Monday, March 22, 2021


Welcome to Door Dash! We’re pleased you’ve decided to become a “Dasher.” You probably started doing this as a “temporary gig,” but you may find that it becomes one of the best jobs you’ve ever had, if you’re a slightly rebellious type who doesn’t like being told what to do. There’s almost complete freedom, you can consistently make around $20 per hour, and it’s mostly driving around while listening to music or podcasts. You don’t even really have to schedule yourself. Just dash when you feel like it. 

But as a new dasher, there are a few things you should know. 

People will not always leave their porch lights on, have a clearly visible address on their house, nor leave detailed instructions on how to reach their apartment number within a sprawling labyrinth of a complex. You may occasionally find yourself wandering around with a full meal from Popeye’s for ten minutes before finding your destination. You may consider writing a strongly worded letter to the universe in general, requesting that your destinations always be well-lit and easy to find. 

While the Dasher app has the ability to connect to your phone’s GPS system, this is not always reliable. You could discover that in your attempt to deliver McDonald’s to a family in Magna, your phone has guided you to the abandoned Saltair Pavilion, a dilapidated venue on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. These kinds of misadventures can be avoided by making sure the location in the Dasher app and the location in the Maps app are the same. 

Some people will be assholes. They will come out of their houses without masks and expect you to hand them their food, which you will either reluctantly do, or more often, you’ll set their food down on the ground and walk away because there’s a pandemic still happening. Some people will also be assholes by not tipping. You don’t have to take those orders. You can ignore them. 

If you’ve struggled in the past with the difference between left and right, in part due to years of being both an actor/dancer and a director/choreographer, where stage left and stage right are opposite of your left and right when looking at the stage, you may find that following GPS instructions regularly will help improve your ability to tell the difference. Spending hours each day being told to turn either left or right with pictures and arrows to guide you will kind of start to embed the difference more solidly in your brain.  

You’ll also grow more deeply familiar with the area in which you live in general. You’ll start to patch together neighborhoods and highways and areas into a more comprehensive mental map. It will be deeply satisfying. 

You’ll also grow familiar with restaurants in your area, and learn their quirks and what to expect. An order from that Boba place will usually take 10 minutes longer than stated, but you’ll get to watch KPOP videos on the large TV in the lobby while you wait. One restaurant chain will not serve Dashers through the drive-thru, but this other one prefers it. That cookie place always pays well, and the customers tip like gangbusters. Never take a grocery delivery from Walmart unless you know how big it is. 

Note that there are a dozen hotels near the airport and that the drive is a bit of a pain, but the tips are usually worth it. Also not that the FBI has a large, nondescript office building in the same area. You’ll discover this because one day you’ll deliver Panda Express to a friendly employee there. 

You may, on some nights, find yourself wishing that no one else would be on the roads while you are driving, ever. You may long to cruise through town, unhindered by other drivers, not needing to deal with long lines, lights that are slow to change, or people who don’t understand speed limits and/or turn signals. This is normal. Take a few deep breaths. 

If at all possible, drive a car that has infinite cupholders. You will need to be able to transport your water bottle, a separate drink for yourself if you’re fancy, customer drinks, and your phone. A 2012 Compact Toyota Prius will have excellent gas mileage, but not enough cupholders. 

Keep your eyes open. Not just for safety, but for wonder. There will be evenings when the sunset sky looks so spectacular it will seem like a painting. You may see a white rabbit nibbling in the grass of someone’s front yard. You’ll get two orders in a row for two different people named “Gray.” Look for magic. There are little altars everywhere.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Mental Health Life Buoy/Cheat Sheet

Okay, so this blog entry has been in my drafts for…months? Years? Honestly, it would have been more helpful to post this last spring, when we were all reeling from the new pandemic-y world we were living in, but I was also reeling so it’s getting posted now. 

VERY IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: I AM NOT A THERAPIST. I am not an expert in mental health. I’m sharing the things I’ve learned from years of being IN therapy and living with Major Depressive Disorder, studying brain/nervous system function because I’m a nerd, reading books, and following a bunch of Instagram accounts about mental health. None of this should be considered professional advice. I’m only sharing what is helpful for me, and the reasons behind those things. If you can afford it, I highly recommend speaking with a professional.

I also have to recognize the irony of me posting this at a moment when my own mental health is not great, but whatever. 

Okay. So here’s one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done for my mental health: have a cheat sheet. I’ll share mine, and also a “blank” one for your own use, and you’re welcome to adapt it in any way you see fit! Here are the details on mine, and the reasons behind making it. 

When we’re in crisis, big or small, it’s really hard to think clearly. Our brains are too busy trying to keep us safe/alive to be able to do some higher executive function task like make a list of what we need and then figure out what to do to meet those needs. So in moments of non-crisis, you can pre-make that list and keep it handy for when the crisis moments hit.

I’ve organized mine into linear steps, because most of the time, this “order of operations” works really well for me. Here's my "life buoy"/mental health cheat sheet:

Step One: Breathe. Breathing intentionally and deeply helps calm your nervous system down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and definitely won’t hurt if you’re feeling depressed. For me, breathing is a good way to sort of tune back in to the present moment, and primes my brain for whatever else I need to do. 

