Wednesday, 13 December 2017

SELF CARE for difficult days // Mental Health Talk

Hello lovely people,

Today's post is all about mental health, specifically how to look after your mental health in times of distress.

I have seen so many articles/books/television programmes all raving about the positive benefits of exercise and 'health foods' on poor mental health. For now, I want to leave those things to one side and focus on a the largely ignored topic of self-care, i.e. the art of looking after yourself. While healthy eating and exercise can definitely form a part of self-care, often the advice we receive is so entrenched in diet and weight loss culture that focusing on those aspects can end up being detrimental to our health. Besides, what really counts is your relationship with food and exercise (more on that in an upcoming post).

When your mental health is tip-top, it is much easier to determine what kind of activities will fall under 'self-care'. However, when you're suffering from mentally-ill health, self-hatred can often lead to making choices which may provide temporary relief but will ultimately cause greater damage. So, check in with yourself before before taking action to discover what it is you really need. There isn't a universal solution that works for everybody but by being open and curious you can begin to create your own self-care plan.

Amazing artwork from The Latest Kate - check her out here

Here are my top 10 ideas to get you started:

1. Challenge your thoughts

"your beliefs become your thoughts
your thoughts become your words
your words become your actions 
your actions become your habits 
your habits become you values
your values become your destiny"
- Gandhi

Becoming aware of your thoughts is so important when your mental health is at a low point as they are often indicative of negative beliefs about yourself that perpetuate self-hatred. Notice how you speak to yourself. Ask yourself these questions: Would you say those things to a friend? What kind of belief underlies that thought? Is it true?

2. Be kind to yourself

Having problems with your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. In the same way that having problems with your physical health is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not your fault. It does not make you a bad person. Showing yourself kindness during times of stress can be so challenging, since our internal monologue can often leave us feeling unworthy of kindness.

3. Say NO

Seriously, this is a great one. You do not have to do anything that is harmful to your mental health. You do not have to spend time with people who are harmful to your mental health (at the very least you do not have to spend any more time with them than is absolutely necessary).You are not letting anyone down by making yourself a priority. Knowing your limits and respecting your boundaries is a valuable skill. Self-preservation is key.

4. Let yourself rest

Your worth is not determined by your productivity. You are not lazy for resting when you need it. You are not selfish for taking time out. You do not have to earn rest. Give yourself the break(s) you need and it will pay off.

5. Know that you are not alone

Everybody struggles with their mental health at times, and that's OK.You are not unusual for having a tough time. In fact, it's part of being human. Sharing these experiences is what allows us to empathise with each other.

6. Do not compare your pain

Please do not do this. There is no global competition to see who is the saddest person alive, so really comparing your pain to someone else's is a pointless activity. Everybody's experience of pain is unique and equally valid.

7. Censor your life

Do not watch TV programmes that makes you feel rubbish. Do not listen to music that leaves you feeling down. Take a break from social media: you do not need to know about that person's 'gap year of a lifetime' or see sweaty gym pictures captioned '#bodygoals' (*cue eye roll*). Or even better, delete that shit out of your life.

8. Journal it out

Write down how you're feeling, in your own words. It can be as many or as few words as you like; remember, you are the only person who is going to see this. Often when we feel overwhelmed by our emotions, we don't know where to turn. Journaling can help us keep in touch with our thoughts and feelings which can alleviate the feeling of being 'out of control' and provide mental clarity.

9. Get inside that comfort zone

When we're affected by mentally ill health, we need to keep ourselves safe. This is not the time for additional challenges. What comforts you? What makes you feel safe? Think about all the senses - perhaps burn a candle, wrap yourself in a blanket, drink hot chocolate, watch your favourite movie...just do whatever helps you recharge. There is a time and place for heroism; now is the time to surrender to getting well again.

10. Breathe in some fresh air

If possible, get some fresh air. If you feel able to go for a walk - fantastic, if not - just try and get a bit of daylight and take a few deep breathes of fresh air. It will ease stuffy, claustrophobic feelings.

I hope you've enjoyed this post and that it has inspired you to make self-care a priority.

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

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