Here’s my latest vlog which touches on my morning make up routine (quick and lazy) as well as my feelings of anxiety before travelling home for the weekend. Stay tuned for the next one which documents how my mood dipped after an exciting and busy time in Scotland.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Are you learning to thrive in recovery? I’ve just uploaded my first every vlog, you can check it out an subscribe here!
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.
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?
Do you ever feel like you need a holiday just to recover from being on holiday? I get this all the time, and I realised it’s because I wasn’t setting aside time for self-care when I was away. We often feel obliged to cram in as much sight-seeing or partying as possible, instead of actually taking time to rest when we have the chance. If you’ve got a holiday coming up I suggest being mindful of a few things in order to make self-care a top priority…
Fuel your body
Although being on holiday is a great excuse to enjoy a few treats that doesn’t mean neglecting what your body really needs. I love this post from Rachael about how overeating at the weekend can make you feel terrible, and it’s exactly the same for holidays. Eat what makes you feel good (cake and chips, obvs) but also eat what makes you actually feel good (you know… the odd carrot, lettuce leaf and potato).
It’s easy to get carried away with trying everything on offer just because it’s there, but remember that self-care means listening to your body and knowing what it wants. I like to eat a big breakfast otherwise I get hangry and all of a sudden I’m ordering a burrito, fries and planning dessert before I’ve even finished lunch.
I personally find that fuelling my body early with a big bowl of porridge and fruit helps be feel satisfied and mentally ready to start the day without feeling deprived. I also like to avoid alcohol (just my preference, no judgements) and drink lots of water, eat plenty of greens and avoid too much sugar before bed.
Wearing summer outfits gives me the fear. I’m not made to exist in a hot climate, so finding clothes that are appropriate is a real struggle for me. I want to wear long, flowing skirts and little white cotton dresses but the truth is chub-rub is REAL. These thighs were not made to meet on such a regular occurrence.
As much as I’d love to look all flirty and feminine on the beach it’s just not comfortable for me. How can I be expected to catch a break when I’m physically uncomfortable? I say wear what feels right.
For me, that’s loose-fitting harem pants, leggings and big-old denim shorts. Being at ease with your physical self is SO important to allow your mind to unwind, so wear what you want and feel free.
You should absolutely take time to catch up on some sleep when you’re on holiday. I remember when we were on our honeymoon, we didn’t make it to the breakfast buffet once the entire week and it was fabulous! Waking up naturally without an alarm is an amazing feeling, but try to stay as active as possible throughout the day to avoid any unnecessary fatigue.
Walking outside is so helpful to keep your body ticking over as well as induce those mood-boosting endorphins. It will also help you get a better sleep in the evening meaning you should naturally rise earlier the next morning.
Plan some alone time
As an introvert, I personally find a week stuck in other people’s company a little overwhelming at times. I crave downtime on my own because that’s how I recharge my batteries and find energy for the next day.
My favourite way to find alone time on holiday is to go to the gym. It’s my own space where I can reflect but still do something productive that I enjoy and I generally leave the gym feeling more energised that when I went in. Weird, right?
I know this isn’t everyone’s idea of fun though, so try and find the thing that works for you. It might be a soak in the tub, a massage or a good hour getting lost in your favourite book. Whatever works.
Have you made a self-care plan for your next holiday?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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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.
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?
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?
Finding time for self-care can be a bit of a mission. I know after I’ve done a day’s work, a sweaty gym session, scribbled down a blog post and done the fastest food shop in history I rarely manage to do anything other than flop onto the sofa with a bowl of leftovers for dinner. I’m often a jittery mess and find it hard to fall asleep at night.
I’m trying to make a conscious effort though, to stop and take a few minutes out of my day to slow down and check in with myself. If like me you get easily stressed and overwhelmed, then you might find these quick self-care tips easy to fit into your day.
Drink some water
Aaaah, the solution to all life’s problems. Got a wound? Chuck some water on it. Feeling faint? Splash on that water! Annoying boss? Dunk ‘em! In all seriousness though, I find my mood is greatly affected when I’m dehydrated. I get tired, anxious and cranky and it’s so easily avoided by simply drinking enough water!
Have a shower
I have a love/hate relationship with showering. When I’m depressed or anxious it’s the last thing I want to do. It feels pointless, a waste of energy and frankly just too much to handle. But when I do muster up the strength to jump in for even a minute or two, I have to admit that I always feel better afterwards.
Listen to your favourite song
Music can have such a profound affect on our mood that you should really try incorporating it into your self-care routine. Start by creating a playlist full of uplifting songs and add to it whenever you find a new tune that makes you feel good. My current favourite are Thunder by Jessie J, Moments by Tove Lo and Dancing On My Own by Robyn.
Write stuff down
Sometimes we don’t realise how much is going on in our subconscious everyday. Whether it’s remembering to call someone, make an appointment or look for a new job; these thoughts can play on our minds without us even noticing. Try doing a ‘brain dump’ regularly. This basically means writing down everything that’s on your mind. It’s NOT a to-do list (although it could be used to create one afterwards). Instead just a way to get your thoughts on paper, freeing up your mind to become a little more relaxed.
De-clutter your space
I love to set a timer for 10 minutes and go around my flat with a bin bag. I throw out all the rubbish, empty the bins and fill a basket of dirty washing. Before I know it I’ve got a wash on, dishes done and I’m dusting and sweeping the whole flat. When my space is cluttered it often plays on my mind and I procrastinate because I just hate doing housework. The 10 minute trick is just enough time to get the basics done and make me feel a little more organised.
Change your bed sheets
For me, good personal hygiene goes hand-in-hand with effective self-care. I love the feeling of getting into bed when the sheets are clean, and it’s even better after a long bath. I try to change my bedding once a week but you can do it more frequently especially if you have pets who like to snuggle.
Read an inspirational blog post
When I feel lost and worried, I like to read about how other people are coping and what they’re doing to learn more about themselves and their mental health journey. I love this post by Grace called Accepting Who I Really Am and this one by Emily on The Pressure of Happiness. Somehow knowing that I’m not the only person with anxiety makes me feel better.
Phone a friend
Living away from home has made me appreciate how important it is to have the right people around you and on call when you need them. I try and surround myself with positive, creative, can-do people who inspire me to do better. It only takes a few minutes to call a friend and catch up, and talking to someone who really gets you can remind you of what you want and what you believe in, things that we often forget when we get caught up in daily life.
Get some fresh air
We all know that getting moving outside is good for our mental health, but so many of us just don’t make time for it. I honestly think that just 20 minutes outside everyday can give you a noticeable boost in energy, especially if you work sitting down in an office for most of the day. I also find it improves my creativity and helps me think through problems without distractions.
What quick self-care tips can you recommend?