How fitness classes saved my mental health 

fitness classes depression anxiety

I never thought I’d be one of those people who would say fitness changed my life. But here we are. I’ve exercised almost every day for the past five years and I don’t want to imagine a life without it because it makes me so unbelievably happy.

It all began with a Zumba class. I trudged along with my mum to a Saturday morning class and discovered the endorphin rush that comes from using your body to move. Really move. I couldn’t get enough of it and I’ve never looked back.

I found a structure to my day which I so badly needed.

When I was diagnosed with depression was told to take some time off work and that turned into almost an entire year of unemployment. Taking time off was absolutely the right call, as I needed some space to let my medication kick in as well as attend regular counselling sessions.

Apart from that and a weekly appointment with my GP I didn’t have much scheduled in my day. I would often sleep for more than twelve hours a night as my body and mind recharged, but when I was awake I would regularly go to fitness classes.

Booking into a Spin class at 7am just didn’t work for me. I was too tired and unmotivated in the morning, but by 5pm I was often full of nervous energy and felt the need to do something productive. I would book ahead to confirm my spot and this meant I was loosely committed to attending the class or I would have to pay a small fine. This worked wonders for me as I was held accountable in a small way for getting out of the house.

I ended up going to between 5-7 classes per week and it forced me to get dressed, socialise with others and get out of my own head for an hour or so. I know people will think that it’s crazy I found the motivation to do that when I was depressed, and I don’t really have a full explanation for that. I just did, and I’m so grateful for that.

I lost my identity and created a new one

Being off sick from work made me feel very vulnerable. The stigma around depression is still so rife that I wasn’t strong enough to tell most people why I wasn’t working. This led to anxiety in social situations because I felt I was going to be caught off guard at any moment and have to explain what my job was, or admit that I wasn’t working at all. I thought without a career title I had nothing to say.

Everyone has their own way of coping with depression, and I found fitness particularly helpful in my darkest moments. When I started going to fitness classes regularly, I tested out every different one I could find. I did Spinning, Zumba, Body Pump, Pilates, Yoga, Metafit and many others. I became quite knowledgable about strength training, fat burning and was also very physically fit. In fact, I was the fittest I’d ever been and that gave me a new sense of identity.

I felt I belonged to the fitness community, even when I couldn’t get out of bed before midday or keep my house clean. When I couldn’t stop crying for days or find the courage to talk to others, I still felt part of a world where – even if just for a few hours – I could thrive. In a fitness class I was just like everyone else. I was fit and able on the outside even if I was crumbling on the inside.

fitness classes changed my life depression

I suddenly realised that I could change my future, and take my career in a new direction.

Putting my career on hold to focus on my mental health was a huge decision. At the time I thought I would absolutely return to my career in catering to be a manager again. After a few months of being off sick, I realised how much my work life had been contributing to my unhappiness.

I wasn’t built to handle the stresses that came along with managing a team, thinking on my feet and having a vision for a department in an industry that ultimately I had no passion for. It’s not to say that everyone needs to be in love with the work they do, but I couldn’t hold a position of authority in a place where I really didn’t care about the outcome.

After going to fitness classes every day for a year I had the idea that I’d like a career in fitness. I knew most of my class fitness instructors by name and many of them encouraged me, and offered to let me shadow them when I started training.

I started off by looking at the options available. To take a group fitness class I would need to do the Exercise to Music qualification. Although I was interested, I was nervous about the idea of standing in front of a room full of people and remembering a routine whilst keeping in time and correcting everyone’s form. I wish I’d had the confidence to go for it at the time but I just wasn’t ready mentally.

The thought of training people one-on-one seemed way more approachable so I signed up for the Level 2 Gym Instructor course and passed. Not only was I pleased that I’d passed the exams, I couldn’t believe how far I’d come in terms of my confidence.

I did the course over five weekends in a place I’d never been before with people I’d never met. I finally realised that if I was brave enough I could do all the things that I’d been afraid to do because of my anxiety.

Since then I’ve moved to a new city 300 miles away from home, found a new job, secured writing work and taken my blog from a hobby to a real passion. I honestly believe that I owe it all to that first step in the right direction when I did a Zumba class. My only hope is that one day I have time to go back and do that Exercise to Music course and add another string to my bow.

Have you found fitness classes beneficial to your mental health? Check out my You Tube channel here!

