Geeks Vs Loneliness: Conversations Against Living Miserably

The host of a brand new mental health podcast writes on the virtues of giving yourself a break.

This week in Geeks Vs Loneliness, during Mental Health Awareness week, we’ve invited mental health author, CALM ambassador and the voice of Dave on social media Aaron Gillies to pen a piece for us. He’s recently launched a new Podcast called Conversations Against Living Miserably, which focuses on how funny people deal with sad times. It’s created by TV channel Dave and CALM, the campaign against living miserably. Every week, Aaron and award winning comedian, Lauren Pattison, talk to a different guest about how they live their day to day lives without misery. It’s available on all podcast platforms including: iTunes, Acast and Spotify.

Over to you Aaron…

I’ve lived with a mind that is against me for over a decade now, I’ve learnt to live with who I am, to roll with the bad days and try to enjoy the good. To not judge myself upon the happiness of others and tell myself that I am trying my best even when it doesn’t feel like that. I wish there was a cure, a switch you could flick off that makes the clouds part, but unfortunately life isn’t that easy. One of the biggest things I have learnt is also something that should seem fairly obvious, but when your brain is doing its best to trip you up at every step, obvious doesn’t really work anymore. It took me quite some time to learn it as well, but it’s simply to appreciate the small things.

Mental health issues make the simplistic difficult. They obscure the obvious and blur the rational. This can be what makes helping yourself so difficult, when your brain is your own worst enemy, it’s difficult to get your enemy to help you. I fell out of love with the term ‘self-care’ when it was usurped by inspirational Facebook posts and Instagram captions used as a way of promoting diets and health fads. Self-care isn’t an overhaul of your entire lifestyle, it can be taking two minutes for yourself a day, or 20, or putting on a movie and letting your brain be distracted for a small segment of your day. Any time convincing your brain to ignore itself is time well spent on the path to recovery, and I wouldn’t have been able to survive without this.

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My list of self-care activities are not what you would find on a wellness website. They aren’t drinking 600 glasses of water a day, doing yoga on top of a mountain or going on a spiritual retreat to a Caribbean island to have strangers whisper that I need to calm down. My self-care activities are less nuanced than that, they aren’t going to inspire the masses, I can’t take idolised photos of myself doing them, I just do them because I need a distraction, or I need to turn the volume down on my own brain circus.

The perfect self-care activity you ask? Two words. Con Air. The best film of 1997 by a mile. Nic Cage’s perfect accent. The complete lack of problematic dialogue and themes. It is 123 minutes of mindless, beautiful distraction.

Looking after yourself doesn’t have to be a mammoth task all the time. Yes some bits are hard, but the easy bits can be easy. Movies are my outlet. When I know I don’t have the attention span for a full feature, I watch old trailers on YouTube. I listen to the soundtracks to relax me. (The Con Air soundtrack is fantastic by the way, it makes no sense at all.) It’s all distraction and it’s wonderful. You don’t have to push yourself to get better straight away, that is usually going to do more harm than good. Take moments for yourself, enjoy those moments, remember those moments. One thing I took away from therapy is when my therapist said “When was the last time you sat with your emotion and used your rational brain to analyse it?” I do this with both positive and negative moods. When I have a shit day at work, and I can feel my brain heading into that dark place, I sit with it and take the day apart piece by piece. I go through the interactions and pinpoint what made my mood change. I do this when I’m feeling good as well though. What did I enjoy about turning my mind off for an hour?

I recently started co-hosting a podcast from Dave (the TV channel, not some random guy I know) and the charity CALM, and after interviewing over a dozen people, every single one said that the most calming thing they do is take time for themselves, and that all of them don’t do it enough. Mental health problems are complicated, it’s not a one-thing-will-fix-everyone deal, but when you can, take the time for yourself. Be selfish with your time for once. Do something that has no benefit whatsoever. Watch a movie. Play a video game. Listen to cheesy music. Read a book. Time is not being wasted if you are spending that time letting your brain buffer, letting your brain take a moment, and giving yourself a break. And if there is one thing we all need to do more, it’s give ourselves a f**king break.