When you have suffered with your own mental health for a number of years you begin to learn what can trigger a bad mood, what can bring on anxiety, what can make you angry and the patterns that often emerge. I personally find that spending a long time alone can make me miserable and low, one bad event will outweigh several good ones and upsets from friends/family/husband can linger for far too long. By recognising slight changes occurring in my moods, I have started to acknowledge what can help or even prevent these issues from escalating. As I stated in my last post, counselling has been one the best ways of coping with my inner most thoughts and I can highly recommend finding somebody with expertise to speak to yourself. If not, do try and be open with your closest family and friends. Communication is definitely key in helping mental health problems.
Of course, we are all different and what works for me may not work for you but by becoming conscious of your mental state and the effects it is having on your life you can begin to find what could possibly prevent those triggers from spiralling out of control. I am going to share with you the top ways to achieve a good mental well-being.
This will probably be the last thing you want to do when you are feeling low. Depression not only affects your mind, it also affects your body by making you feel sluggish and tired which is why exercise will be the last item on your agenda and returning to bed will be at the top. That nap will most probably make you feel much worse and you will wake feeling more lethargic and possibly with a headache. Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins are happy hormones, exercise really is your friend!
However, exercise does not have to mean hitting the gym, I personally don’t like the gym. My number one tip is to spend some time finding something that you like. This may mean that you sit and do some research and try a few different classes to find what works for you. You may also want to experiment with what time of day you choose to exercise. Evening classes will help to aid in a good night’s sleep but if you feel sluggish in the day, an early morning class may help to energise you and set you up for the day ahead.
Walking is a great first step and you may find that you can change this into a jog? If you can find a nice route with calming scenery you can often just lose yourself in it all. I have tried a lot of classes and I find that energetic, team based ones help me the most. Zumba is an amazing workout, it gets your heart pumping and your brain working as you have to learn all of the routines. This leads to a lot of laughter and bonding between you and the other participants. HIIT classes help me to focus on achieving a change in my fitness and as these are usually circuit based it gives plenty of variety. Pilates is one of my favourite classes. It combines strength and flexibility with calming for the body and mind. We often meditate at the end which just helps to clear my mind and I often come out feeling like I am walking on a cloud!
If you suffer from anxiety I know that finding a class and walking into one will completely fill you with dread. Perhaps you could ask to watch a class before trying it out yourself? Or get a friend to accompany you. It is natural to feel worried and I think we all feel that slight anxiety when we do something new. I tend to build up the idea in my mind, look into the venue and class and find out all I can. Check out images on the internet and perhaps book yourself in for a tour or a one on one with a trainer. And if you don’t like one place do not let that put you off finding somewhere else. One way to ensure you go is to pay for your classes monthly. If that money is leaving your account and you aren’t using the services you will be losing out. Pay as you go classes are very easy to drop out of at the last minute and make excuses for.
Lack of sleep is my enemy. It causes me to become short, snappy, angry, less focused, niggly and can lead to very low thoughts and feelings if I can’t make up for what is lost. Becoming a parent certainly doesn’t help. My only tip which is vital when your mental health is suffering is to get some early nights. Trying to catch up on sleep by using the whole day is not the answer… see above. This can end up leading to a change in routine and will result in later nights. You want to get your sleep in at the appropriate time and 8 hours plus is what is medically advised- I am a bit of a 10-hour person if I am honest and I find that if I go to bed after 10:30pm I don’t find it very easy to get up the next day. If you wake up groggy, tired, drained and low you need to re-assess your sleeping patterns. Oh, and if you are a parent who is extremely sleep deprived and suffering mentally, please do get someone to take the baby/child for the night and remember to give yourself a break every once in a while.
Can’t sleep because your thoughts are swirling around in your head? Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. Every time something pops into your head just sit up and make a note of it. Get those jobs written in a list, get those worries written down and make a note to tackle them in the morning.
If you are tired, drained and low, your body is going to crave caffeine, sugar and junk food to keep itself fuelled. These will provide you with the initial energy boosting effects you are desperately after but once that wears off you will crash. Then guess what?… You will reach for them all over again to gain the next hit. It is an easy cycle to get drawn into and I am very guilty of using tea to make myself feel more awake throughout the day… plus chocolate! These ups and downs added to your mind’s ups and downs are just a recipe for disaster. Water is your best start. Begin to increase your water intake and take note of when you are reaching for the kettle when in fact a glass of the clear stuff could probably do the job better. If you keep your cupboards free of the junk you can’t then reach for it when your body starts to have cravings. Instead, keep the fruit bowl topped up and save those sweets as a treat.
I always used to make lists when I was at work but never did them at home. Yet when I was in a workplace I found my brain was organised, I had a focus for the day and I loved that satisfaction of ticking a job off once it was done. Making a list at home should come as naturally as you do at work. You will help to clear your mind, you will feel positive once jobs are completed and you will be giving yourself a reason to get things done.
