There’s such an onus on physical health that our mental health often feels like it takes a back foot at times, and wrongly so. With loneliness causing greater illness than cigarette smoking, it’s vital we commit to consistently working on feeling content, surrounding ourselves with those we love and pursuing activities that support our wellbeing.
I’ve had an incredibly tough year personally after losing my beloved Auntie Zak just 4 months after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of thyroid cancer and a close relative was also very unwell last year.
I spent 3 weeks last summer feeling depressed: a dark cloud descended just as it had done after my traumatic birth with Oliver, and it frightened me. So much so, I’m only able to write about it now.
Luckily, however, this time, rather than lasting for 10 hideously long months, the depression dissipated after a few weeks.
When I spoke to my therapist at the time, who I immediately reached out (thank you the NHS), he reassured me that these bouts tend to be shorter each time you experience them as you’re better prepared to overcome the anxiety/depression.
It was an awful time for me but I received helped quickly and although the things below were the last things I wanted to do, I pushed myself to exercise etc and found I felt better quickly.
I hope they help you too.
I’m equally writing this post to remind myself of what has helped me before at a time I’m struggling with grief as we near towards Christmas, Zak’s favourite time of year.
I still can’t believe she’s not here.
Grief is incredibly odd and inconsistent. Some days I feel in control of it, it’s never not there but its severity dims slightly, whilst others sees me low and crying non-stop.
I can do nothing but accept the waves as they come, letting them crash over me, being kind to myself where possible.
Today has been a better day. I’ve seen good friends, I’ve laughed a bucket-load, and I even kicked off my day with a run to clear my head. I know well-being is an on-going commitment and it’s something I want to dedicate more time to, so I hope together we can help one another.
If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, please consider investing in your mental health this year. In taking guilt-free time out, to moving your body as much as possible and more.
We all deserve to feel content and these 5 ways will hopefully help you.
- Be open about how you feel. Suppressing emotions e.g. crying etc. can lead to depression and anxiety. It’s healthy for body and mind to let things out: to show emotion, to write about it (this post has helped me), to process how you feel and vitally, not fear vulnerability. We’re all human and vulnerable and need to express how we feel and seek assurance and love from those who care about us. If you’re feeling low, speak out, reach out and cry it out when you feel you need to. Don’t suppress yourself. Research shows that emotional tears help flush out negativity. Whenever I’ve held in grief, ‘trying to be strong’, I’ve ended up feeling far worse, suffering from insomnia, and then night terrors once I slept. If you feel you need extra help, please speak to your GP and consider seeing a therapist and trying CBT too, which I found helped me hugely after a tough time with my firstborn.
- Exercise. What a gift exercise it. I actually bumped into a heart surgeon the other day (as you do, in Whole Foods) who told me that exercise is in fact more important than the food we eat. Yes eating healthily matters of course it does but don’t forget to do eat well but don’t forget to get your heart rate up and pump it up every single day if you can. Run, walk, cycle, heck, jump around in your living room with your get your sweat on and regularly, so you release endorphins and help your mind as much as your body. Yoga is an emotional life-saver here too, it helps me to zone out and relax whilst lengthening and strengthening my body to boot.
- Love. Wrap yourself in life-enhancing, unconditional love. Keep those who truly care for you, close, the people who want the best for you in life, who are always honest and true. Step away from drama and negativity and stick with those who bring light into your life. I feel so lucky to have so many incredible women and men in my life, so much so, I literally feel like crying thinking of the people who touch my life every day and offer so much joy and support. It’s never too late to make new friends either. You deserve the best army of mates in life so go get ’em if you don’t feel you have a strong unit already! Carve out real time to wind down and relax with your mates and loved ones whether it’s a regular date night with your partner or cocktails with the girls, as it’s important for both your relationships and your mental health to do so. Also, when I feel down, I often close myself off from others, at a time I need my friends most. I’m learning to push myself to get out when I feel like shutting myself indoors as I know it distracts and also lifts me up.
- Do what you love. Sounds so simple but it’s truly the only way to live. Find a career that makes your heart sing and try new things or even return to old things you used to love but haven’t got around to doing in ages. I’ve taken my own advice recently when it comes to painting after not picking up a brush in years despite exhibiting my work in what feels like another life time. I spent years self-sabotaging when it came to art (that I’d studied film not art at uni so had no right to keep painting) and the longer I’d NOT painted, the harder it was to start. I recently got out to see some exhibitions, bought myself some oils and pastels and just cracked on FOR MYSELF and it felt amazing. Remember, you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it either. When I was little I used to bake the WORST cakes, I’m talking cakes missing vital ingredients, cakes which wouldn’t rise and looked so floppy, all they deserved was the bin…Yet, I never stopped making them, because it was so enjoyable, plus my brother would eat everything I made declaring the lot a triumph! We need to return back to our child-like selves who were brave and willing to have a go. Remind yourself that no one has to see or even eat the end product, so just DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
- Help others. I can’t stress enough how getting out of your head and proactively helping other people will help you as much as the recipient. People need to feel valued and loved in this life to be happy, and by supporting those in need, you will feel just that, whilst touching another person’s life. Be thoughtful, be empathetic and kind.
Please know that whatever you are going through, it will pass. That it’s not a weakness to feel overwhelmed, anxious and sad. That once you commit to exercise and speaking to others, and reaching out for support, you will feel strengthened and eventually strong. When I drop the ball (literally) and stop consistently taking time out for myself, exercising and spending quality time with those I love, my mental health suffers. Make yourself a priority because when you’re happy, everyone else is too.
If you need to speak to someone this Christmas or anytime, please call the Samaritans who are open 24/7 on 116 123.