by the authors who wrote them (Maya Angelou, Nikita Gil, Michelle Obama, as examples).
Canva - creative design app I enjoy and use frequently. Free, but paid version is even better.
Google Rewards - A free app from Google that pays you for taking occasional surveys that usually take a minute or less.
Pinterest - I like to use this app to peruse and save quotes, crafts, recipes, and more. Pinterest can be a mindless escape or helpful with mindfulness. It is 100% free.
Pokemon Go - fun free game that can be played with friends all over the world. Mindless escape. Free, but has in-app purchases.
Professor Layton - one of my favorite puzzle game series has been turned into an app. I used my points earned from Google Rewards to get these games for free.
Shine app - already said, but worth repeating. Guided meditation. Free, but paid version is worth it. Wait for a sale.
Tarot Card of the Day - A fun daily tarot card horoscope that I look forward to each morning.
BOOKS - BOOKS - BOOKS - BOOKS - BOOKS
Nikita Gill - Fierce Fairytales
Nikita Gill - The Girl and the Goddess
Nikita Gill - Wild Embers
Nikita Gill - Great Goddesses : Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters
Kara Cutruzzula - Do It for Yourself (Guided Journal): A Motivational Journal
Charlie Mackesy - The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse WOW Just WOW
Liz Climo - desk calendar (it is full of sweet comics!)
Patrice Karst - The Invisible String - a sweet book about how we are all connected, always.
Maya Angelou - And Still I Rise - brave and inspiring
Sharon Jones - Burn after Writing - a guided journal with a sense of humor
Under Construction (I had a bunch more here and it went away ? Will need to fix)
It is amazing how good it feels to have your feelings articulated into words when you are unable to come up with them on your own. Many musicians have a knack for doing just that. Some artists and songs that I have found particularly helpful or have had a profound impact on my well-being include:
Gerry & The Pacemakers "Never Walk Alone" - I grew up in the 90's and 00's, when making "mixes" (mixed-tapes and mixed-CDs) was common. My mother loved oldies music, so I made her countless mixes. Over the years, she often mentioned how much she loved the CDs I made her, how much they meant to her, and how many times she listened to them. The week that she passed away, I was given the neat, organized zippered binder where she lovingly kept all those CDs. The very first CD I decided to play had this song on it (and I was bawling!). It was one of the first of many signs I’ve encountered since her passing and is one of the signs I appreciate most. I listen to this song to feel close to her and to remind myself I am not alone.
"When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm, there's a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone. You'll never walk alone.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone. You'll never walk alone." - Gerry & The Pacemakers
George Harrison - Give Me Love This was another song on the CD mentioned above.
NF - NF is an incredible musician who does not hold back. With his raw emotion conveyed through catchy rhymes, it often feels as if he is singing from my perspective about my story and experiences. My playlist is literally called "Are you me, NF?" because of the times I resonate with his lyrics. His bravery by being open about topics like trauma and mental health has helped show me I am not alone and I am no less of a person because of my struggles. Introduced to me by my now ten-year-old son, NF has become one of my favorite artists of all time. Some of my favorite NF songs are - The Search, Leave Me Alone and WHY.
"We've all got somethin' that we've trapped inside / that we try to suffocate you know hoping it dies / try to hold it under water, but it always survives / then it comes up out of nowhere like an evil surprise / then it hovers over you to tell you millions of lies... " - NF, The Search
"The mind is a powerful place / and what you feed it can affect you in a powerful way / It's pretty cool right? Yeah, but it's not always safe." - NF, The Search.
"I push away the people that I love the most; why? I don't want no one to know I'm vulnerable; why? That makes me feel weak and so uncomfortable; why?" - NF, WHY.
The Goo Goo Dolls - My first favorite band, headlined by one of my first crushes Johnny Reznick, and the band I have seen most times live (including a very intimate performance in the gym of Towson University). Their songs are not only catchy, but also full of impactful lyrics. Some of their most helpful songs to me include: Miracle Pill, Black Balloon, Fearless, and Iris.
"I don't want the world to see me 'cause I don't think that they'd understand. When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am." - Goo Goo Dolls
"Some days will be harder than others
So we gotta lean on each other
Hands in the air, Hearts on our sleeve
We’re living in a world unfair
We’re living in a world so scared
I’m gonna be fearless fearless
I’m brave enough to feel this, Feel this
I’m running down my demons, Demons
No doubts around it, I finally found it
I never thought id feel this, Feel this
I finally believe it, Believe it
No doubts around it, I finally found it
I can’t be myself if I’m hiding
If I’m not living, I’m dying
I can’t feel what I don’t know" - Goo Goo Dolls, Fearless
Tyler Braden - All the Ways to Miss You - This song is actually about a romantic relationship, but I ignore those parts so I can instead sing this song thinking of my late mother. There is something about belting out "all the ways to miss you" that feels so cathartic to me. Maybe it will be the same for you. He has not yet released it as a single track, but it can be listened to at the 43:00 minute mark on the recording of this live stream. Tyler's voice is incredible, the feelings and stories he captures with his songs have been bold, and I am in awe of his character; Watch the entire recording above to see his humility, how excited he gets talking about his mother (who joins the live stream), and the appreciation he has for the firefighters he worked alongside for years.
To Be Expanded on Later:
Trolls Movie Soundtrack
Mushroomhead "You don't know peace til you've had suffering."
COMMUNITY RESOURCES - Under Construction
Webinars - mentioned above free bi-weekly interactive small webinars by BayCare Behavioral Health team. To find out more, follow BCBH on eventbrite.
What resources have you found most helpful? If they are not on this hodgepodge of a list, please email me at CharmCityCuriosities@gmail.com so I can check them out. Thank you in advance!