Monday, 10 October 2016


Since today is World Mental Health Day I felt inspired to write a bit of a personal post. I’ve dealt with anxiety and bouts of depression since my early 20s and speaking to family and friends over the years I’ve come to realise it’s not as uncommon as I once thought. Mental Health isn’t something I discuss very much with anyone let alone on the internet but I’m aware that if more people were open about it, it would help to reduce the stigma. Having dealt with it for so long, I am now fairly equipped to recognise the signs that the black cloud is looming and do something about it before it engulfs me. I was always a real cynic about many of the things doctors and self-help books told me, but some of them really work if you just give them a go. These are the things that work for me.
 1. Ask for help
This is by far the most difficult step to take but by far the most important. Whether it’s with a friend, colleague, family member or your GP you will feel better in having shared your problem. If you can’t bear to speak to someone face-to-face there are helplines you can call or online forums you can use to seek support and advice. Talking helps.

2. Exercise
It’s an obvious one and the one I least like hearing to be honest because when I’m feeling low it’s really hard to motivate myself. The trick is to find something you really like doing, it doesn’t have to be anything high impact like running or crossfit, it could be walking the dog. Anything to get out of the house and get your body moving helps to boost serotonin levels. When I first moved back to London I randomly bought a hula hoop on a whim. I was hula hooping to Meghan Trainor every day in the garden when I realised I was enjoying it so much I wasn’t even thinking about it as exercise. Now I look forward to my weekly Hulafit class (most of the time).
3. Appreciate the small things
My favourite time in London is golden hour when the sun is starting to go down and everything is awash with a golden glow. Whenever I’m outside at this time I pause to appreciate it even if it makes me late. I buy fresh flowers every week and tend to my plants each day (with varying degrees of success, I am not green fingered!) and at least a couple of nights a week I light my favourite candle and go to bed early with a book. I also really enjoy cooking so buying fresh produce and cooking something from scratch makes me feel really happy and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

4. Use positive language
I was once given the advice to only speak in positive statements, for example instead of saying “I will not eat junk food” saying “I will eat healthy meals with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables”. Admittedly I dismissed this at first as being a bit airy fairy, but then I tried it and found it really worked. It especially applies to social media and the status updates we all easily write “ugh train is late again” “what miserable weather” etc. The more I’ve stopped doing this, the more I’ve noticed how much people complain and moan around me and how draining it is on me and them. It was hard at first to find the positive in everything but now it comes more naturally. Instead of cursing the colder weather, I look forward to buying a new coat, crunching golden leaves under foot, to my first Christmas back in England and our first family Christmas with my niece!
5. Read
There are so many forms of escapism these days but I find reading the best for my mental health as my mind can’t wander and I can’t get distracted my social media. Sometimes after a few chapters of a good novel, I forget what I was even thinking or worrying about in the first place. I’ve just read Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I couldn’t recommend it enough as a good book to get lost in with lots of positive motivation to take away.

6. Get (some) shit done
There is nothing like ticking off a few to-dos to make you feel productive and in control but it can be overwhelming when you’re feeling down and demotivated. I’ve started writing tasks in coloured pen on post-it notes and sticking them on my wall. I’ll pick 5 or 6 tasks, something like 3 personal tasks and 3 work related tasks and give myself a week to do them and peel the tasks off the wall as I complete them. Trying to do everything on your mental to do list in one week is unrealistic, focusing on a few key tasks makes it much more manageable and anything extra you complete will feel like a much bigger achievement.
7. Write it down
Putting my thoughts into writing helps me think more rationally as well as separate fact and fiction. It's also a good way to practice turning the negatives into positives.

8. Spend time with family and friends
I am a pretty independent soul so sometimes I have to remind myself to reach out to people rather doing everything on my own. 'Me' time is great, but connecting with positive people who love you is a great energy booster. A cuddle with my niece especially goes a long way.

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