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Forums » Smalltalk » Needing advice on how to cope.

i've been pondering over whether to ask for help (specifically here) for a few days now, thinking i could handle it on my own. turns out i can't and this is probably the best place for me to turn atm

there's stuff going on. a lot of it. between trying to start a protest against my college (for reasons I believe aren't forum-friendly), i've fallen for a guy who's halfway across the world (..hasnt flat out rejected me yet, but we've both agreed that him nor i am mentally stable enough to go for anything serious) and im 17 in a little more than two months.

it's a lot. the reason for the protest is the main reason i am struggling. i've lost sleep & had three (?) meltdowns in the last two days due to it, and no adults in my life (or my friends' lives) are helping us. it's gotten to the point where everything i do, i'm in a constant negative loop of thoughts. it's either thinking about the situation, about missing the guy ive fallen for, or just in general about growing up and how much it terrifies me. it's /all/ the time. quite literally five minutes ago i randomly started thinking about it, began hating a character design i was making, and impulsively closed my program so all of my progress was lost. just because of a single thought- because the character designed look a TINY BIT like someone i'm currently resenting.

i'm not good at coping, and while VCing with people has been preventing me from spiralling, i am also aware that the people helping me are human too and I am deathly afraid of dumping all of my issues onto them ALL the time especially because many of them aren't always mentally healthy themselves and i don't want to make it worse.

does anybody have any HEALTHLY coping mechanisms that preferably don't involve/require anybody other than myself, that'll help lower my stress levels, stop me from dissociating constantly and/or maybe improve my focus/mood?

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Kim Site Admin

I'm so sorry you're going through so much right now and feeling so badly.

We have a list of coping strategies and help resources right here:

I'd start with the checklist for improving your state of mind and browse from there. :)
I've been going through a DBT group again these past few months, since I know it had previously helped me a great deal. It doesn't fit the description of things you're looking for at the moment, but in case you're not familiar: DBT is a type of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that focuses around acknowledging and working with extreme ends of things and seeking balance, including acknowledging how seemingly opposite things can be simultaneously true. It's mostly run in a class format, informing people about strategies and ways they might be able to apply them to their own lives. If you're curious, I can tell you a bit more what my own experience has been like.

The main thing I wanted to bring up is one of the strategies it's offered that has been effective enough for me that, honestly, it kinda weirds me out a little (but is mostly just fascinating). I keep forgetting most of the strategies but this one stood out.

It's referred to as "half-smile" (and yes, it's a poor name that at least I feel has some misleading connotations). It's literally just taking a moment to use the muscles you would to smile, just enough that you can feel it (which usually isn't actually enough to make it visible, so it can be invisibly done even in public).

It's one of the tricks they teach that relies on quirks of how the body and mind interact; in this case, it's taking advantage of how there is, in fact, a small degree to which your brain takes cues from your body to figure out how you're feeling and try to follow along. Basically "Oh, we're smiling? Let's get some more endorphins going." (And it can work negatively, too. Part of why it's good to relax all the muscles during times of stress. That's not to say it's ever your fault for feeling bad; these are automated processes that we can learn to use a little, but not outright control.)

If you have the same associations I do around the name (or maybe even if you don't), you may find yourself jumping to the idea of fake smiling. In practice, though, I noticed there really is a difference in how it feels, and since this "half-smile" exercise is usually invisible, it's really only for you, not a show for anyone else. You're basically wordlessly telling your brain, "Hey, let's try to be more calm, relaxed, at ease. This is what will help right now."

Besides the odd bit of body science behind it, I think that a big part of why it can be so effective for me is that my mind immediately jumps to character archetypes that I associate with "peaceful, understanding smile." Wise mentor types, relaxed elders who enjoy a bit of silly fun, etc. People who have successfully made it through plenty and come out the other side knowing they can, loving others enough to help them find their own stability, and loving themselves enough to let themselves enjoy whatever nice little things make them happy. When I physically act out character motions, it's because I'm trying to better understand how something would work (usually because I have a very poor visual imagination) - and I think that that, in turn, is prompting my brain to try to "get into character" when I use the half-smile. It feels like the sort of smile I see those sorts of characters give. It feels like... peace.

Do still have to acknowledge that part of why so many coping methods are taught is that the same things won't work for everyone, or for every situation. It's also good to have a few to rotate through since things can get used so much that they stop having meaning, and variety can help to better avoid that.

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