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Surviving or thriving? How I realised I was actually recovering from mental illness

surving to thriving mental health blogger

Depression is a tough subject. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a painful illness that affects many of us, but I want to take a moment to talk about recovery and how it can begin to happen without us realising. I didn’t think I would ever recover, but I did. To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 here’s an account of how I went from just surviving to thriving.

The small things matter again

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this happened for me, but I remember vividly how difficult it was for me to see the point in doing a lot of things. Showering seemed pointless, as did cleaning, wearing nice clothes or taking pride in my home. I didn’t wear make up because I thought, “I just have to take it back off again” so I didn’t bother. This idea of having to do things repeatedly was something that really tore me up inside.

Getting a part-time job was a major factor in helping lift that feeling, because doing the same tasks everyday was essential to doing my work correctly. I started waitressing in a cafe where I’d previously worked as a teenager, so it didn’t take me long to remember how to do everything.

Cleaning down at the end of the night and making sure everything was stocked for the next day was just enough responsibility to make me feel like I could contribute something to society and be helpful to others. Once I saw the positive effect my effort had on other people I felt compelled to continue.

Hobbies are fun again

Although I maintained my passion for fitness during the worst stages of my mental illness, other pastimes didn’t appeal to me any longer. I didn’t enjoy shopping or going out with friends. I used to love going to the cinema but I often found myself unable to concentrate during a movie or would fall asleep half way through.

When I started to take an interest in blogging again, I knew I had won back some of the enthusiasm for life that had been absent for so long. In the past ten months I’ve worked on my blog almost everyday without fail. I still get tired and frustrated with all the hard work but I really enjoy it overall. I get so much satisfaction from being creative and talking about mental illness online that I can’t see myself ever giving it up.

I can spot my obsessive behaviours

Writing about my mental illness means I’ve become even more self-reflective than before. As a result I’ve been able to better judge my behaviour and spot when I’ve been acting irrationally. I used to make family and friends change their plans to make sure I could still go to my scheduled keep-fit classes. I would control which restaurant we went to to ensure I could eat a specific type of food for weight loss, and I would be very anxious if any of those plans changed at the last minute.

I quit dieting about a year ago and since then my whole outlook has changed. I have the freedom to eat what I want and it’s made me feel a lot more laid back about things in general. Now I can see that I was really just using that as a form of control and I’m trying to work in improving that.

mental health awareness week 2017

I can support others

Having depression makes it extremely hard to be sympathetic to others. I couldn’t talk to other people with depression because I was unable to say any kind words. I felt like I was the only one who felt this bad, and that no one – not even someone with the same illness – would understand.

I spent many months relying on my husband and family to assist me with everything. I needed help getting ready, going to appointments and making basic decisions, so how could I hold my own in a conversation with someone just as vulnerable as me? It wasn’t until I was working with a young girl who had depression that I realised I was strong enough to reach out and offer support to someone else.

Somehow, I’d come far enough to be able to lend a helping hand and acknowledge that someone else was in distress. I don’t know how much I really helped her in the grand scheme of things, but I was always kind and tried to listen to her issues and offer as much advice as possible from my own experience. I didn’t realise I was better until I could actually tell someone else with confidence that they would get better too.

I can ignore negative thoughts

Recently I’ve realised that I’m now able to acknowledge my mental illness and let the symptoms play out without letting them affect me too much. I know the things that make me anxious; busy places, being around drunk people, meeting new people and long journeys on public transport. I’ve figured out that I can still put myself in those situations and not crumble, and it feels amazing!

I plan ahead as much as possible and distract myself when negative feelings arise. I avoid caffeine because it makes my anxiety worse. If I do these three things then I know I can ride out the storm and come out the other end unscathed.

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Things to consider when you’re off work with a mental illness

off work sick with mental illness

I have such admiration for people who can continue to work whilst being treated for mental illness. I struggled so badly that I had to quit my job and was subsequently out of work for over a year whilst I built up my confidence to return.

I know for some people going to work is the one thing they continue to excel at whilst their mental health suffers, but for me it simply wasn’t an option.

It took me a long time to come to terms with that. When I lost my career I felt like I lost my identity, but I wish I’d realised that is was OK to be off work. It was OK to need help. It was OK to take as much time as I needed. It was more than OK – it was necessary.

Whether you’re off work for a day, a week or a prolonged period of time; you should use this time to make your recovery as wholesome and speedy as possible.

Don’t beat yourself up

Once you’ve decided to take time off, it can be common to feel guilty about being at home resting whilst your family and friends go out to work. You may feel bad that your colleagues are left with more work to do, but remember they’re mentally well enough to cope with added stress whilst you are not.

