It was World Mental Health day yesterday (10th October 2018) and I was scrolling through some posts on Instagram. One great post from an influencer I follow caught my attention, especially when she said that she had not really been aware of how serious mental health problems can be until she began hearing experiences from friends and family who were dealing with them.
And my first thought when I read that was…wow. What must that be like – to not have any mental health issues?
I’d really love to know – but I don’t right now.
I know I’m not alone. I see and speak to so many people who struggle with mental health but I love that we all seem to be coming together and speaking about it openly now.
It’s no longer something we have to battle through alone or be ashamed of.
I feel I’ve come a very long way. I’m not going to lie and say that I no longer have my own issues.
Yes, there are still days where I don’t want to get up and face the world or even just the people I know and love.
There are days where I shake and I panic and I cry and I can’t even explain why.
There are days when I have to psych myself up to do the smallest, simplest of things.
But I’m happy to say those days are becoming quite rare.
What I’ve learned about mental health
There’s a lot of information out there on how to keep your body healthy.
Feed it nutritious food, train your muscles to keep them strong, make sure to sleep and rest so you can function properly every day.
But what I’ve learned is that our minds are exactly the same.
Our minds also require nutrition to grow and be healthy, training to be strong and rest and relaxation to function properly.
So with that being said, here are some tips I want to share with you about mental nutrition, training and rest, that have helped me get to where I am today.
Feed your mind
Not everyone likes to read, but I credit reading as something that has made a huge difference to my life.
I read material that inspires me, uplifts me and teaches me.
Just reading a few pages of an uplifting book or blog can make all the difference to your day. It only takes that one line that really hits home, to change your life.
Dedicate a few minutes of your day feed your mind with some motivating and uplifting words that resonate with you. Positivity is without a doubt, the best nutrition for your mind.
Watch out for bad nutrition
I like a good Netflix binge from time to time, but during the week I limit how much time I spend watching that or any TV at all. I’m not one of those “I don’t watch TV so I’m better than you” type of people but I do believe that television can be a big distraction if you spend too much time watching it.
It’s a huge industry that circulates millions, so it’s designed to keep us on the sofa, eyes glued to the screen – instead of exercising, reading or improving ourselves in other ways.
The more TV we watch, the more money the top dogs make. So TV is at the bottom of my priority list. If I’ve done my reading and workout and I’ve got a few hours spare, I’ll catch up on a programme I like. If not, it gets recorded and it can wait because my mental health comes first.
I also take regular social media breaks and when I am online it’s not for too long.
Because if I’m on Instagram for just a little bit too long, then it begins. Why can’t I look like this person? I wish I could be as successful as that person. This person is my age and look at what they’ve achieved compared to me.
That can happen when you’re scrolling through the highlight reels of other people’s lives.
We are all on our own journeys in this life and all our challenges are different. We can let others inspire us but when that moves into comparing your life to others and feeling bad about yourself, it’s time to log out.
Training the mind
I feel most hopeful and inspired when I’m working on something.
Working on my writing, working on myself.
I am constantly setting myself goals and targets and putting my focus into reaching them.
But I’m also kind to myself. If I mess up or don’t meet a goal, that doesn’t make me a failure. I’ll just try again – until I do achieve it.
It can feel like we’re under pressure all the time to look perfect, be perfect and have the most perfect, Instagrammable life. This can lead us to be unnecessarily hard on ourselves. We often deserve a lot more credit than we give ourselves.
So never forget to congratulate yourself on the little achievements, the small wins in life. They do add up. I bet you could find something to congratulate yourself for every day.
Set yourself a goal – whether it’s to get your summer body going, drink more water, start exercising, get out more, write a gratitude list every night. Whatever it is – make it something that’s going to improve your quality of life and work towards it every day.
There might be setbacks and there may be days where it feels like a struggle but the more you strive to reach your goal, the more you will train your mind to be strong and positive, even when things aren’t going your way.
And that focus on your goal will direct your energy to a more productive place. You’ll have something else to wake up for every day. You’ll have yet another reason to congratulate yourself with every step that you take towards it.
