I know, homework, yuck. I thought the same thing when I was given tasks to do after therapy. In my head I’d say, “Homework!? I already have enough of that, AND I have so much crap going on inside my head, how do you expect me to do it!?”. It’s a common misconception that in therapy, you’ll magically find all the answers. Talking about your feelings and verbalizing your mental illness to someone who understands really does help. However, there comes a point where we need to put in the work. Same goes for medication, it definitely helps, but it won’t magically make your mental illness disappear. Therapy and medication are like training wheels, they’re there to help us not fall down and skin our knee. However, we won’t be able to move forward if we don’t push the pedals.
Since my job and schooling are online, I often find myself inside, alone, a lot. So it only makes sense that I’ve been tasked with going outside more and socializing. I didn’t realize how much this self-isolation this was affecting my mental health until therapist pointed it out. With lockdown still being in full-swing, I wasn’t really sure what I could do to socialize. I don’t own a bike or rollerblades, and not many people are keen on socializing at the moment. However, I found out the perfect way to help myself out. Two words: dog park. What could be better for your mental health than being outside and with dogs?
I unfortunately don’t own a dog of my own. I have a cat named Ginger, who brings me great comfort when I’m inside. I know she would not be very happy with me if I took her outside. This is where the perk of having your grandparents living down the street comes in. My gramma and papa own a German Shepherd named Greta. Greta is registered at our local dog park. The absolute perfect equation for me.
So every evening, Greta and I head out to the dog park. She’s already well established there, and it’s usually a conversation starter when people see Greta but no papa. I’ve already made a buddy, with a dog called T-Bone’s, owner. Although I tend to be awkward and nervous when starting conversations, so it’s nice to always have a common topic.
Greta, like myself, also has some anxiety. So, she has a socializing meter. Once it’s filled, she goes and stands by the gate. We definitely understand each other in this way.
I’m very lucky that I have Greta and her membership to the dog park. If you don’t have a dog you can take to the park, I have a list of other things you can do:
1. Read in the park. I read inside all the time, but it’s even better being in nature doing it. Trust me, it’s worth it. Treat yourself to a coffee/tea/your favorite beverage, too. You deserve it.
2. Paint/draw/write outside. Set up a nice blanket, grab some inspiration from the atmosphere around you, and let your hand go wild. This is great for mindfulness, too, and being present in the moment. It could also be a good conversation starter for anyone who passes by.
3. Set up a picnic date with your best friend, or just a friend. Catch up on things, talk about your feelings, eat some tasty food.
I used to not be keen on therapy homework. Me a couple of years ago would’ve scoffed and continued on letting my depression and anxiety determine what I do. The thought of going to the dog park initially made me very anxious. I was scared people would talk to me and I’d be awkward. Although this fear still lingers in me, I can feel it slowly but surely getting smaller and smaller. I’m proud of myself for doing the thing even if I really didn’t want to at first.
Do your therapy homework, listen to your therapist, and take your meds. Start moving those pedals, even if it’s just slowly at first. I’m determined to show my depression and anxiety who’s in control, and if you haven’t heard this, I believe in you to do the same. We’re all in this crazy thing called life, together.