Tidy Home, Tidy Mind
We’ve all heard this saying and I find it be very true in my case. Having items in their right place, no visible work building up and having clean surfaces makes me so much happier. As household jobs get out of control you probably won’t even know where to begin and your mental well-being will suffer as your anxiety will most probably increase thinking about the workload. This then leads to the ‘well, why bother?’ attitude which results in those low feelings creeping in or escalating – an ongoing cycle if not tackled. If you like your lists you may also like a cleaning rota/timetable. Just keeping on top of those jobs will alleviate the clutter that can build up in your own mind.
On one of your low days, this will feel like an epic challenge just as the exercise will. When your mood takes over and all you want to do is shut the world out, meeting friends seems like such an effort. Yes, it will feel as though you have climbed over mountains just to get yourself dressed, organised and to the destination but how do you feel after just an hour chatting? Lighter, happier, calmer… just to name a few. Getting out of the house and talking about anything other than how you feel will just distract you away from those dark thoughts and can completely turn your day around. Do not underestimate the power of talking. If you friends are aware of your mental health issues they will understand that some days just don’t work for you. If they don’t get this you could try giving them some information on the problem and maybe take some time and try opening up to them. There will be some friends who will just never ‘get’ this or your needs. That is fine, you may only see those people on your very good days or the friendship may fizzle out. If neither of you has anything to gain from it don’t let this upset you. Friendships come and go but the loyal ones will always remain.
Get a Pet
Now, I am going to start by saying don’t just go out and buy any pet because I have said this… be responsible, eh, and do your research into what pet would suit your lifestyle. With pets comes hard work but what also comes with them is a bond, it will give you something to get out of bed for and you will have a very loyal friend (unless you choose a goldfish!) If you don’t have the time to dedicate to a pet then I am sure someone you know will have a cat or dog who will love to be cuddled or walked. Why not offer to help a friend out?
During all of my toughest times I have always had one little fur ball next to me… my beautiful dog, Molly. She can sense my emotions and she will react to them accordingly. She gives cuddles when I cry, she will lay on me when I am low and she has provided me with a companionship that only other dog owners will understand. Studies also show that petting an animal lowers stress levels and your heart rate. This causes you to relax more quickly and feel at ease. I have been lucky enough to have had my little friend for 15 years and I honestly do believe that she has got me through many low points.
Remove Yourself From Triggering Situations
We all have bugbears, we all have certain things that really just wind us up and if you let those affect you, if you react to them, they can just add to your fragile state of mind and that isn’t what you need. I am a dweller. I think about things too much, I hold onto issues that may have happened 2 years ago and I get wound up over others’ inconsiderate actions. I have had to learn to ignore and to just let things go… breathe. If getting annoyed doesn’t change a situation or improve anything all you are doing is making more brain work for yourself and definitely more stress. If you can identify those situations that wind you up or possibly even the people who do, you can move away or completely remove yourself from the offending person/group. Negative energy being generated around an already negative mental state will only decrease your well-being and may even end up becoming very toxic.
Find a Hobby That You Love
We all have things we are good at– yes, you do!– and we all have a draw to certain hobbies. Whether you are musical, creative, crafty, a reader or an exercise type person you will have something that you will love even if you don’t yet know it. You may also have several things that you may have enjoyed in the past but have somehow been phased out of your life.
What is it that really calms your mind? What is it that gets you passionate, that makes you smile, that makes your brain switch off? I have played the piano from a young age and I will often sit down when I am both low and angry because I can expel my feelings via the music that I choose to play. I adore gardening because it gives me a focus, my mind and body both become very relaxed and it is something that you can accidentally do for hours and not even realise how much time has passed. Just find that one hobby that fits with you and make time to take part in it.
Take Time Out For You
Following on from the message in hobbies, you need to make time for something that will make you happy or alleviate some stress or relax your mind. I find a lot of inner peace when I go down to the coast. My Mum loved the sea and when I am there I feel close to her. I have happy memories of childhood days on the beach and I really do believe in the saying ‘blowing the cobwebs away’. Do you have that one place where you can be alone with your thoughts? Somewhere that is therapeutic? Use this as a destination to get out of the house and to clear your head.
I have also recently discovered the benefits of reflexology. Not only do I get a bit of ‘me time’ and an hour of not being a Mum, I also feel the positive effect it has on my body. Since my issues with PMS have arisen I have found that reflexology has reduced my anger, has reduced my migraines and improved the lead up to my period. A bit of pampering will make you feel so much better about yourself in general and even if you have to force yourself to admit this and to go and make that appointment it will be worthwhile in the end.
Small steps and changes will eventually begin to take a positive effect on your mental well-being and if you can begin to recognise those triggers and develop coping mechanisms, you will be even closer to achieving a new way of living.