Mental Health is a big part of my life. Although my current day job is doing one to one care for several people in the community, I’m actually a qualified mental health nurse. It is a job that I absolutely loved, but one that drained me mentally. I found it exceptionally hard to work with people who have such intense mental health needs, day in and day out. Personally, I have had bouts of depression on and off since I was 19. There have been days (and weeks and months) that I have struggled through, but there have been vast periods of time when I have been as perfect as I can be! If you know me in real life, then you will know just how much I love to talk. I have a particular love for things that we ‘shouldn’t’ talk about like our mental health. How can we normalise things if we only speak about them behind closed doors? How can we remove the stigma if we don’t let people know that it is okay not to be okay?
6 Ways I Stay Mentally Healthy
I was on Instagram last year and I came across a post from thepsychologymum. She had been running a campaign with Emma from the mumologist about what we do that keeps us mentally healthy. I loved the idea behind this because not only are people discussing what keeps them mentally healthy, but they were also discussing their mental health issues. This is just wonderful because the more we speak about it, the more we normalise mental health.
Learning more about the #howcanihelp campaign has spurred me on to write this post. Although I have been relatively well in recent years, I have struggled with my mental health over the last 18 months through anxiety and hormonal issues due to Hashimoto’s disease.
Time For Me
Since becoming a mum, I’ve found it exceptionally difficult to find time for myself. I am sure we all have. Everything comes before me. Work, the children, the house, my husband, the animals and then if there is time left over, I may get 5 minutes peace on the toilet. Two years ago I suffered from anxiety for the very first time in my life and it was absolutely abhorrent. However, a large part of it was my own fault for not taking time for me. I was working myself into the ground. I think I worked 18 hours a day for 7 weeks straight before I was forced to take time off. I was completely unable to function. I was desperately missing Alex and Emma – who I hadn’t seen for more than an hour a day in 3 months and I couldn’t recall the last time I saw Michael. I was crippled by the fear of going outside and literally had to be dragged out of bed in the morning. Among the many changes I made in my life at that time, was buying 2 colouring books on Amazon and making sure that I had a few minutes a day to spend colouring. It wasn’t anything profound, but it was my time and it helped. When I feel that things are getting too much for me, I find just a few minutes where I can be on my own, gather my thoughts and carry on with the rest of the day.
I need the endorphins that are released during exercise to keep me sane. I am 100% certain that I get depressed because I am genetically predisposed to it. There is a chemical issue in my brain that causes it to happen and I find I can counteract it well through regular exercise. Walking is my exercise of choice and it is fantastic because it combines several of my favourite things, the sun, the beach (as 9/10 this is where I walk) and time to myself.
Spending Time With Alex and Emma
There is nothing in this world that makes me feel better as well as spending time with my two favourite people does. No matter how bad I am feeling they always make me smile and laugh.
It is good to talk. I find that when I am at my lowest, I don’t want to speak to anyone and I don’t want to speak about why I am feeling so bad, but as I improve I slowly talk more. It’s important to remember that when we speak about what is causing us to feel down, we find the ability to realise that things aren’t as bad as we think they are. Locking our feelings up in our mind causes them to fester and get worse. Getting them out in the open and finding a solution for each problem, one at a time can work wonders. It makes that mountain seem that much easier to climb.
I have been on medication for depression on and off since I was 19. There have been large periods of time over the last 11 years that I have been completely symptom-free. But when I’m not feeling well, I have no choice but to take antidepressants. I’m a big fan of the use of antidepressants in conjunction with therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise and working with mental health professionals such as psychologists and your GP. Promotion of mental health is becoming more and more mainstream but there is still a huge stigma attached to taking medication for depression. If you had an infection, you would take antibiotics, if you broke your leg you would have a cast put on. We must stop the stigma associated with treating anxiety and depression with medication.
This is an app I have been testing out over the last month. It’s safe to say that I love it. I have a full review of the app here.
These are just a few of the ways that I (try to) stay well. I am not good at doing them altogether or all the time, but at least now I have a toolkit of activities that I know will help me feel better if I do them regularly. How do you stay mentally well? Are there certain activities that you do? What is your failsafe method of putting a smile on your face?