This week is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and along with the recent Corrie story line, it has got a lot of people talking. I’ve struggled with my mental health since my teens and it’s never something I’ve really come to terms with until recent years.
The last year or so has been particularly tough, with my anxiety sky-high nearly 100% of the time and bouts of depression stopping me from getting out of bed some mornings. I’d told myself that I don’t deserve happiness yet I put so much pressure on myself to be the best. It was a vicious cycle that took over my life. A good example is If I wasn’t getting firsts in every assignment, I’d failed myself. I’d punish myself by stopping doing the things I enjoyed, like reading for an hour before bed, because I didn’t deserve that joy as I did so bad in the assignment (when in reality it was a 2:1). It’s also the reason my blog had come to a stand-still.
Something had to change, and quickly. I contacted my University’s well being services who referred me to talking therapy. I started to see my counsellor once a week back in November, and it took a good couple of months to realise I deserved the sessions, to form a bond and open up.
By the end of my time with my counsellor, I had come to realise the power of being kind to myself. I’ve stopped depriving myself of the things I enjoy and if it happens to be a down day, I allowed myself to just be, to be okay with those feelings instead of punishing myself further and turning that bad few hours into a bad week.
Even though I’m in such a better place now than I was all those months ago, I still use lots of different ways to keep on top of my health and make sure I don’t get to such a bad place again. I make sure to take time out of every day for myself and it’s usually through one of the following six ways….
It’s a well known fact that during exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling within the body. Whether I’m going to the gym or doing exercise at home, working out gets me out of my own head. There’s no time to think about anything but that treadmill you’re running on! Wearing sportswear that you feel great in also helps. My favourite thing to do is pair some black gym leggings with a cute and colourful sports bra. I love the Level 3 bras from Hunkemoller, which provide so much support and are super comfy. It’s true what they say, you’ll never regret a workout.
There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book and allowing myself an hour a day to read a few chapters of my current favourites is something I really cherish. At the minute, I’m loving thrillers and have read about 4 in a row over the last couple of months. I’m currently midway through ‘The Girl Before’ by JP Delaney and I can’t put it down! I also try to read one self help book every couple of months or so. I swear by ‘The Power of Now’ and have it in my bag almost everywhere I go and Matt Haig’s memoir ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is another firm favourite.
I’ve very recently started to meditate on a daily basis, after years and years of wanting to practice it but never having the patience to stick with it. I use the app Headspace (free on iOS and Android) which includes a ten day basics for beginners, featuring 3, 5 or 10 minute guided meditation sessions with cool animations that are super useful in helping you understand. The app also features minis, super-short exercises which are amazing if you’re on a super tight schedule.
Another thing I’ve recently got into is listening to podcasts. I usually either listen to them on my commute to Uni or in the bath. I always finish listening to a podcast feeling inspired and raring to go. There are loads of free podcasts on Apple podcasts or you can listen online. Some are my favourites are ‘Let’s Discuss’ by Ella Gregory and Monica Welburn, ‘Happy Place’ by Fearne Cotton, ‘The Savvy Psychologist’ by QuickAndDirtyTips and ‘Girlboss Radio’ by Sophia Amoruso.
5. Meet up with friends
Luckily, I live with my best friend so I’m around supportive and loving company on a daily basis, but making the time and effort to meet up with my other friends is one thing that really helps my mental health. Having a good catch up regularly is something I really look forward to. Even if it’s just a few hours every month, it’s so important to stay connected.
Finally, don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. It’s so easy to bottle everything up inside and not want to talk about what’s on your mind due to feeling like a burden, but there is always someone to talk to. Whether that’s a family member, a friend or your GP. There’s nothing to be ashamed of and taking that first step to talk is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
For more information on Mental Health, visit mind.org.uk
If you’re in crisis, call Samaritans on 116 123 (UK)