With the physical symptoms of mental illness often hard to see, certain employers often doubt whether they are there at all. This can be very frustrating – but try not to let it get to you. It’s merely a reflection of how little knowledge most people have about mental illness, and not an indication of whether or not you should return to work. That’s a decision that should be made by you with the advice of your GP.

Consider your finances

If you’re unemployed or off work long term this can be very stressful for a lot of people. If you’re running out of savings you should be honest and consider making a plan for the future. If you live in the US you may want to have a read of the DRB Capital structured settlement review. I was receiving benefits and Statutory Sick Pay when I was off sick abd residing in the UK, more information on which can be found here.

Any extra cash can be pivotal when you are no longer earning full time, and this will also help take the pressure off you rushing back into work when you’re not totally ready to do so.

off work with mental illness

Implement a routine

When you’re out off work for a prolonged period of time it can be hard to find structure in your day. I know for me the days often ran into one another, with sleeping taking priority over eating, showering and staying in contact with family. You should try to avoid the days slipping away by implementing a loose routine.

Try setting your alarm every morning and try to follow a basic self-care routine. This could be something as simple as getting up before midday and making a cup of tea. Over time you can add more difficult tasks such as washing, cooking breakfast and leaving the house. This will give some purpose to your days without adding too much expectation or pressure.

Try to stay active

This doesn’t mean going a run everyday or religiously going to keep-fit classes like I did, but it will benefit you to get out of the house and move around a little most days. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed and it’s OK to spend all day sleeping when you need it. But if you do feel the urge to do something like rearrange your bedroom or pop to the supermarket then you should capitalise on that positive attitude.

Completing the smallest tasks can feel like a big win when you’re at an all time low. I remember one day following a bad spell of my depression I suddenly felt compelled to clean my windows. It felt like such an achievement and as silly as it sounds, it was such a great day for me and my recovery.

What steps are you taking to help with your mental illness whilst you’re off work?

3 mental health books you MUST read today

best books for mental illness depression anxiety

I’ve spent many an afternoon wandering around the library. To me the library has always been a place of opportunity, and it has helped me find books that ignite new interests and explain unknown worlds to me. I’ve loved collecting books over the years, and looking back at my favourites reminds me if where I was at that point in my life, how I was feeling and what I was doing.

Having depression and anxiety means I often look for answers in the books I read. Recently I reflected on some of the books that helped me make sense of my own mental illness and it’s something that I think you might find helpful, so I’ve listed my top 3 books below.

From Darkness to Light: A Memoir by Nikki Dubose

I only finished reading this memoir last week and I actually posted a full review which you can read here. I was engrossed in this from the moment I picked it up and it’s the quickest I’ve read a book in ages.

Nikki takes us through her life story, starting with when she developed an eating disorder at eight years old to when she finally got help as an adult. During that time she was physically and sexually abused by family members, addicted to drugs and alcohol and struggled with self-harm and body dysmorphia.

As an international top model the pressure to be thin was overwhelming, and only served to exacerbate her eating disorder as well as her psychotic episodes. This painfully honest account is a testament to her strength and offers hope to anyone experiencing even the darkest of times.

Shoot The Damn Dog by Sally Brampton

I read this book back in about 2009, years before I was diagnosed with any form of mental illness. I really can’t say why I felt compelled to pick up a book about depression other than I felt I was becoming unhinged at times, and had taken to drinking during the day to relieve stress.

Sally’s book didn’t point out any glaring symptoms in myself, but I was utterly hooked by her story and how her relationship with alcohol made things so much worse. This combined with a failing marriage and a daughter to look after made for a heartbreaking tale.

I found it upsetting to read, but absolutely essential to my understanding of how powerful depression is at taking over the mind and body. She does well to describe how one cannot simply ‘shake off’ these bad feelings and get on with daily life, something that many non-sufferers could benefit from understanding.

I didn’t know until recently that Sally died from suicide last year, which makes her work even more significant and worth reading.

Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen

I bought this book after I started to become concerned about my eating habits. I was laying in bed one night, sobbing and feeling ashamed after another day of uncontrollable eating when I searched ‘how to stop binge eating’ on You Tube. I came across a video of someone talking about how this book changed their life, so I ordered it immediately.

Kathryn went through years of unsuccessful therapy for binge eating disorder and couldn’t seem to get it under control. The most common theory is that binge eating is a coping mechanism for some underlying psychological issue that must be unearthed in order to stop the pattern.