Rest and relaxation
Some people see the word ‘mindfulness’ and think… yeah, whatever.
And it may not be for those people but I do think everyone should try it at least once. It’s done amazing things for my life and mental health.
Thousands of thoughts race through our minds every single day. And even then, that’s just general stuff. What about the to-do lists we have to get through, the appointments we need to keep, the deadlines we have to meet at work – and so on?
It’s a lot.
To intentionally quieten all of that down for just 10-15 minutes a day is bliss.
I sleep better, I think more clearly and I’m more positive and motivated when I’m keeping up with my daily meditations. But you don’t even need to start with full-blown meditation. Even just taking a few minutes of a hectic day to yourself to take some long, full deep breaths, in and out, can be helpful.
From there, you can gradually increase the days and length of time you spend doing this. One of my favourite mindfulness apps, Insight Timer, has hundreds of free guided meditations you can use to help you if you’re just getting started. There’s also a free learn to meditate course (which I haven’t done, but I’m sure is great for beginners) and a timer you can customise with relaxing sounds and bells for when you want to do it alone.
I’ve made sleep a huge priority in my life and that is one of the best things I ever did.
I used to stay up till all hours, get a terrible night’s sleep, snooze for ages when my alarm went off and rush out of the house, late for work and in an absolute flap every morning. Not a great way to start the day.
But how things change. I start winding down early evening during the week now. Laptop and phone are gone half an hour before I want to go to sleep and out comes the book. I create a relaxing environment for myself, candles, essential oils, low lights – these things help me to feel calm, centered and ready for bed.
I use an app to track my sleep patterns and I make sure my phone is on Do Not Disturb so that I won’t be woken in the night.
And when my alarm wakes me in the morning, I get up, ready to take my day by the balls! How you start each day is so important for the way it turns out, which makes sleep an extremely important factor.
And it’s more than just not wanting to feel tired all day.
We make better food decisions when we’re well rested, as our bodies aren’t craving junk and quick fixes to get our energy levels up, which means we wind up looking better. Of course, an energized mind is also able to focus better, and we’re more motivated to get out there and do things when we’re getting enough sleep.
Yes, it can be scary – and yes, I sometimes feel like a loser for admitting the things that I do.
But you know what? It can be such a relief for the mind to offload some of that crap we’re carrying it around and share it with a trusted friend or family member, who can then give us their own perspective and help us look at our problems in a different way.
Sometimes you do feel like a burden – you don’t want to dump your problems on anyone else and you feel like after the 100th time, they’re probably sick of hearing it – but I can 100% guarantee that the people that love you would rather hear you talk about what you’re going through, than know that you’re suffering and battling through it all alone.
And hey, if you really don’t want to speak to someone in your life – there are other ways to offload and give your mind a break from thinking about the things that get you down all alone.
You may not have heard the greatest things about Reddit in the past but it’s just like visiting any place in the real world. There are some beautiful areas to spend your time but there are also some dodgy places that you just don’t go if you don’t want to encounter freaks!
I say it’s one of the best places you can go to talk about whatever’s on your mind to anonymous strangers who will not judge you and who have the best advice.
And sometimes, you don’t even need to talk. I can’t tell you how often I have something on my mind, log on to Reddit and see someone discussing the exact same thing, and then see all the advice they’re being given and apply it to my own life without having to say a word.
You also don’t need to have an account to browse the threads (Subreddits). Here’s a list of all mental health Subreddits on Reddit, offering support on everything from depression, anxiety, addiction (food, drug, sex and more), suicide, disability, abuse, eating disorders, obsessive compulsions and so, SO much more.
At the very least, if you’ve ever felt alone in what you’re going through, these subreddits are proof that you are NOT.
These are just a few things that have helped me on my mental health journey. For more, you might also want to read this post for tips on how I’ve dealt with anxiety.
I hope this helps anyone struggling, know that you’re not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about and there is hope. There is support. You are loved, wanted, needed and you have a purpose, that’s why you’re here.
Sending love x