One Good Thing: come up with an emoji shorthand for when you need extra support

One Good Thing: come up with an emoji shorthand for when you need extra support

Welcome back to One Good Thing, Stylist’s Sunday series that asks experts in mental health for the one good thing we can all do to boost our wellbeing.

This week, we chat with author and journalist Kate Lucey for her One Good Thing. 

Hey, Kate. If you could recommend one good thing everyone can do to improve their mental health, what would it be?

It’s so, so difficult to improve your mental health, so my one good thing is more about managing your mental health by finding a way of communicating how you feel to the people close to you in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a dick. For me, this is by using emojis (stay with me) and finding a few specific emojis to help explain the particulars of how you’re feeling.

Wait. Emojis? Tell us more, please.

During a time when you’re not hanging out at Rock Bottom, consider how you feel and what you need when you have your darker times. Do you often need to be left alone to yourself so you can cry? Do you need distraction with someone’s company and some conversation? Do you need a project or a problem to solve? Do you need someone to send you memes or videos of cats being fluffy little idiots? Whatever it is that you find yourself needing, find an emoji for it. Mine, for example, is the raincloud emoji, which I use when I can’t leave the house and need to stay in the dark because I feel so, so low.

Then, let Your People know what you’re doing (send them the link to this article, why don’t ya) and what the emoji means. Something like this can work: “When I’m feeling super depressed, I can’t really get into it in the moment. If I send you a raincloud emoji instead of properly replying, it means I’m in the storm and I’ll be back to you when I’m out of it.”

Genius. Why is this your One Good Thing?

When you’re feeling really low, it’s hard to articulate how you’re doing and what you need, and energy can be non-existent – even to the extent that you can’t type out a text. Although choosing an emoji to represent that you feel really down and you need to be left alone in the dark sounds simple, the preparation work that goes into it makes it an effective way of communicating what you need and how you feel. When we’re feeling our worst, that kind of communication is usually impossible. 

So true. How is the emoji technique going to benefit us?

Often we make up excuses for ourselves when we’re feeling crap, and there’s really no need to. If your friend told you that they were feeling super anxious before a social event and they’d like you to meet them 20 minutes earlier, alone, to get some calmness together, there’s no way you’d scoff at the thought (unless you have no soul). It works both ways; we can tell people we love how we feel and what we need, but in a way that doesn’t involve sitting down for an intense chat. 

If you get anxious before being in a group, like in the example I just mentioned, you could always message your pal: “Hey, I’ll need on Thursday” – after you’ve done the initial explaining of what means to you.

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Are there any pitfalls of your approach? If so, how can we sidestep them?

If you look at your messages and find you’ve sent your ‘I need help’ or ‘I am feeling awful’ emoji a lot recently, don’t ignore that. When you’re feeling up to it, consider when you were feeling that way and if there were any common factors: had you just spent time with a particular person who made you feel bad? Were you hungover? Had you done something specific for work? 

Don’t think that the emoji is a blanket excuse-giver and that you never have to look at how you’re feeling again – and don’t forget to thank your friends for being understanding once you’ve explained and tried out the whole emoji thing.

How do you personally use your emoji shorthand?

I have some close friends who know how much I struggle with depression (and a lot of strangers who understand it too, I guess, because I wrote this book about it), and using a raincloud emoji is a non-confronting way for me to say, “I’m not up for a drink, I feel awful, I need to be alone in the dark and I can’t stop crying and please don’t try to make me feel better, I’ll be back when I’m ready,” which is also definitely not getting typed out when I can’t even bring myself to pee (I don’t wet the bed, to be clear, I just hold it in).

And how has it changed your life for the better?

It’s meant I only have to explain how I’m feeling, or could be feeling, that one time. The rest of the time, the emoji does the symbolic work for me. Hurrah for living in the future. 

Get A Grip, Love by Kate Lucey is available now. 

Frame Of Mind is Stylist’s home for all things mental health and the mind. From expert advice on the small changes you can make to improve your wellbeing to first-person essays and features on topics ranging from autism to antidepressants, we’ll be exploring mental health in all its forms. You can check out the series home page to get started.

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