She spent years following the doctor’s orders, writing down and exploring all her habits and thoughts in an attempt to identify the problem. I won’t spoil the book for you but Kathryn goes on to explain how she developed her own method for stopping the illness in its tracks.

I’ve never been diagnosed with binge eating disorder because honestly, I was too scared to tell anyone about the symptoms and addictions I was developing. I believe I managed to stop the habits from forming by applying the techniques I read in this book.

It was also just incredibly comforting to read someone describe the same urges that I was experiencing, because no one really talks about binge eating openly and I really needed confirmation that there was a problem and I wasn’t just exaggerating things in my head.

What are your favourite books about mental illness?

Opening up about mental illness in the modelling industry – Washed Away by Nikki Dubose

nikki dubose book review

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a Memoir by former model Nikki Dubose. She has appeared in magazines such a Maxim, Glamour, Vogue and Vanity Fair and first suffered from an eating disorder at just eight years old.

Her childhood trauma of sexual abuse led to bulimia, various drug addictions and serious mental illness in later life. Although she boasted a high-flying career in the fashion industry, at the height of her success she was experiencing intense inner turmoil which she kept hidden from the world.

Talking about one performance on the catwalk she writes;

“As my feet carry me to the edge, I hear no sound, experience no sensation. Despite the music and commotion, I am lost in a dreamland. How long have I waited to arrive in this spectacular moment? I never imagined I would feel so numb, so vacant. Dozens of cameras pop and crackle as they capture the magnificent creature before them. I perform, but inside I feel trapped, imprisoned within my mind.”

Nikki describes the terrifying ‘whispers’ she hears when she’s on stage, the voices in her head which mock her every move. When met with praise she ignores everyone and instead of celebrating with champagne and dancing, she rushes home to her apartment to be alone. She only wants one thing, and that’s to binge on – and then purge – large amounts of food.

To say Nikki came from a broken home would be kind at best. Her parents separated early on and her mother sexually abused her and treated her as a buddy; someone to show off to as she performed sex acts in online chat rooms and hooked up with strangers in bars. This is just one of several people who took advantage of her innocence from a young age.

With such a tainted childhood, it’s no surprise that Nikki went looking for love in all the wrong places. Her struggle to meet the demands of how a model should look only exacerbated her eating disorder as well as her constant self-loathing.

As I read the history of Nikki’s eating disorder it became clear that it was not only a way to stay as thin as possible for the modelling world, but a form of physical release that she couldn’t get elsewhere. Her mental illness ultimately led to the physical condition which consumed her life.

Having lived with a hatred for my own body for most of my life and dieting since aged 17, this topic really hit home for me. I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder but I know I’ve teetered on the edge, and so I empathised with the daily rituals she went through to hide her unhealthy behaviours.

“I binged and threw up in the shower or in paper bags that I kept in my bedroom. I was the smart one; Evelin and Vitor had no idea, especially when I hid the vomit in the paper bags. My knuckles and lips began to bleed and scar again, but I covered them with concealer. Whenever a make-up artist raised an eyebrow at the cuts, I said that I had an autoimmune disease.”

Nikki talks to the reader as though we are her closest ally. Throughout her illness she felt unable to share her troubles with anyone, so to have her talk intimately and in great detail about the things she’s endured is a privilege.

Reading her words is like being inside Nikki’s head. Her writing style is brutally honest and disturbing at times, a testament to not only what she has endured but also how difficult it must have been for her to relive these painful memories and put them down on paper.

I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I never thought I’d finish the thing in just a few days and feel so utterly connected to someone I’d never met. Knowing Nikki’s story has reminded me why I started to write about mental illness online, even though it often leaves me feeling vulnerable to expose myself to the world.

Although Washed Away is about championing the possibility of recovery, it’s my no means a self-help book. I’m not sure the world needs another one of those anyway. Often those of us with mental illness know deep down what steps need to be taken, but we just can’t imagine having the strength carry them out.

This book proves that we are indeed strong enough, and that even the darkest of times will lead to light.

Buy Nikki’s book here

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The honest truth about seeing a counsellor

whats it like seeing talking to a counsellor therapy

If your GP has put you on a waiting list to see a counsellor then you should definitely see one.

Many people brush off the notion of talking as a form of medication , and just want to take pills and power through their illness until they feel ‘normal’ again.

