Mental health has become more of a talking point in recent years and I feel like it’s becoming a more accepted subject – perhaps the stigma is finally shifting. But never-the-less, I find myself sitting down to write and feeling rather awkward.
I don’t like talking about personal things or burdening other people with my problems but is something I am learning to deal with and I understand that talking really does help. I have found myself reading anxiety related blogs and I find it does help reading these during particularly difficult times.
I have always been a ‘worrier’, ever since I can remember and I have a habit of putting other people’s needs before my own. This doesn’t help the fact that I suffer with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but thankfully I seem to have that problem under control.
These past few years have been a particular struggle with my mental health as I have had to deal with bereavement, financial uncertainty and other traumatic events. I feel like my body and mind have had to cope with so much in such a short space of time that whenever something stressful is happening or about to happen, I have an anxiety attack, or worse, a panic attack.
The upcoming wedding hasn’t been without its own stress! But it’s good stress, if that makes sense, I have lots of things to do and think about, but it’s exciting at the same time. I often think about all these exciting things and I find myself trying to fall asleep at night with my heart racing, breathing fast and feeling dizzy!
The beginning of this year, I found myself spiralling with anxiety and my mind was becoming a very dark place to be. I knew something had to change. I had already been visiting a councellor who was very helpful but I wasn’t able to attend as often as I should. She told me to practice self care and to make time for myself. After a particularly bad week, I went to my doctor, who increased my doses of anti-anxiety medication and gave me some very helpful information about self-referral for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). She also recommended trying ‘mindfulness’.
I am currently doing an online CBT course and though I am in the early stages of the programme, I feel hopeful that things will change.
So, I have been trying to fit in self care where I can in my busy schedule and I thought I would share with you what I have learnt and practiced so far.
Lists and writing down thoughts
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is helpful as it helps translate things from your brain to paper, your thoughts may appear clearer and you’ve hopefully freed up some space in your mind. I find it particularly helpful when I don’t understand why I feel the way I do as it’s confusing and once I have written it down, the situation I am struggling with is more understandable and I can figure out what I can do to make the situation better.
Also, with all the wedding jobs I need to do, as well as the responsibilities in my career, writing a to-do list helps you focus on what you need to do and I feel so much better when I can tick a job of the list!
Music has always been my therapy, ever since I was a teenager. What I listen to varies on how I’m feeling – sometimes listening to relatable music helps, I like to listen to Heavy by Linkin Park because it reminds me that everyone has an inner struggle and we are not alone. But then other times, I need to listen to something happy and distracting, to encourage me to stay motivated.
I have recently found that when I try to relax, listening to something reminiscent helps me calm down. For example, I have fond memories of my Dad playing The Beatles songs on his guitar when I was a little girl. I find listening to The Beatles now makes me feel safe and secure, like I did when I was young.
Most of the time, I can’t just sit and listen to music, I have to be doing something else. This leads me on to…
Both my doctor and my councellor have recommended exercise to help control the anxiety/depression, because it releases ‘feel good endorphins’ and helps you focus on the activity at hand instead of your worries. It’s hard for me to find the time to exercise at a gym, or go for a run, because I have different shifts and by the time I’ve finished work, I’m tired and hungry and often it’s dark and cold outside!
When I was a teenager and something was bothering me, I would go for a walk around the fields and woods behind my house to clear my head. When I recently visited the doctor, she explained that even just a brisk walk for 20 minutes can help relieve anxiety and stress. So, I have made a point of putting on my headphones and taking a walk to my local lake and nature reserve and I really do feel the difference!
Taking a bath
The only time I have ever been able to relax properly is in the bath. It really is a good practice of self care because it is a good way to relax and also taking care of yourself – I know first hand that anxiety and depression can make it hard to get out of bed, or even get dressed or wash yourself.
I also listen to music in the bath, as I find being alone in quiet surroundings like that means that my brain amplifies my worries and I often get unwanted thoughts.
But taking the time to run a bath, put some bubbles in it, turn on some music and have a good soak really does help me!
Dressing up vintage!
This can be particularly helpful for me if I am struggling to find the energy to get out of bed or get dressed. This usually occurs on my day off if I’m having a particularly rough time, so I focus on my blog and what I want to write for the upcoming post! Sitting down at my vanity and doing my hair and make up makes me feel so much better for making the effort to look and feel glamourous and pretty. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something instead of feeling useless for not achieving anything else.
Taking time to read
In my busy schedule, I try to make time to sit down and read something, often before I go to sleep. I used to love to read when I was younger,
but I do struggle to find the time to read these days. I currently have a monthly subscription to Vintage Life magazine, so I head to bed with a cup of mint tea and read my latest magazine which gives me inspiration for future outfits and styling, as well as blog ideas. The magazine covers lots of subjects from vintage lifestyle as well as some history, which I love! Being able to sit and read means that my mind has time to slow down while I concentrate on something else and I find the tight feeling in my chest I spend most of the day with subsides and my breathing slows, therefore I feel more relaxed and at peace!
The Mental Health Foundation says ‘mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they are better able to manage them.’
This is something I need to practice doing more of. At the moment, I try doing breathing exercises when I am worked up and can feel myself hyperventilating, but I recently saw a YouTube video from Buzzfeed about practicing Mindfulness and I found it very encouraging! Check it out below –
I have been recommended to try apps such as ‘Headspace’, ‘Calm’ and ‘What’s Up’, which are free. I am planning to download the Headspace one this evening and give it a go! I used to go to a yoga club and I remember practicing mediation then and I am sure it will benefit me in my current situation!
Friends and family
It is so important to make sure the people around you know how you’re feeling. They love you and will want to support you. I am very lucky to have supportive friends and family that I can talk to. Ross is my rock, I can tell him anything and everything and he knows exactly what to do or what I need to do to make myself feel better.
This post is written about my own experiences, if you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression, please go to your doctor and speak to them.
Check out the Mind website for more information about mental health as well as information about how to help someone you know with mental health issues.
I hope you have found this post helpful and if you are going though hard times at the moment, I hope things get better for you soon.
What self care practices do you do?