We all know the saying, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today!?” Maybe it was thrown at you by an older relative or family friend, sincerely, as a piece of golden wisdom. But honestly, when you have mental illness, sometimes you have to put things off until tomorrow because you’ve momentarily gone crazy. One night recently I was supposed to be studying but just couldn’t because I started to cry uncontrollably and then had a panic attack. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a minute, because our bodies have chosen to function this way, and we have to learn how to deal with it. In college my advisor said to me once, “Just get it done.” I was struggling with depression and addiction, among other things, and that dismissive sentence hurt me. Sometimes I can’t “just do it,” as Nike so eloquently puts it. But in an effort to better my life through bettering myself, I have been figuring out ways to give me the incentive to take better care of myself through the help of apps, journals, and household items. Fair warning, I will list products that I reviewed as the best option in my opinion. Equivalent products can be found for most of the following suggestions. Ok, now to therappy.
Hygiene, Health, and Productivity
- Ok so I have always had a terrible relationship with showers. Not long ago, around when my grandpa passed, I went literally two full weeks without a shower. It’s a complicated issue but TL;DR––showers make me really anxious. My first thought was, “What can I do to take my mind off of showering while I’m in the shower?” Stroke of genius! A shower speaker would accomplish everything: I would get to listen to my favorite music and refocus my attention from the task at hand to singing along with the music. The one that I bought is a waterproof model by Bose: the Bose soundlink micro. It’s a little pricey, but there are tons of less expensive options. If you can get really into music, this is a great kick in the pants.
- Showering and personal hygiene are weak points in my skill set. So, I’d gotten the shower speaker, which was helpful, but it wasn’t quite enough. My next idea was to buy new, fancy shampoo so I went to CVS and found Herbal Essences Argan Oil shampoo and conditioner. The total newness of the shampoo and conditioner piqued my curiosity and the drive to shower increased. From the, I bought a variety of bath and makeup products to entice myself into the bathroom. I got a coconut milk scrub, charcoal soap, and I use the Clarisonic Mia 2 exfoliating tool,which is extremely satisfying. I also invested in face lotion because I’m not getting any younger! I’ve become attached to the brand La Roche-Posay and got such products like this facial cleanser and my favorite the thermal water spritz (great for traveling). Enticed by my new loofa and the charcoal scrubbing towel and the Calm Down body wash, I was ready, finally, to take a shower. And I did. 1 point.
- I’m sure all of you are guilty of skipping a brushing of your teeth every once in a while, either because you were too tired or too lazy or pulling an all nighter. Anyway, when I get depressed and my hygiene skill level plummets, I find it difficult to even brush my teeth every day, let alone multiple times a day. Now, how do you motivate yourself to keep good care of your mouth when you’re suicidal half the time anyway? My answer was a new tooth brush with a nifty app that tracks how often you brush your teeth, how many minutes you spent doing it, whether you brushed your tongue, flossed, and rinsed with mouthwash. They use subtle reminders to keep you on track for your mouth health goals. This is an Oral-B Electric Toothbrush with bluetooth. I made brushing my teeth into a game, and now I feel like I am winning as I get healthier and healthier. When you see a streak of days that you just didn’t brush, it’s a real punch in the gut and a cascade of shame. (At least for me.) So I’m in contest with myself to see how long of a streak I can go for with this toothbrush and app. There is also a newer version of the above product, and other companies have similar items.
- I take a lot of meds. I mentioned in my last post that I use the app Medisafe to track all of my meds. But meds are also why I’ve started using a Fitbit (I use the Flex because my Apple Watch has the rest of the info) and the Fitbit app, to track food and water consumption, day to day weight with a bluetooth scale by Weight Gurus, step counter, sleep quality, etc. The meds I was one made me gain so much weight and my cholesterol is sky high, so I need to make some serious changes in my life. One way is keeping a food log and trying to stay under a certain number of calories per day. It helps keep my mindful of how much I eat and when I should turn away. I have to say, not drinking booze really pays off when it comes to empty calories!
