My well-being tool kit

From a young age, I knew I wanted to help other people. What I have come to realise, is that while I achieved this goal, there was one person I wasn’t really helping, myself. For many people in the caring profession, this will sound all too familiar.

In my day job, I am a mental health therapist for the NHS, working as part of IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), helping people to access support for their mental health difficulties. I am trained in guided self-help based CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which looks at how the thoughts we think and the actions we do can keep us in a vicious cycle of low mood, anxiety, panic or stress. Every day I work with people to build up their own first aid tool kit to help feel more in control of their well-being.

You would think that with this training I would be an excellent example of how to self-care and look after myself. Unfortunately, I discovered that there is a big difference between knowing what helps and acting on this. It is also far easier to give advice than to follow it. After having this light bulb moment, I decided to write down a list of my most successful therapy tips that I wanted to start following.

This is how my well-being project, Tidy Mind Doodles, was created. In an attempt to creatively explain helpful tips while having fun, I created a social media account under the same name, to encourage me and others like me to look after ourselves better in an uplifting way. Tidy Mind therapy doodles hope to break down more complex psychological concepts or ideas in a relatable way. These simple reminders encourage us to adopt small changes in how we think about ourselves or the world around us and hope to serve as reminders to look after ourselves and feel more in control of our mind.

4 top tips to stay well

Here are my four top therapy doodles to stay well.

Try for 5 

I picked a hobby I had put off for a while because it felt too overwhelming but I remember enjoying it at the time. Instead of trying to plan in some drawing for an hour – which I always made excuses for, I tried for five. I planned in just five minutes of drawing. This felt very achievable and was such a small amount of time that  I knew I could not seriously make an excuse not to do it.

Try for 5 by Tidy Mind Doodles

Once I got started, I kept going and I ended up enjoying myself. I went to bed feeling more relaxed and it was great that my brain had some wind-down time away from my phone.

Try for 5 places the focus on getting you started with a task that you are not feeling motivated to do. If you manage it you will feel a great sense of achievement. If you decide to do it for longer, that is an extra bonus. When we set ourselves goals which are not achievable, we can beat ourselves up and feel worse about ourselves.

It is best to do something small every day than nothing at all.

You are what you think 

With so many negative automatic thoughts running through our minds, it can be easy to believe that everything we believe is fact. So many people will think negative things about themselves, constantly hearing that voice saying, ‘I am stupid, I am unlikeable, I am not good enough.’

So is it any surprise that we end up feeling rubbish about ourselves? When we feel sad we want to do less, we withdraw and our thoughts can become increasingly more negative. This doodle helped me to realise – and remind me – that if I was feeling low, I need to either change what I am doing or change how I am thinking to break this vicious cycle.

You are what you think by Tidy Mind Doodles

Choose your thoughts

As part of my regular practice using Try for 5 and You are what you think, I try to make the effort to regulate and monitor the thoughts I have.

If we are not careful, it’s easy for our thoughts to run away from us and before we know it, our catastrophising and worst-case scenario can cause us panic and anxiety. Every day choose the thoughts you have – pick how you speak to yourself with care because it has a direct impact on how you feel. This requires monitoring and checking in with your thoughts. You may need to ask yourself, is that thought accurate? Is it helpful to me right now? Is there an alternative way of looking at this situation?

Pick your thoughts by Tidy Mind Doodles

Take a step back

I have been referring to this tip a lot recently to help me take a step back and see things with more perspective. It is so easy to get swept up in our own internal chitter-chatter, internal and external pressure and expectations, that we often feel very small and overwhelmed by a situation. This doodle really helped me to see that what may feel like a big deal or the end of the world now, in the grand scheme of things and in the timeline of my life, how much does this situation determine who I am and who I will be?

Right now, this moment may feel like the most important thing. Taking a step back gives us perspective, as we see that it may be one of many defining moments in our lives, not the defining moment.

Perspective by Tidy Mind Doodles

These are my four most helpful therapy doodles which help me to keep on track with my well-being, I hope they help you too. For more therapy tips and doodles, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter and on my website, Tidy Mind Doodles.

For more information on the importance of self-care and how to stay well, read our Self-Care fact-sheet. If you think you would benefit from additional support, such as speaking with a counsellor, you can learn more about counselling and find a therapist online or near you using our search tool.

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Written by Natalie Hanley
Natalie Hanley is an NHS psychological well-being practitioner and illustrator at Tidy Mind Doodles.
Written by Natalie Hanley
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