Top tips for better mental health from an anxious mind
This week’s blog comes courtesy of our Digital Marketing Advisor, Rachel. Here, she talks openly and honestly about her struggles with mental health and shares her advice for simple changes and habits that have helped her over the years. So, over to you - Rachel!
I am an intensely organised, high performing, bubbly, lively woman. And many people looking at me from a distance, or even some of my friends, may be surprised to hear that I have in fact suffered with my mental health - specifically anxiety and depression - for most of my life. It’s something I’ve wrestled with and that’s impacted a lot of areas of my life; including relationships, my health, my studies and my career.
I’m pleased to say that, generally speaking, I’m doing pretty well now. Settling in nicely to the wonderful team here at Lifefyle; whose flexible and supportive working environment is hugely beneficial to my state of mind and making work work for me, and pleased to see the sunshine appearing again (is this the beginning of summer? I’ve probably jinxed it now, sorry).
They say 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues at some point in their life – in reality I find it hard to believe it’s that few people. I would say the figure is probably more accurately 1 in 2 people – I think only 1 in 4 are willing to tick that box in a survey. I could be wrong, but that’s just my experience. Whenever I have opened up to people about my health problems, it’s rare they don’t know someone first hand or haven’t experienced issues of their own.
So I think it’s important we talk about it! And to all of you out there who are prone to anxiety, stress, depression, worry – whatever it is that’s affecting your mental health, I wanted to take some time to share a few practical tips on improving your mental health. Even if you’re just having a ‘blue day’ – you may find one of these things help cheer you up. So from now on – positive vibes only! Here are some really simple, practical things that I’ve found massively beneficial to my day to day life, and I hope they’re of help to you too.
1. ‘Acts of self-love’
This is a phrase stolen from a lovely therapist I used to see. He posed it to me this way – if someone else was feeling what I was feeling, how would I treat them? Would I tell them off for not doing the dishes? Of course not! But acts of self-love go a step further than that – or at least in my case they do. When asked for an example of what I’d do for someone else, I said if one of my friends was going through a tough time I’d probably pop over with some flowers for them.
As a result, whenever I’m suffering with my mental health, not only do I cut myself a little slack (massive shout out to my husband for being a complete hero with the dishes as of late), but I also always have fresh flowers in the house. During turbulent times, remember to once a day show yourself some love – be that smiling at yourself in the mirror, telling yourself you look great, going out for a walk, seeing a movie – whatever you would do to show someone else in your shoes that you care. Weirdly, it’s often easier to be kind to ourselves when we imagine what we’d do for someone else.
2. Establish a routine
(But also don’t beat yourself up if you’re not well enough to stick to it!) Please take this with a pinch of salt, I too have had my days where even getting out of bed feels completely impossible. However, where possible, have little things you do everyday – and congratulate yourself when you complete them!
For example, one thing I’ve added into my routine recently is making the bed. Getting up and making the bed (not hotel standard by any means, but I actually pull the covers back up to in line with the pillow – go me!) really helps mark a transition to the next point in my day.
This little daily ‘check-list’ or routine, whatever you prefer to call it, can help add a sense of normality when everything seems overwhelming.
Just make sure you don’t put too much on your plate – I’m talking small steps here, but making the bed helps me acknowledge I’ve woken up, and I’m getting on with the next tasks of my day.
Going to the gym three times a week helps me make sure I’m looking after myself – do whatever it is that feels right for you.
3. Write stuff down!!
There is honestly nothing worse than when thoughts are flying around your head faster than you know what to do with them. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m suffering I can often feel completely overwhelmed by even the simplest of things – like the things I need to sort in the house one week or how I’m going to fit the new Marvel movie into my constantly frantic diary. (If you haven’t seen Endgame yet what have you been doing?!)
One thing I have found to be an absolute lifesaver is having a to do list – I used to do this on the reminders on my phone but (you guessed it) I’ve upgraded massively and treated myself to a Lifefyle plan! I have found that getting everything out of my head and into my tasks, and then checking them off when I’m done (best feeling am I right?) really helps me disassociate from to-do’s mentally.
If I need to know what I’m doing, I look at the list. It takes some of the mental pressure off trying to be responsible for remembering everything 24/7.
Also, it’s fab being able to assign tasks in Lifefyle to my husband, who’s also on my plan. It means we spend much less time having to discuss all the admin - if he needs to take the car to the garage and I want to check he’s booked the appointment, I can just look at our tasks and avoid the need to ask him altogether. It means we actually chat in the evenings now - I hope we don’t run out of things to talk about....
4. Podcasts are the best friend you didn’t know you needed
Speaking of frantic thoughts flying around your mind – if you’re anything like me you’ll find you are capable of thinking over the TV, music, radio, etc. One thing I have found that genuinely engages my brain and forces it to stop distracting me is podcasts. They are magic.
