For those who know me, know I am a huge advocate for mental health. Yes, a lot of the content and posts that I do points in the direction of physical health and while that is just as important, it always coincides with mental health. I know many people who make the mistake of only working on their physical health, often neglecting their mental health and the importance of it. I always say that you can work on your physical health and fitness as much as you like, you can go to the gym 7 days a week and do cardio 5 times a week but if you aren’t addressing the demons you have going on in your mind, you’ll still be unhealthy.
When I talk about mental health, I am talking about the WHOLE spectrum. You don’t necessarily need to be suffering from depression or be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, even things such as every day stress affects your mental health. The longer you leave it, the more detrimental it can become. That’s why from high school, I have always made a conscious effort to ensure that not only am I constantly working to improve my physical health and fitness, but my mental health too.
Don’t get me wrong, the suggestions following below are not ways to cure mental health illnesses or the stresses you may experience from day to day. Regardless of the things you do, you will have days where you don’t feel so great and all you really want to do is lie in bed, eat ice cream and binge Spinning Out for the third time this year. And that is OK! But what I do wish to encourage you to do is be proactive, conscious and respectful towards yourself. Being sad and then purposefully watching something sad or listening to sad music will ultimately make you more sad. DUH. But don’t do that, don’t allow it to consume you and let you waste valuable time that you could be spending working on yourself. Our Egos are big ugly things that are typically the “Devil on your shoulder”. The Ego is something that is often spoken about in Psychology, I have recently been reading (and loving) Jen Sincero’s book “You are a badass” and she likes to refer to the Ego as the “Big Snooze” or “BS” (conveniently) because that is exactly what it is. She goes on further to state that the Ego is, “The shadow self, the false self or the self that makes us act like a weenie, it is the part of us that is driving the bus when we do things to sabotage our happiness” It is what stops you from going out and doing things your better self wants to do, the self that has no fear and enjoys learning and experiencing new things regardless of the terrifying outcome. It stops you from GROWTH! You just need to have the self-discipline to push past the Devil’s words, and create the happiness and the life you know you can have.
I may seem like I am rambling but stick with me, it is all valid. All too often I see friends and family members, friends of family members, family members of friends allowing the negatives of their lives to consume them. Heck, even I have done it before. We all do. This is because it is easier to wallow in self pity than it is to go out and make a change. There is something intoxicating about feeling low because you feel like it gives you a sort of “leeway” to not do anything. It is assumed that it’s a valid excuse because you’re sad, you don’t have to make your bed because you’re sad or you don’t have to eat healthy today because you’re too busy and stressed. It gives you a reason to not move forward in a positive direction because it’ll take lots of hard work and practice.
I think us, as humans enjoy finding excuses to not deal with the internal struggles we have going on because it is easier. But if there is one thing I have learned over the past few months is that finding distractions, people to fill the voids and unhealthy habits to waste time is only going to extend your healing process and pain for a lot longer. You are only damaging yourself more.
“Feeling the need to be busy all the time is a trauma response and a fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down”
What I am ultimately trying to get at is that as difficult as it is to face what hides below the triggers, you need to do it in order to allow yourself to heal and to grow. You need to have the discipline, respect and love for yourself to be able to face the ugly head on to work on and create the beautiful for yourself. (You can see this lockdown has given me time to think, lol!)
With that said, use these next 2 weeks as an opportunity for growth. Work on the parts of you that you have been so busy ignoring, do things that you’ve always found excuses to not complete and do it for you. That is what I am doing and I am so much happier for it. Let the pity parties stop here, let the Big Snooze sleep & stay sleeping and let yourself receive the things you deserve to receive.
Here are 6 things I have recently added to my self-isolation routine to improve my mental health:
Reading self-development books
You are never going to learn to grow if you don’t open yourself to new ideas, opinions and perspectives. Reading motivational, self-development, self-help books all offer you a new perspective on how to live a healthier, happier and more fulfilled life (if you follow what they say). For the past week I have been reading Jen Sincero’s “You are a Badass” self-development/help book and I love it. It is easy to follow, witty and all round helpful. 10/10 recommend.
There are plenty of options online on what books to read. Decide where you are at in your life, what you want to work on and then narrow your options down to the books that relate and interest you currently.
Look after myself more (Do more things for me)
I am definitely one of those people to put other people’s needs and wants ahead of mine, it is one of the traits I value in myself – especially when it comes to people I care about because heck, they deserve it. But often that leaves me forgetting about my needs and my wants, so I have really been practicing looking after myself even in the slightest ways which in turn makes the biggest difference to how I feel. Examples of this would be doing a face mask every Sunday, lying in the sun and reading a book or listening to music and using a facial roller every day, twice a day (Gotta keep that skin looking youthful). The more you do these things, the quicker they will become habits and the sooner you’ll start to feel better.
Doing at least one active thing a day
Like I said at the beginning of this post, physical health and mental health coincide with one another. ESPECIALLY during lockdown where all we can pretty much do is sit on your butt and watch tv, it is important to move. Get the heart rate going, blood circulating and body groovin’. (Was hoping that would rhyme, poor attempt). Even if it’s something small. One of the major advantages of Social Media is the convenience, there are plenty of at home workout videos to follow on YouTube and Instagram. If working out isn’t your thing, trying some Yoga or Pilates. I just deeply encourage you to try and move about for even the smallest fraction of your day, I know it makes me feel good and productive and it is bound to do the same for you!
Social Media declutter
Sounds weird, sounds unnecessary but what you surround yourself with and the things you follow are the things your subconscious “manifests” for you. If you constantly follow negative pages or read sad quotes, chances are you aren’t going to ever really be happy because you’re always relating to the dimmer side of things. So I did a Social Media “decluttering”. Anything that was no longer serving me any positivity and inspiration I unfollowed, whether that be meme pages or quotes, people I knew or didn’t know – what’s the point? Get rid of it if you feel no sort of value coming from it. If you aren’t too keen on the unfollow bit which I admit, I was to a certain extent, the mute button is a great tool and one I take real advantage of and NOT sorry for it! You gotta be thinking about yourself when you do this, not how they might feel.
This one is still a bit new to me. I still find it a bit strange learning how to empty my thoughts and just be in the now. But I have been doing this very casually every night for 5 minutes before I go to bed and I find it really calms me and my thoughts. Meditation is also really lovely for those who suffer from anxiety and stress. It allows you to not think of the future but to remain present, focus on your breathing, learn to relax and relieve you of any stresses you’ve been holding onto for the day. You don’t need to know how to do it off the bat, if you ask me I don’t really think there is a right or wrong way to do it. You just start off small, a few minutes every day and if you want to, you can expand from there.
“You spend your entire life in your head, make sure it’s a comfortable place”
If there is one other thing I can ask you to do, is check on your friends during this time, even the ones that seem the strongest. You know how the saying goes, ‘Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about’. During this lockdown, it is easy to over think and to over feel, knowing that there is someone there for you can go a long way. Let’s try make this world a little softer for those who need it, including ourselves.