• Simon Birdsey

Jossed for Mental Health

How I use the board to manage my mental wellbeing

I've found 2019 to be a tough year so far. I feel as though I've had virus after virus, some activities that I found fairly comfortable have become much more difficult and I've faced some challenging personal situations which have made my anxiety worse.

I had a similar spell about a year ago, where I seemed to have a headache all the time and it was really difficult just getting through each day. What surprised me though, when I reviewed my board at the time, was that I'd made it to Anderton Boatlift to take a tour of a steam boat, completed a screenwriting course at the local library, been to watch an Under 17 international football match, attended a trees in the park walk and had an interview for an internship.

But how could I possibly have done all that when I felt really poorly for three solid months?!

I'm sure that I did feel unwell each day but the intensity can vary quite subtly. So I might have felt that the degree of distress I experienced was 8/10 every day, and that could be the case for days or weeks at a time, but maybe it dropped to a 7 or a 6 occasionally without me noticing?

Perhaps I had the odd morning or afternoon where I didn't feel too bad but I'd become so used to feeling dreadful that I didn't spot the chinks of light breaking through?

And it's possible that having something that I wanted to achieve helped me to briefly put my anxiety on hold.

When there is something that I want to do but I'm not sure whether I'm up to it, it normally motivates me to think that, if I didn't do it, I'd need to find something else to fill the box.

At one point I could do the local Parkrun fairly comfortably but at the moment I'm struggling to even cycle around the route. I've got a five week break from playing football on a Saturday now, so my aim is to do the Parkrun again during that time. I went there this weekend to walk the course with my bike and I was secretly hoping that I'd get carried along by the other runners and go much further than I expected.

It didn't quite work out like that. I completed the first section, which is progress in itself, but then I started to feel quite anxious. So I decided to keep cycling around the first section over and over until I felt able to do two consecutive loops of it. I was there for nearly an hour and a half but I did it. My plan now is to repeat that during the week and hopefully go a step further next Saturday.

In the past I've confused depression with anxiety and my attempts to become a super-achiever to rid myself of the black dog have made me feel very stressed, which has made me feel even more on edge. My solution was to try even harder and the consequences are predictable enough.

The Jossed board helps me because it limits the amount of time that I spend trying to accomplish things and makes sure that I spend an equal amount of time on other activities, especially physical, social, pleasurable and relaxation.

I don't allow myself to repeat boxes so, for example, on my last board I set myself the physical task of returning to the gym and doing at least one workout per week. Now that that habit is established my next goal is to increase the size of my chest and arms. Hopefully that will prevent me from just turning up and going through the motions and the progress that I see will help to further motivate me for my next board.

Sometimes I don't achieve what I was aiming for and that's fine. I just try to break down my goal into smaller chunks, recognise what I have accomplished this time and move the remainder on to my next board. You can do that as often as you like because you're still making strides, even if they're not as big as you would like them to be.

I like to use the board for creating new, positive habits. Unless I have something specific to get up for, I don't ordinarily set an alarm, but I normally feel quite groggy in the morning and I wanted to try having breakfast at a set time each day to see if it helped to regulate my blood sugar. So far, it seems to be working. I've been feeling like I've only been going where I needed to on my commute into town too and that my comfort zone has become smaller and that it's become a bit of a chore. My plan from next week is to make sure that I come home along the river instead. I'll let you know how I get on.

The board really helps me to become more receptive to what's going on in the world. To give you an example, I've noticed recently that Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag is being broadcast live to Odeon cinemas in September. I don't think that I would have paid it too much attention if it hadn't occured to me that I could invite some friends and tick a social box. I've decided that I'm going to watch three Emmy-nominated series as well. I caught the first two episodes of Fosse/Verdon on Friday and it isn't something that I would normally choose to watch but I know I'll feel like I've achieved something, connected with the world and broadened my mind when I tick the box off.

I could procrastinate for Britain but I try to use Jossed to make sure that I get things done within that three month timescale. It could be things that you've been meaning to do but haven't got round to. I pay a subscription to a business accounting software and I don't use most of the features, so I decided to downgrade. I broached it recently and I've been offered the full package for the price of the downgraded version! I also knew that I had to go to the dentist for a filling but I kept rescheduling. When it came to the end of my board I decided that I had to go for it and, actually, it was much less scary than I was expecting. I got a great deal of satisfaction crossing that box off.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of the board is the rewards though. Celebrate what you've achieved and be kind to yourself! My dentist has been telling me that I brush too hard and so, recently, when I saw an electric toothbrush advertised with a pressure sensor I knew it would be a perfect prize. Without Jossed, I don't think that I'd be thinking of treating myself in that way.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of the board is the rewards though. Celebrate what you've achieved and be kind to yourself!
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