Having actual people speaking in your ear instead of those nagging thoughts in your head is one of the most liberating things when I’m feeling my worst. For example, I actually play podcasts quietly while I go to sleep now, and if my mind is racing I just tune in and focus on the funny, clever things being said on the most recent episode of No Such Thing as a Fish (which by the way, I highly recommend).
There are podcasts on anything and everything you can think of – whatever you’re interested in I can assure you there’s one for you. Just try one and thank me later.
5. Get active
There are countless studies pointing to the benefits of exercise on your mental health – and I can report it’s most definitely true.
My therapist has actually gone as far as to say exercise resets your brain and body’s system – so you could say it’s like turning yourself on and off again when your brain has crashed.
Fortunately for me, I already do enjoy exercise – so when I’m lacking motivation to go on my worse days, it’s a little bit easier to force myself out.
My advice would be, if you hate running – don’t run! If you don’t like the gym, don’t go to the gym! I genuinely believe within everyone is a little fitness freak, you just have to find whichever form of exercise is your jam.
One thing I discovered relatively recently was Zumba – I have always enjoyed dance so the combination of salsa, samba, tango, martial arts, and more with exercise?! It’s a dream come true for me. Zumba is genuinely one of the highlights of my week.
Another discovery in 2019 has been structured weight lifting. I’d always lifted token weights at the end of my cardio before, but now I’m on a structured strength and conditioning programme and I LOVE IT. Ask any of my friends, I’m becoming a little bit of a muscle machine, and it’s fabulous.
My point is, whatever you’re passionate about – do that! If it’s walking, go for a walk around town once a day. Just get moving, it really really helps. Especially if you don’t feel like it - that’s the best time to get going.
6. Sharing is caring
I can’t stress this enough – talk about how you’re feeling. It will be a weight off your shoulders for one, but also, you’ll probably find most people you talk to can relate. It’s a real relief to know you’re not the only one, and it’s especially a relief to talk to someone who’s been through it and come out the other side – it helps you believe recovery is possible.
And if you’re working, being open with work really is a must. I had suffered in silence in my previous jobs for too long, and when I finally had the courage to open up about what was going on, things massively improved for me. The trouble with mental health is people often miss the signs of what’s going on. Come to work in a cast and people will know you’ve broken a bone, turn up after a night of no sleep and hour-long panic attacks – not quite as easy to spot.
The same goes for your friends – believe me they want to be there for you, but they can’t do that if they don’t know what’s going on. A whole lotta love must be expressed here for my husband, best friends and family – who have been my rock throughout the past few months. It’s cheesy but it’s true – a burden shared is a burden halved.
7. Treat yo self
(Why yes I am a Parks and Rec fan, thank you for asking) Another disclaimer – be sensible with this one. If you end up in debt, that’s definitely less help in the long run. If I didn’t have to be sensible I’d be writing this blog from New Zealand or Australia right now for sure. Sadly, I am sat in my living room still, but at least it’s not raining outside…
PSA out the way – TREAT YO SELF! This is your motto whenever you are having a down day/difficult time. Be kind to yourself. Be that treating yourself to a night off cooking and a takeaway, popping into your favourite coffee shop for a flat white, buying that cute new top you’ve been stalking on instagram for months – yes I am guilty of all these things – but treat yo self!
At the end of the day, your happiness matters. And if there’s a little something you can do to help you get through the day, then do it. Just don’t be frivolous – think of Marie Kondo – but does it spark joy? (I actually have never watched this show – but it’s a good principle to follow)
8. Don’t suffer alone, know when you need help
All of the cliches today, asking for help is the hardest bit. We moved house recently so this phase of health difficulties meant finding a new therapist. When I went for my first session and he asked what was going on and why I was there, after I answered he congratulated me for being there. I thought this was odd, but then he pointed out that often the hardest part of recovery is acknowledging when you need help.
Now, not everyone needs the same help – but if you feel like you do need help in any area – don’t be scared to ask for it. Be that asking your family or friends to be at the end of the phone in the night if you need them (my father is an angel who has texted me many a time to say I’m leaving my phone on loud tonight in case you need me), visiting your GP, or talking to a therapist.
Whatever you need, there is definitely someone out there who is happy to help you.
Where to look
It’s also important to look for help in the right place.
And the good news is, there’s loads of support out there if you need it. If you need someone to talk to, there are two obvious choices (aside from friends, family, GPs, therapists, etc):
Freephone: 116 123 – the Samaritans phone line is available 24/7, and they are at hand to offer free, confidential advice for whatever issues you’re having.
Freephone: 0300 123 3393 – open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday – Mind offer mental health advice and information. From more information on different types of mental illness, to advice on different options for help – they’re a good place to start if you want some more information.
There are loads of places you can go for help, for more information see:
So, there you have it, if just one person tries just one of these things on this list, and it makes their day a little bit better, I’ll be a happy bunny.
Look after yourselves! And remember, look out for number one.