Medication is great. Medication can help alleviate symptoms of depression in order for you to be a little more productive, take better care of yourself and attend important appointments.

But you may find that talking about your problems is the thing you need to fully resolve any ongoing mental health problems you have. If you think it isn’t going to work for you then ask yourself; what have you got to lose?

It’s a process

If you physically recoil when you think about sharing ‘feelings’ with a stranger then this will seem like an uphill struggle from the start. I didn’t want to talk about my depression. It was mine, my burden and sharing it with others didn’t feel natural or helpful.

I learned over time that sharing my burden was a gift. The best thing is that your counsellor is an outsider.

They are not a family member who thinks you’re taking life too seriously. They aren’t a friend who thinks you’ve got nothing to be sad about. They aren’t an employer who thinks you need to knuckle down and get on with it. They are an impartial person with your best interests at heart.

I found my counsellor especially helpful during the phase when I was returning to work. She was able to give me answers to some of the questions that I didn’t have myself. Should I work full time or part time? What level of responsibility should I have? She also gave me the strength to stand up to my friends and stay away from alcohol when I was feeling the urge to abuse it.

It’s awkward as hell

Everyone reacts differently to awkward situations. And if sitting down to tell a complete stranger about your inner turmoil isn’t the worst kind of awkward, then I don’t know what is.

Some people laugh, others chat nervously, but I sat in silence. Going into that claustrophobic room, crippled with anxiety and depression was the absolute opposite of what I wanted to do during that period of my life.My body downright rejected it and I had to force myself to enter.

I spent most sessions staring at the floor. I avoided eye contact. I gave one word answers. I said “I’m fine” constantly, to try and fool the woman into letting me out of the painful scenario. My muscles tensed to fiercely that I was physically exhausted from every session I completed. But I completed them.

whats it like seeing a counsellor therapy depression

You have to commit

As difficult as my weekly meetings were, I never missed a single one. Even when I felt like it wasn’t helping, or that it was making me feel worse, I kept going. I knew that this kind of treatment was hard to come by so I didn’t want to lose my place in the programme.

I slugged it out even when I didn’t want to. Part of being depressed means that a lot of the time you don’t have control over your actions, and you might not be able to show up every week. I get it. Sometimes leaving the house just isn’t an option.

But if you can find the will to go then I urge you to do it, and do it consistently. If you show up regularly – even when you don’t want to talk – it lets your counsellor take note of your mood and your ability to cope. This is all helpful information that can be used to track your progress, even if you feel like you’re not progressing much at the time.

You need to be honest

Having a mental illness is draining. You often walk around pretending to be OK for days, weeks or months at a time because you think it’s what you’re expected to you. You tell employers you can cope with extra work, you tell friends you’re happy on a night out, and you tell your partner your just having a bad day because you haven’t been sleeping well.

It’s a vicious cycle where you use so much energy putting on a brave face for everyone that you have no strength left to truly take care of yourself.

Talking to a counsellor is an amazing opportunity to actually tell the truth. Be totally honest. Tell them that you dread getting up in the morning, you hate your job and you don’t want to socialise with anyone. Tell them you can’t find enough hours in the day to wash your hair and match up your odd socks. In fact, these small tasks are so overwhelming that you sob uncontrollably at the thought of doing them.

Nothing bad can come from opening up about these thoughts. They are more than just thoughts. They are symptoms of your illness, and once you’ve got them off your chest I guarantee you’ll feel the benefit. Trained professionals understand them in a way that your friends and family might not be able to and that is an invaluable tool in your path to recovery.

Do you have any experience with seeing a counsellor?

 

 

Why you need to stop apologising for your mental illness

stop apologising how to talk to people about mental illness

One of the most prevalent emotions that tears you up inside when you have depression is guilt.

Guilt about being sad. Guilt about letting people down. Guilt about not being good enough and guilt about always relying on others to help you get through the day.

I’ve had to rely on others for money, transport and food as well as emotional support especially in social situations where I feel very vulnerable. Not being able to go out to meet people without a chaperone is a pretty shitty feeling let me tell you. But I believe there’s no good reason why you should have to apologise for your mental illness. Here’s why…

It’s not your fault

You probably think apologising for your behaviour is the right thing to do. You’ve not been yourself, ignoring people and been a bit of a recluse in fear of upsetting anyone with your unpredictable mood swings.

It’s easy to think that people don’t want to see when you’re like that, but rest assured that it’s your mental illness talking and not the truth. When mental illness takes hold it’s so overpowering that you can’t control it. If it was a choice wouldn’t we all just shake it off and get on with life? Of course we would.

