Do-It-Yourself Therapy

Two years ago, I had moderate anxiety. For one month, I had persistent sleeping problems and no appetite. So I joined an anxiety support group. Every two weeks, I would sit in a circle of anxious, sleep-deprived people, and we would ask each other, “How much sleep did you get last night, 5 hours? I got 3. You, 6?”

Then we would talk about whatever it is that was bothering us. Those were the days.These days, I do my own therapy. And let’s face it; we all need therapy. How do I know? Listen to this example, given by Susan Forward in Toxic Parents: 

‘The boss yells at the man; the man snaps at his wife. The wife yells at the kids; the kids kick the dog. The dog bites the cat.’

Does this sound familiar?  Have you ever transferred work tension or anger into your home, or the other way around? I thought so. I have seen doctors, teachers, plumbers and government workers displace their anger onto another person. Even if you don’t think you have anxiety or need anger management, you can’t deny that you need to manage work tension or tension from personal issues.

So let’s talk DIY therapy. When I say ‘therapy’, I don’t mean you sitting in a chair, spilling your guts out to another person, hoping that the other person won’t judge you. I mean techniques that you can use daily and weekly, to help you destress.

The first form of DIY therapy is colour therapy. Colours can affect your mood and emotions. How? By increasing or decreasing your heart rate, metabolism and eyestrain. This is the truth that artists, musicians and interior designers have long understood. Think about all those songs that embrace the power of colour. In the song, ‘Pink’, Aerosmith sang:

‘Pink (small pause) it’s my new obsession’

‘Pink (small pause) it’s not even a question’

‘Pink (small pause) it’s the colour of passion’

Some songs use the words ‘black’ or ‘blue’ to symbolize a dark mood, like ‘Paint It Black’ by The Rolling Stones or ‘Moody Blue’ by Elvis Presley.

Which colours are therapeutic?

  • Sky blue, which symbolizes tranquillity;
  • Green, which reminds us of growth and nature, and
  • Sunshine yellow, which is instantly uplifting and inviting.

So think about wearing these colours or furnishing your house with these hues. For example, fashion experts recommend wearing something in light blue on a first date, to relax the other person. In Melbourne, I know that we are all obsessed with black, to look professional and chic. And rightly so. But why not accessorize a black outfit with a touch of colour?

Colour therapy (both), flower therapy (left) and travel therapy (right)
Colour therapy (both), flower therapy (left) and travel therapy (right) – what’s your idea of therapy?

The second form of DIY therapy can be found in your own home. You know it. You go home, and it’s there, waiting for you – chores. Stress management experts claim that cleaning the house destresses because it’s physical exercise in itself and reduces clutter. I agree. We have a dishwasher at home, and I dump all the plates and cutlery in there. But sometimes I do the pots and pans manually, just to feel the sensation and satisfaction of soaping and scraping a pot. Do you ever feel the same satisfaction? I also find cooking to be incredibly therapeutic. When I have a good two hours to cook, I find that preparing a meal brings out my creative juices and makes me feel real…present…alive. And guys, if you don’t enjoy doing chores, combine it with listening to music. This will increase your energy while doing chores.

Laksa (noodles) – colour therapy, chore therapy, food therapy?

I know that there will be a few people out there who disagree that doing chores is therapy, especially guys, but I’m not the only one who enjoys scraping a pot. Guys are more like…anything chores to do with wood and tyres? Okay! Or the rare pleasure of building a bonfire.

My final and favourite kind of DIY therapy? Water therapy. This shouldn’t be too hard for you to take up; you’re a human being; you’re naturally attracted to water. We’ve built our major cities near water; but are we using water to its full potential, for its calming, therapeutic properties?

I used to be a personal trainer; my job was to encourage my clients to come to the gym two, three times a week. But now, now I say, ‘Forget the gym, go for a swim.’ Swimming IS the best form of exercise for older adults, and suits people of all ages.

When I miss my weekly swim, I feel incomplete.

“But Tara, I don’t want to be showing off my body in front of other people in a public pool, with all those germs. I just want to lie there.”

Well, you know what to do then – get a house with a bathtub. Or find a friend with a spa bath, and sleepover every once in a while. It’s the best. There’s nothing like candles, red wine and being enveloped in a sponge cake of bubbles.

Practice colour therapy, chore therapy and water therapy. I’m sure you can think of other DIY therapy techniques, such as reading, writing and speaking. I’ve only just gotten back into reading. I’ve been reading these for the past few weeks:

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown (a philosophy to simplify your life)
  • Toxic Parents: Overcoming their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward (a painful, emotional but absolutely necessary read for anyone who suspects their folks are toxic, or whose family is broken)
  • Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore (I’m so outdated, I know. Rad book)

The point is, therapy is necessary. Therapy is not expensive. Just do it yourself.

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