What to Do When Dark Thoughts Consume You

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No one is immune to sickness. Whether we are talking about a cold or a mental illness. Yes, even if you are a doctor, you can still get sick physically. And yes, even if you are a psychologist, you too can suffer from mental illness. 

No one is immune. But what do you do when dark thoughts consume you? How can you be there for yourself? In this video, Jellis Vaes, a mental health coach and founder of The IPS Project, an educational platform on life, explains step-by-step how to use The Wellness Plana tool to help you be there for yourself during such moments.

Podcast episodes:


Websites:

  • 5×3 white cards
  • List of suicide crisis lines
  • Warmline (A warm line is a confidential, free phone service offering mental health support. Unlike a crisis line or hotline, they are not intended for emergency situations. Warm lines are typically staffed by volunteer or paid peers—people with personal experience with mental health disorders.)
  • – No one is immune 00:0002:33
  • – The importance of reminders in our life 02:3304:27
  • – The Wellness Plan 04:2704:46
  • – Step 1: Warning signs 04:4605:30
  • – Step 2: Internal coping strategies 05:3006:46
  • – Step 3: People and social settings that provide distraction or people whom I can ask for help 06:4607:44
  • – Step 4: Professionals or agencies I can contact during a crisis 07:4410:25
  • – Step 5: Reasons for living 10:2511:56
  • – Make it visible 11:5614:04
  • – The IPS Podcast 14:0415:03
  • – Outro 15:0316:08

Jellis Vaes
What’s up there, everyone? I’m Jellis Vaes, the founder of The IPS Project, the educational platform on life. In my training at the suicide line, when we were all, you know, going through that training, another person who was also being trained, asked to one of the trainers that she heard a story of someone who worked at the suicide ine who actually committed suicide. And everyone was shocked, me included as well, right? Like, how can someone who also works at the suicide line eventually end up committing suicide as well, knowing all these things about suicide?

Jellis Vaes
One of the trainers said something that has always stuck with me, and it sounds very simple, but when you think about it, we often forget it. He said that no one is immune. No one is immune. Even if you work at the suicide line, it doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden are immune to those thoughts. You are not.

Jellis Vaes
And it’s the same for doctors. It’s not because they studied medicine and they’re a doctor that they don’t get sick, right? Under the right circumstances, with the right ingredients, everyone can end up feeling unhappy, everyone can end up being depressed, and everyone can eventually also end up feeling suicidal. If the ingredients and the circumstances are right, that can happen. And there are many people who have said that they never thought that they could ever get depressed in life, and then they eventually, at some point in their life, again with the right ingredients under a prolonged amount of time, got depressed.

Jellis Vaes
It’s not because I studied psychology. It’s not because I am a mental health coach and I work one on one with clients. It’s not because I have interviewed many professionals and experts on The IPS Podcast. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get to deal with struggles internally, and that I myself don’t need reminders. And that’s actually here in this video. What I want to bring you.

Jellis Vaes
If you’re dealing with dark thoughts or even preventively already right now, if you want to be there for yourself in the future when you will have dark thoughts, which again, everyone will have at some point, I want to show you something, a way to be reminded. Because one of the most important things that we need in life are reminders to almost everyone. This happened at least once, that they go shopping without a shopping list. And they’re like, yeah, I will not forget that item. And then they’re like, oh damn, I forgot that item on the list.

Jellis Vaes
Therefore, reminders are key in life. Reminders are key, but also not just for daily life stuff or work stuff, but also for our own mental health. Now, what I want to introduce you here in this video to help you be reminded and to be there for yourself. It’s something that’s originally called the Safety Plan, and it is mainly used for suicidal, for someone who deals with suicidal thoughts. But I have modified that and I’ve called it the Wellness Plan because basically I thought like this could be used for just general mental health problems too.

Jellis Vaes
Pause this video, take a piece of paper and I can’t force you to do this right, but the best way to truly gain something out of this video, out of basically any kind of video or book or course or anything, is to take action already. Now and I am trying to just remind you of that, that that is the best approach to truly walk away from this video with something, get a piece of paper and do this with me here.