Your friends and family might not think you’re a bundle of fun when you’re going through a bad spell with your mental health, but they still love you anyway. Apologising and talking yourself down all the time is honestly just a waste of energy at this point. Energy that you need to conserve and use for more positive tasks. As much as possible, you should try and remember that your situation is not a direct result of any actions you’ve taken.

It’s more inconvenient for you than anyone else

Have you ever felt that you’ve let someone else down as a result of your mental illness? Me too.

I started a new job and on my second day I burst into tears on the way there and screamed that I couldn’t go in. It was the easiest job in the world with the friendliest people I’ve ever worked with but I just couldn’t handle it. I made my mum go in and tell them that I wouldn’t be in that day and I didn’t go back.

I later had it confirmed by a health professional that I was indeed unfit for work, but at the time I felt like a total failure and a time-waster. I’d left someone to work on their own in a situation that would’ve been incredibly stressful, but me being there in floods of tears unable to cope with my existence wouldn’t have helped the situation.

Why do you think your happiness is less important that someone else’s? If you let someone down and they’re mentally stable then they can go on with their day regardless. You, on the other hand are unable to do something because you’re unwell. You’re not fit to do some tasks at the moment and whilst that might be inconvenient for someone else for a few minutes, you’re dealing with the painful inconvenience of having a mental illness every single day. You come first.

Making other people uncomfortable or making things slightly awkward once in a while is something others will just have to deal with whilst you work hard to recover. Trust me, they can handle it.

It’s OK to be selfish

One of the reasons I got myself in a mess was because I was trying to please too many people too many times. I was scared to say no to anyone because to be honest, I didn’t realise I could. One of the best things you can do for your happiness is practise saying no more often.

I’m not talking about avoiding things that make you happy, but being confident enough to know when you’ve taken on too much. Don’t do something just to make someone else happy when you know that it’s causing you pain or making your anxious. Be honest with people. When someone is asking you do do something they’re asking you because there is more than one possible answer; make sure you choose the one that serves you.

The day I started being selfish with my time was the day I started to truly realise what I was capable of doing without putting my health at risk.

Are you going to stop apologising for your mental illness?

To my friends – here is the truth about my mental illness

This week in the Year of Gratitude series, the suggested writing prompt is ‘a friend’ that you’re grateful for. Here’s my take on the subject…

It took a few minutes for me to realise that my phone was ringing. The harsh sound of it vibrating on the wooden bedside table was what finally woke me up, but I didn’t reach over to pick it up. Instead I looked at the clock. It was 2.30pm. On a Tuesday.

I pulled the sheets over my head and went back to sleep. An hour later I woke up and saw I had a text message as well as the missed call from earlier. It was my friend Kirsty explaining that her and Claire had been in the area having lunch and did I want to join them.

Obviously I had missed the opportunity because I had slept in, but I didn’t care. I had successfully avoided another human interaction and that was all good in my book. Cha-ching.

Ignoring people was a commonly used strategy for me back then, when I was unfit for work due to depression and anxiety. I’m not sure how much I let show to my friends at the time, and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t want them to see the bad parts of my life which meant I didn’t let them see much of me at all.

I’m so grateful for my friends that have stuck by me throughout my mental illness. I also don’t blame the ones who didn’t hang around. It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed and I’ve been a bit of a handful to deal with. Sorry about that.

There are a few things I want them to know though and here they are, in no particular order.

mental health truth to friends

I hide it constantly

When I’m out shopping, at the gym, in a restaurant or at work – especially at work – I’m probably pretending to be OK. There’s a negative voice inside my head and sometimes it can take control of how I feel.

I’m getting better at ignoring the internal commentary – I hate myself, I’m so fat, I’m so useless, I’ve got nothing to say – but it’s always underlying and waiting to hijack me when I least expect it.

The painful part is that I’m always expecting it, and that’s exhausting in itself; always been on high alert for low moods and panic attacks. When they finally do show up I’m ready to hit the deck almost immediately.

I can’t always explain my actions

Sometimes I ignore phone calls. I read messages and then procrastinate for hours or sometimes days before responding. I know it’s rude. I know I’m being a crappy friend but sometimes I just can’t communicate with other people.

I don’t fully know why and I can’t justify my actions but believe me when I say it’s nothing personal.