- A couple weeks ago I said to myself, suddenly, I need a smart water bottle that will tell me how much water I’m drinking. Does such a thing exist? Indeed and in many forms. So far, having tested both this one and the Fitbit bottle (which refuses to sync, same with the Aria 2 scale––not thrilled with Fitbit accessories), I prefer the Hidrate bottle that comes with a tracking app. The sensor in the bottle automatically tracks how much water you’re getting or you can manually add water that you had to the graph. One reviewer called it, “The best thing ever.” If you are looking for something more manual, there are plenty of thermoses with hand twisted counters. More water, healthier body.
- I have PMDD, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. It basically means that I go crazy in the week before my period, and I reclaim my sanity as soon as I get it. It can be very jarring to go to bed feeling suicidal and wake up bright eyed, bushy tailed, and bubbling with precious sanity. My therapist has been urging me to do this for a long time but I’ve finally started tracking my periods so that I can have an idea when I’m going to go nuts and how I should plan ahead. I tested a couple apps and the one that I thought was the most useful is called Eve: For your period and sex life. You can talk to other people, join groups, etc. So far for me (I’ve used it a little over a month now), I have found it accurate and helpful. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not simply crazy but my hormones have taken over instead.
- I got a little pill box called Memo Box. It has four slots and the ability to swap more of them in and out if you buy the extras pack. It is a smart pill box and goes along with the app Memo Health, sending you reminders when you need to take your meds both via the app (which offers watch apps) and the pillbox itself, which beeps and lights up at you if you don’t take your meds on time. I personally use it for my PRN meds because it’s just the right size (four slots). They also make the containers swappable, so you can organize your pills for a week in advance, and then just swap the box out every morning. If you’re like me, you need a 30-day pill box, but this is a step in that direction.
- I think this app may only be for iOS but I’m not sure. It’s called Pillow, and it is a sleep monitoring app that works in conjunction with the Apple watch. I forget everything. So when my therapist asks, how much sleep have you been getting, I honestly don’t know. It’s different every night. This is where the tracker comes in. It tracks and analyzes your sleep patterns, including your deep sleep, REM cycle, time awake, and light sleep. The app even reminds me before my ideal bedtime that I should start winding down. This may seem like just a throaway feature, but knowing, becoming aware of what time it is and when you’d like to go to bed is actually huge.
- Whether it’s quitting a habit or trying to train yourself to do the daily basics, the app Productive is a powerful, simple little tool made to incentivize you to do basic chores at your desired fequency. I mentioned it in a post earlier and found it relative here because you can list all of your hygiene goals per day, and then systematically check them off as they get done. It’s very satisfying to check a bunch of habits off at once. Makes me feel productive. (Feel free to wince in pain.)
- My husband is not a fan of the way that I live. I’m somewhat of a hoarder and I get too tired or depressed to do things around the house that I should be doing. Productive and Things (a to-do list app exclusively for iOS) have helped with that. I decided that I was going to act like I lived alone: I would clean, take out the trash, recycling, and boxes; I would get my own pills from the pharmacy, I would clean the dishes and run the dishwasher. I would keep the communal space clean, etc. If I act as if I’m the only one responsible for these duties, then I am more likely to do them. It has actually improved our relationship a lot.
- Since I am back in school, I wanted to find a school planner app and after some searching I encountered My Homework App, which allows you to customize your school schedule within an inch of its life. If you’re younger, you might be able to sync your HW app to your class or instructor. Keep your course schedule, homework assignments, study times, etc, all within the cloud. There is a desktop app as well.
- In terms of time management, I’ve found the app Manifest to be interesting. On their site they say, “Manifest is a time tracking and time management app that’s written with freelancers and indie developers in mind. Lots of us need to juggle multiple projects at once, and Manifest helps you keep an eye on the big picture to make sure all of your projects get enough attention.” You can use it as you see fit. I set mine up to split time between my classes, studying, homework, blogging, cleaning, taking, shopping, meditating, etc. You can set how much time you want to spend doing the activity by week, month or at a fixed date and time. Then with enough time it computes metrics to show you how much time you spend doing every project.