Jellis Vaes
So step one is the warning signs. We all have certain feelings or moods that we ourselves feel much more easily than maybe someone else. And for example, in my case, loneliness, sadness, or just general dark thoughts when I feel down or when I’m triggered or something, those generally are the main warning signs that I get. And when I feel this more than one day, then that is a warning sign that there is something going on. What do you deal with often?

Jellis Vaes
Do you deal often with loneliness or maybe anger issues or what do you feel often based on what you’re currently going through? And then we have step two which is internal coping strategies. And this is basically things that you can do to distract your own thoughts from your own problems without contacting another person. Basically this comes down to what can you do yourself first about this? That’s step two.

Jellis Vaes
And if we look at what I’ve written down, it’s go climb or taking a walk in nature. Listening to a podcast episode or audiobook related to the topic that’s causing me to feel this way been super helpful for me too. Meditation that helps me a lot too. During such moments, play guitar or piano, go for a run and watch an episode from Friends, the TV series. Write down the ones that you truly know can truly help you.

Jellis Vaes
You could write down a list of 100 things but I guess not all of those hundred ones are going to be as effective as some of them in that list of 100 ones. So take a few out that you know, really help you in the moments when you feel these warning signs. And now we have step three after that, people and social settings that provide distraction or people whom I can ask for help. Now here you’re going to list a couple of people that you know when you call them will be there for you or can listen to something that you’re dealing with. For some this might be a very difficult one, but everyone has at least one person.

Jellis Vaes
Even if your relationship is not completely perfect, if you at least know from previous experiences that you’ve called to that person and they were there to listen to you, that person you should write down. And here for privacy reasons, I’ve just made up three totally different names than the actual names of the person. And besides the name, Also, write down the phone number. Also, I just added some random phone number there, but just to give you an idea how this all looks, all right? And then we move on to step four, and that is professionals or agencies I can contact during a crisis.

Jellis Vaes
If you work with a therapist, then write down the name of that person there and the phone number as well, or your doctor you could also write down there, or maybe a psychiatry. If you don’t have, then, well, it could always be a good investment to go to a therapist and to just have that relationship with that person. Even if you’re not in a crisis right now, it’s good to already have health professionals in your life when you will have a crisis, because then you already laid out that connection and that contact with that person. And then also write down a local emergency service. Now, I wrote down, in my case, the suicide line on there with also, again, the phone number.

Jellis Vaes
Now, it’s not because I am suicidal or something. It’s just that I know that the suicide line here in Belgium is 24/7 available. The line is meant, of course, if you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts, but if I truly will continue to deal with loneliness, sadness, and dark thoughts for a prolonged time, then those thoughts might come to enter in my head again. And, I mean, it’s something that I dealt with in the past for many years. So I also know for myself that it is something that can more easily enter my thoughts.

Jellis Vaes
So I wrote down the suicide line. Now, write down one local emergency line there, and yes, even if it has to be the suicide line, and even if you do not struggle with suicidal thoughts or anything even close to that, write it down, because you just never know. This wellness plan is a reminder, okay, that if we look at it, we easily are reminded of like, okay, that’s an option actually, as well. Now, you have in some countries, also something that’s called a warm line. Belgium doesn’t have it, unfortunately, but there’s a couple of countries who do have it.

Jellis Vaes
And basically this is just a line that you can also call 24/7 that is there to just listen to you dealing with any related mental health issue. So that could also be something very interesting to look up on the Internet. If your country has a warm line, if you just type it in on whichever browser that you’re using with your country next to it, it should normally just immediately show up and write down that phone number. All right? And last but certainly not least, what we want to write down on this wellness plan is step five reasons for living the things that are most important to you and worth living for.

