Back to health toolkit

Over the years, I have suffered on and off with mild depression.

I have been in a privileged position that my workplace has been able to provide very good counselling and support. But the one thing that I am most grateful for is the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT sessions I had about ten years ago. It gave me some brilliant tools and ideas for my toolkit.

The toolkit allows me to get back to health with little intervention. But when it is failing, it instructs me to get help. As a result I have needed very little counselling support since. (Until Menopause hit and scattered the toolkit all over the room!)

I hope you will find this useful. I have put the items into some sort of order for you. But please remember, this is my toolkit. This is what works for me. Your toolkit will probably contain different items that are specific to you.

The explanations make the list look lengthy, but it is a list of 19 points.


  • The references to notes and suggestions refer to the CBT training.
  • A trusted friend here is someone who understands your condition. Someone who when you share a list of things that are worrying you, will actively help you work through the list with understanding and compassion.

My Toolkit

Some CBT training ideas

  1. Start by re-reading any previous medical support you may have had.
    For me, this is my medical notes and I compare my current self to where I was before. It gives me perspective.
  2. If someone has upset you, write down all the things that they did/said.
    Now, see if there are alternatives to the way things were said to you. Did people really mean what they said or was this just how your negative mind interpreted it?
  3. Each day list all the good things you have seen, achieved or happened to you today.
  4. Try to take pleasure in small things that made your day easier/brighter.
    A sunny sky. No traffic at a right-hand junction. Your favourite song on the radio
  5. Make a “What’s worrying you” list and see what you can fix.
    Share it with a trusted friend and see if they can help you

Get Healthy

  1. Go for a swim.
    If the local pool has jacuzzis, sit in them, be still and just breathe
  2. Go for a minimum 30 minute walk
    I find once I’m out, I walk for miles. I find I’m mentally worse in the winter and want to avoid people. So I walk about 5pm. It is early enough to still be out, but dark, so there is a sense of anonymity as I walk the streets.
  3. Go for a drive.
    A very long one if needs be. (Put on music that soothes your soul).
    Weekends were tough for me when I was at uni in Derby. No structure to the day and many of my friends went home. Being in or near water heals me. So, often I would drive to the Norfolk coast to sit on the beach and eat fish and chips. I would then drive back. A five hour journey, and I was exhausted by the end. Then I would sleep soundly.
  4. If its winter, get a light pod and sit by it for a minimum of 30 minutes a day
  5. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables
    Cut out processed food and, for me, stop consuming chocolate and alcohol. (They both make me worse). Instead, become a fruit junkie: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots.

Struggling at work

  1. Make lists and/or write post-its to cut tasks into more manageable tasks.
    If they still look daunting, reduce them further. Take pleasure in crossing off each item as you accomplish them.
  2. Use the (10+2)*5 method
    This comes from Damon Zahariade’s guide to beating procrastination
    Work on a task for just ten minutes. Take a two minute break. Repeat five times. It gives you some focus. And eventually you find something you can get absorbed in.
  3. Go for a walk.
    Sometimes just getting up and walking round the building is enough to get the mental juices working again. (Useful advise, even if you don’t suffer from depression).

Struggling to sleep

  1. Have a warm drink before bed
  2. Take a hot lavender bath before bed
  3. Get a regular bedtime routine
    Mine is finish everything by 9pm, watch telly for an hour, then go to bed and read for 30 mins
  4. Increase your magnesium glycinate intake
    There are two types of Magnesium. This one helps relax the body and aid better sleep.
  5. Compile a “comfort” tv/ film list
    Comfort films/tv are ones you can watch again and again because it feels like home. For me it is “One the Up” (1990s comedy with Dennis Waterman and Sam Kelly).
    Films that are guaranteed to make you cry are also good. I find a good cry is deeply cleansing. “Old crap out, new crap in!” It helps me sleep.

Last resort

  1. Email/call your therapist of choice
    After a week or two, if all of the above has failed to get you back on top, this last line gives you permission to get outside help. You can take this list to your therapist/doctor and demonstrate you have tried your best, but the world is just too much right now. You need additional support.

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