- Simply getting up and out of bed can be a monumental task. Like something I had as a kid, I invested in a wake-up sunrise lamp by Philips, that gradually gets brighter as the time nears your alarm to mimic sunrise. There is a more expensive model that also uses colored light to more accurately mimic sunset and sunrise. This is a good way to begin your morning.
- A new habit I’ve developed is writing in a “gratitude” and productivity journal every morning. It’s called the Sunrise Manifesto and I seriously recommend it. It requires daily morning entries, and then once a week a longer entry for review. A similar but slightly different approach is that of the Panda Planner, which claims to use a scientific approach to productivity and happiness. Organize your schedule with tasks per day, take a moment to reflect on what you’re grateful for, or check out your monthly schedule. Both are good options. I’m using both at the moment.
- Part of planning your life is budgeting. I have been using Quicken (which happens to be on sale right now) to keep track of all my expenses and an app called Mint, which I highly recommend. Both systems help you with budgets and bill tracking, which, for me, is essential because I always suddenly run out of money and now I will be able to prevent that and save money in the process.
- I don’t know about you, but I lose focus very easily. It’s hard not to in the ADHD society we live in with constant distraction and instant gratification at every turn. So I set about ways to prevent me from procrastinating. One is an app called Cold Turkey which prevents you from going to certain websites or using certain applications (like a game for example). This is available on PC or Mac, but not currently on mobile. There are a couple of mobile apps I found that function in a similar capacity: Liberate (for iOS) and Freedom, which I prefer because it also includes blocking apps, not just websites.
- I lose my stuff all the time. Tile is the solution. You attached the Tile to either a keychain or the flat one into a wallet or something like that. Then you can use the Tile app to find whatever you’ve hooked up with a Tile. Conversely, you can use a Tile to locate your phone, should you need to.
- My last post was largely about cultivating a positive relationship with oneself. This can be accomplished in many different ways, but one app that I find useful is Affirmations (iOS only). You have the option to add your own statements to the catalogue, so I entered in all of the realistic self talk affirmations, which get sent to me at various times throughout the day. They’re real pick-me-ups and help me to keep my head above water.
- My final suggestion is comraderie. There is an app called Discord that hosts chat, voice, and video. My friend “Rex” and I started a server with the intent of creating an 18+ peer support mental health chat where people with mental illness could connect and ask for support. Our server is called The Haven and it has been very active in the last few months. I think we are closing in on “1000 members,” but only a fraction of those people actually talk regularly. If you’re under 18 or you don’t directly suffer from mental illness but are affected by someone who does, KindVoice is a nice place to go.
- Finally, my Apple tech. I couldn’t survive without my iPad Pro now because I do all of my school work on it. I even keep my journal there. My favorite app is Notability because it’s easy to navigate, has lots of bells and whistles, and I can use my Apple Pencil to write to my heart’s content. Everything is synced with iCloud so I can’t (please Apple please!) lose my information. And of course, I am in love with my Apple Watch because of reasons. Good reasons. With all the apps I use, getting watch notifications is very handy.
I am doing everything I can to find ways to motivate myself to get up, dressed, out, to class, to therapy, be with friends, and generally be a healthier person. I know the wall of text that I bombarded you with is a little intense, but it’s only a slice of what I’m doing to function and get excited about daily tasks. I feel like a little kid: I need to make it a game or build in a reward in order to get myself to get things done. For instance, this post has taken me 3 hours to write. Not because it was overly complicated, but because it’s so hard to focus. I get distracted easily. My reward is I get to play Ukulele before I go back to studying.
If you didn’t see my earlier post, I recommend taking a peek because I discuss a lot of other mental health apps in detail.
As an aside, I got myself a Death Star kitchen timer to use when I practice the Pomodoro technique. Basically Pomodoro is a method of time management where you focus for 30 minutes, then you take a 5 minute break, then you repeat the cycle until you do it 3 or 4 times and then you take a long break (all the time lengths are up to you), which I usually set to 10 or 15 minutes.
I want to say I love you to my family, who I missed yesterday. Grandma, I am constantly thinking about you and love you so much it actually makes me tear up.
Improvement is slow. Recovery takes time. I’m using the time I have and working to make life better. I hope some of my suggestions can help you too!