Jellis Vaes
What are the reasons for you to live? Write those down. And the ones that I wrote down are my mom, sister and my stepdad, my friends, my dog, the work that I do and the meaning that it brings me. Being able to learn and do new things in life, creating music, those are a couple of things that really give me meaning to live. And I could add so many more things on that list of course too.

Jellis Vaes
But just write down again the same like with internal coping strategies, don’t per se write down 100, write down the core ones that you really know help. And here’s, well, write down the core reasons for living that you know can help you to want to live on. I know this step five can be a very tough one to fill in, especially if you’re watching this video right now and you are dealing with a lot. You’re just feeling really bad right now. But at least try to write down one.

Jellis Vaes
Take some time to just think about this. There will be at least one thing that you can write down. That is it for this wellness plan. Those are the things to write down. If you put this on a card like this, it’s a bit smaller then I just wrote down like step one, step two, step three at the top and not per se like warning signs or internal coping strategies.

Jellis Vaes
Next to step two, for example, there you can make it a little bit shorter, right? Just add the key things on it. I mean, you will know step one what it will be about, right? When you read what you wrote on it.

Jellis Vaes
And now the whole point of course of creating this is that you also have it visible. It’s useless to have a shopping list if you then also don’t look at it when you are in store. It’s useless to create that then, right? The same here. It’s useless to create this if you also don’t make it clearly visible and have it easily with you somewhere.

Jellis Vaes
Once you fill this in, please also take that last step serious to make it visible. Ideally buy these cards which again in the description, I will put a link to order them or create them yourself on a piece of paper, put them in your wallet so you have them always with you. Or you can of course also put this on your phone. But the key then is also that you should place it somewhere that you can easily access it to or print it out, hang it on your fridge. If you’re really going through a crisis right now, you can do that as well.

Jellis Vaes
Make it visible. And this is definitely not a magical cure, right? But I tell clients all the time too. What we’re trying to do is increase the chances of success, of when you are feeling bad, of increasing the chances that you can handle it, that you can cope with it, that you know that you’re not alone, and this wellness plan is such a tool to increase that chance.

Jellis Vaes
Now, if you’re currently struggling with a mental health problem, I could also recommend you to check out a couple of episodes on The IPS Podcast on mental health related topics, interviews that I did with people such as Mark Henick, a mental health advocate who helps people around suicide and mental health, bringing awareness on that topic. Or Dr. Guy Mcpherson, a specialist in trauma. Or Dr. Martin Inderbitzin, a neuroscientist and pancreatic cancer survivor. I did multiple episodes with him. Often we talk around the topic of dealing with the hardships of life.

Jellis Vaes
Or Sean Galla, the founder of Men’s Group, where we talk about men’s health. Those are just some suggestions. There are many more episodes on The IPS podcast that I did on mental health-related topics. They’re all completely free, and I’m just offering them to you in hope that maybe they can further help you with whatever you’re currently maybe struggling with. Now, all of them can be found in the description down below.

Jellis Vaes
So check out the description. And I want to end by just saying one last thing. That if you can just take half an hour or maximally an hour to do all this, that hour that you’re investing in yourself right now, you will not come to regret this once you are at a truly bad place or even right now doing it right now because you are at a bad place can already serve you. And once it’s created, it’s there and it can continually help and serve you. You will not regret this, and your future self will thank you that you took time right now to create this wellness plan.

If you feel that you’ve gained some insights and lessons from this interview, and you are curious to see what else we offer at The IPS Project, check out The IPS Academy, where we offer online courses taught by guests here on The IPS Podcast.

Learn more about essential life topics, such as mental health, relationships, the mind, and the body and the brain, through fun and interactive courses. Simply go to TheIPSProject.com/academy.

What is also interesting to note is that all the courses are quite affordable, as we at The IPS Project do not want money to stand in the way of bettering one’s life. Each course has a few lessons to try for free, so you get a taste of what the course is like.

We have countless reviews from other students so you can see what others think, and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you end up not liking the course. Again, check them out at TheIPSProject.com/academy.

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