Step Two: Check in on the basic needs. Have you eaten, slept, and/or moved your body recently? I can’t tell you how many deep emotional crises I’ve had that were basically solved with a snack and a nap. BECAUSE WE ARE ALL TODDLERS. At least I am. And even when the crisis wasn’t SOLVED with a snack and a nap, those things always help shrink the crisis down to a more manageable size. Our brain function is impaired when we don’t eat or sleep, so providing it with those things helps us get the right neurons firing again. As far as moving your body, a 20-minute walk or 10-minute yoga session can also help calm your nervous system. There’s this crazy cool thing where bilateral stimulation (left-right movement) calms the vagus nerve, which sounds woo-woo but is actually true(-woo). If you’re not able to meet those needs for food, sleep, and movement right away, then remind yourself that these things are probably exacerbating whatever crisis is happening.

Step Three: If breathing, snacking, sleeping, and moving aren’t helping quite enough, move on to the more specific needs. Some of the questions and answers on this list are pretty specific to me, but some are more universal. 

Do you feel lonely? Make a connection—send a text or message just to say hi, or have a conversation with a friend. 

Do you feel “anxious attachment” panic? Are you worried that you’ll lose someone, or that they don’t love you enough? Take a few deep breaths, then forge a connection with someone else (a safe person that you feel secure attachment to). 

How long has it been since you’ve been touched? If it’s been a minute, find someone or something to cuddle, or book a massage. 

Is there something that you're avoiding? Try writing in your journal to get to it. You can also try going on a walk to think about it, or doing some visual art about your feelings. 

Do you feel unattractive? Do something to help you feel appreciative of your body. Shave your legs, give yourself a pedicure or manicure, do a face mask, soak your feet, or take a shower/bath.

How are your hormones doing? If you're PMS-ing, that may be affecting your mood.

Are you procrastinating a task? Google Image search an example of the finished product, then tell yourself to do the thing, but you only need to do it for 5 minutes at a time, and then take a 5-minute break. Or "lean in" to figure out why you're procrastinating, then address that reason.

Do you feel ineffective? Accomplish some small thing. Sweep the floor, make the bed, clean the toilet, send the email. Just ONE thing. If you can’t do the one thing, do one thing half-way.

Do you feel overwhelmed? Take a moment to sit down and make a to do list. Remind yourself that you can totally do the things on the list, and that you only have to do them one at a time, and if you have to put a few things off until tomorrow, that’s okay.

Have you waited a few days? Most things work themselves out on their own. Give yourself some time, and then check in again. Practice letting yourself feel the distress without needing to do anything about it.

Step Four: If it turns out that there isn’t anything specific going on, or if you’re not able to fix the circumstances making you unhappy (*cough* pandemic *cough*), or your brain just isn’t making the helpful chemicals, then move on to the go-to self-care activities. Feel free to take suggestions from my list, and add your own! 

  • Take a hot shower or bath
  • Use the HeadSpace app and do a mindfulness session
  • Do some visual art—paint, collage, sketch, photography, cross-stitch
  • Read a good book
  • Write some poetry
  • Take a social media break for at least 24 hours
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show
  • Listen to a favorite podcast
  • Watch some YouTube videos of cool dances, cute babies, or funny animals
  • Genuine laughter: Watch a comedy special or some YouTube bloopers
  • Spend time in nature
  • Go on an exploratory drive
  • Do a puzzle or play a game
  • Say some affirmations (“I am valuable, it’s gonna be okay, I am loved and lovable, I will get through this”)
  • Masturbate
  • Clean or organize something
  • Sing (YouTube karaoke or while on a drive)
  • Have a big ole cry
  • Reach out to trusted loved ones and ask for encouraging words or funny memes
  • Make a meaningful connection with a loved one (text, talk, visit)
  • Cuddle a friend, significant other, or a pet
  • Get a massage
Step Five: Get some professional help. If you’re consistently in “crisis,” or if the crisis is deep enough that none of the other things are helping, turn yourself over to the experts. As a reminder, crisis hotlines aren’t just for those who are contemplating self-harm in the moment—it’s for those who just need some help through whatever’s going on. And sometimes the hospital is the best choice to help get you on your feet again. I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for a few days back in 2017, and it was challenging but truly one of the best things I’ve ever done. It saved my life. Having info on your local psychiatric unit on hand is helpful because if you’re in crisis, you may not be able to think clearly enough to look it all up. 

Important thought that’s not included on the mental health cheat sheet, but that I think is really important: 

There’s a difference between distraction and processing. Both have their place, but it’s really helpful to note which you’re doing, when, and why. Distraction is doing something in your mind/body that helps regulate your nervous system and bring you down to a kind of “stasis.” Sometimes it’s intentionally moving away from whatever the issue is, but for me it’s helpful to think of it as calming yourself enough to process later. Processing is doing something in your mind/body that allows you to work through an issue now. 

I’m learning, much to my dismay, that if something needs to be processed, I can do it now or I can do it later, but it’ll need to be done at some point, and if I don’t do it now, it might affect my relationships and self-worth in the long run, so if I can, I might as well do it now. Even then, I still sometimes need some time to calm down with distraction.

Please feel free to take what works for you from this, and disregard the rest! (And also, please please please remember that I’m not a therapist! I’m only sharing what has been helpful for me. I cannot speak for others, and I definitely cannot speak for the psychological community.) 

Here are a few other resources that have been helpful for me! 

BOOK: “Burnout” by Emily and Amelia Nagosky

BOOK: “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne

BOOK: “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

INSTAGRAM: @findmywellbeing

INSTAGRAM: @the.holistic.psychologist

APP: Headspace

APP: Calm Harm

APP: Yoga Studio (by Gaiam)

IDEA: Attachment Theory

And here's a blank version of my print out! It's 11 x 17 inches, because that was a standard printing size that was also big enough to write things clearly and largely enough. 

Now go be well! 

Photo credit Christopher Martin