I’m so grateful

I don’t always show it but I’m so grateful to have people around me who still care about me. I know I make situations difficult when I get socially awkward and shut down to everyone around me. It’s inconvenient and embarrassing for me.

The thing that gets me through is knowing that other people care. When I think I’m a total piece of shit, my friends and family are still there. They’re knocking on my door when I don’t answer the phone to make sure I’m OK, and that is something I’ll always be grateful for.

 

 

 

 

What are the best hobbies for depression? Read my top 10 tips

what are the best hobbies for depression

You’ve been diagnosed with depression and your doctor has told you to get a hobby. Once you’ve restrained yourself from screaming in said doctor’s face, I advise you calmly leave the building and take yourself home for a lie down.

Being told this by your GP can feel extremely patronising. Do they think we can just knit our way out of depression? Take a photography course and all is well again? It’s not that easy and I’m 100% on your side with that one.

But there are a few hobbies that are worth trying out on those days where you can find the energy to try your hand and something different. I’d love to know if you’re willing to give some of these a go…

1. Yoga

Doctors will regularly recommend yoga for those with depression, and although it’s not for everyone I personally find it very helpful when I’m finding it hard to relax. I wrote about it in more detail last year when I started going more regularly to help ease my symptoms when I moved away from home.

2. Running

It might sound like your idea of hell, but many people claim running has been a major factor in their recovery from depression. I took up running after going to fitness classes for a year or so, looking for a new challenge to test my abilities. Although I don’t enjoy it as much as other forms of exercise I can see why many enjoy the solitude and fresh air that comes with the hobby.

3. Walking

If running seems a little too advanced then I highly recommend trying walking instead. Either alone or with a friend, the benefits of walking are well-documented and can give you a sense of achievement on days when you feel unmotivated.

4. Drawing

This is a pastime that was always encouraged when I was a child, and I can see why. It’s good at keeping you distracted without the use of TV or video games and it’s a great creative outlet.

5. Blogging

Obviously I’m biased about this one! I started blogging a few years ago when I was unfit for work and felt the urge to be creative. You don’t need to write about depression; write about whatever pleases you and do it under another name if you don’t want anyone to know it’s you.

what hobbies are good for depression

6. Journaling

If you still want to write but not necessarily hit ‘publish’ online, then journaling could be for you. Grab a notebook and just explain how you’re feeling. I know from experience that trying to explain or even experience emotions when you have depression can feel like an impossible task. There are lots of good advice posts and prompts available out there to get you started.

7. Cooking

After years of restricting my food intake and binge eating junk food, I’m learning to enjoy all types of food again for their health benefits. I feel at my best when I’m eating lots of fruit, vegetables and some sweat treats for good measure (Oreos are food for the soul) and cooking plays a big part in that. I like the satisfaction of cooking a meal from scratch, especially if I know it’s going to make me feel good.

food-salad-healthy-lunch

8. Reading

I think people who want to ‘get a hobby’ often forget about the simple joy of reading. It’s basically free (remember those places called libraries?) and most people can do it. There are a million different genres be it fiction or non-fiction, self-help or fantasy; there’s sure to be something to keep you occupied.

EXTRA BONUS TIP! When you want to read but you can’t concentrate (a common problem with depression) then listen to podcasts.My current obsessions are My Favourite Murder, Desert Island Discs, Pro Blogger, Ctrl Alt Delete, Generation Why, Unsorry and Standard Issue Magazine.

9. Gardening

The thought of tackling an overgrown garden might be a bit much, but some light weeding or planting some flowers in pots could be a good idea. This is something that you can dedicate 30 minutes to everyday and see progress over time, which should give you a sense of achievement.

10. Play an instrument

If you can already play an instrument then why not set aside some time to practise a few times a week? It’s a good way to create some focus for short periods of time and gives you a physical and creative outlet. Also find singing along to my favourite music has the same effect.

Have you found a particular hobby that has helped ease the symptoms of your depression?

20 simple ways to boost your mood when you’re feeling depressed

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

Sometimes when your stuck for inspiration it helps to have a go-to list of activities that boost your mood. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I know that I have mentally taken note of what has eased my pain over the years. Here is a bunch of ideas to get you started if you’re not sure what to do when you’re experiencing low moods. Please bear in mind that these are not a substitute for medical help, merely a few tools which have helped me along the way in conjunction with medication and therapy.

1.Take a bath – there’s nothing more relaxing that a soak in a hot bath. I also like to take this time to leave my phone in another room and be more mindful of what’s going on in my head, or read a book.

2.Paint your nails – I hardly ever paint my nails because I work with food for my day-job. When I do take the time to give myself a manicure I always feel myself admiring my nails and feeling a little bit fancy.

dying blonde hair red

3.Get a haircut – I know not everyone can afford to get a new do that often, but when I’m feeling a bit yuck a trim at the hairdressers always makes me feel refreshed. I think getting a haircut really does make you feel lighter and give you an energy boost.

4.Take yourself to the movies – this is a great way to disconnect from social media because you have to turn your phone of and concentrate on the film you’re watching. Sometimes when I’m anxious a trip to the cinema is a bit difficult for me, but it’s often good when I’m just in need of a distraction from negative thoughts.

5.Walk on the beach – I don’t know any facts about the calming nature of being near the sea, but I know it has a profound effect on me personally. Starting out at the ocean from a beach is so hypnotic, and it often gives you perspective on whatever is on your mind.

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

6.Book a massage – I know I certainly can’t afford to do this as much as I’d like, but it’s something to bear in mind for a special occasion or a time when you know you’ll be under pressure. I organised to have one the day before my wedding and it was such a great way to shake the tension out of my body before the bid day.

7.Try out some new make up – My current budget favourites are the Garnier BB cream, the Sleek Contour & Blush Palette and the Freedom Brow Pomade.

8.Buy some new pyjamas – I don’t know about you but a trip to Primark isn’t complete without a snazzy new pair of PJs thrown in for good measure! I like to get a new pair for a pamper evening, just to make me feel a little more special.

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

9.Put fresh sheets on your bed – The act of washing and changing your sheets is quite possibly THE most annoying household chore around. It feels like you only did it yesterday and all of a sudden it’s time to do it again. We all know nothing beats the feeling of freshly laundered sheets though, it’s the best!

10.Cook your favourite meal – This might be something healthy like a stirfry or a treat like macaroni cheese. Whatever you feel like, take the time to enjoy the cooking process and savour every last bite of your favourite food.

11.Read a book – My pile of books is growing everyday, and I feel like I never have time to read. Put your phone on silent for an hour, get a hot drink and settle into some reading for a while. It’s a great way to escape negative thoughts and relax.

12.Go out for a coffee – Whether it’s coffee, tea or a milkshake I recommend getting out of the house and sitting in your local cafe for a while. I love to watch the world go by or stick my headphones in and listen to a podcast whilst I enjoy a few moments of mindfulness.

mood boosting activites mental health blogger UK

13.Practise mindfulness – I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about mindfulness and thought that it would be way too difficult to do yourself. The secret is that it takes lots of practise! My favourite app is Calm, but you can also find lost of guided meditation videos on You Tube that talk you through the process to make it easier. It’s a great one to try if you feel anxious or overwhelmed.

14.Stretch – You don’t have to go to visit the gym or find your nearest Pilates class (although they are two viable options too) to enjoy the benefits of stretching. Simply do the stretches that you know you enjoy take your time. I love this Blogilates video which only takes 12 minutes and is perfect for beginners.

15.Burn your favourite candle – It’s become a habit for me to light candles every evening, as I find it really lifts my spirits and helps me wind down. Try dimming the lights and have a few candles burning whilst you meditate or do some stretches. I love Yankee Candles, Little Tulip London and Jo Malone.

16.Brush your teeth – When depression takes over the thought of getting showered and dressed is often too much to bear. If you only do one thing then consider brushing your teeth. I also like to wash my face with my favourite cleanser just to make me feel a little more alive.

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17.Listen to your favourite music – I have a few playlists that are full of feel-good songs to help cheer me up when I’m feeling low. Be careful not to listen to any music that might trigger any bad memories.

18.Look at your favourite quotes – I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to positive quotes, and nothing pleases me more than adding more to the list! If you’re feeling demotivated then I would highly recommend pinning for an hour or so, it’s strangely therapeutic.

19.Clean your make up brushes – On those days where you have a long to-do list that feels totally overwhelming, sometimes it’s easier to tackle one small task that gives you instant gratification. Cleaning your make up brushes or ever just reorganising your make up storage can be an easy job that only takes around 30 minutes.

20.Re-organise your wardrobe – If you’re feeling brave enough to take on a bigger challenge then why not take on your wardrobe? If you’re anything like me then you’ll be hoarding ill-fitting clothing which hasn’t been worn for several years and could do with throwing out.

I’d love to know what your favourite mood boosting activities are, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet me.