Saturday was World Mental Health Day, something very close to my heart. Twitter was flooded with activity from Mind, Anxiety UK and other charities, which was fantastic!
Ironically I was silent due to a recent flare up from my old friend. Gutted.
Mid October – January tend to be the darker months for me, triggered by a traumatic event that occurred over ten years ago, (sigh). My subconscious is basically a tape that resets every year. The anxiety descends like a storm and mimics symptoms of depression, (just to add a twist to the mix)! I shift between feeling incredibly tense and then numb. Oh it’s just peachy! Last night I woke up gasping for air in a panic. Whereas today my mood is so low and heavy that I may as well be a piece of concrete for all the use I am! I wanted to contribute on Saturday and post something that might help others, but to be completely honest.. I just couldn’t be arsed, I was numb. My old friend had officially arrived.
My mum asked me recently, ‘don’t you ever get tired?’ And the truth is, yes of course I do. Despite my experience I’m still only human and my body in particular has limits. Sometimes I don’t want to help myself, I want to sleep during the day, eat bad food and drink too much wine, (all of which I did).
But… As with all things, we adapt and we endure.
I’ve learned to embrace the dark months over time and now I channel my energy into preparing for them rather than running and fighting. Yes it’s going to be hard and some days will be really shit, I accept that now. But that’s ok, It’s ok to not feel ok!
I think we desperately run from negative emotions because they’re undesirable. Nobody likes to feel unhappy, stressed or afraid. We simply don’t want them. But guess what? You can’t feel happy and satisfied all of the time. It’s impossible! Sadness and fear are a part of life too, so it’s better to make room for them. Otherwise, they’ll be forced to break through the subconscious in more aggressive ways.
Everybody feels unhappy or fed up at times and I try to remember that. There really is nothing strange about it.
So here’s my fail safe ‘I feel shit’ plan that has been fine-tuned over the years:
- Embrace the feelings and allow yourself to behave badly for a few days. (To clarify I don’t mean rob a bank, or rack up a hefty credit card bill). Just roll with it for a while. Don’t force yourself to be happy or positive. If you want to lie on the couch, unplug the phone and generally be a miserable cow THEN DO IT. Maybe give the people in your life a heads up, so they are aware and give you some space. But other than that you’re good to go! **Babe if you’re reading this – tonight I need to have two malteaser bars and be in bed watching Spartacus by 8:30.. DON’T LEAVE ME!**
Embracing those negative feelings is a good thing, it’s almost like a purge. Two days will suffice.
- Once the purge is over, encourage the brain to focus again by following a ‘this is for your own good’ routine. Simple things such as getting up early (even at the weekend) and going for a brisk walk/run to start your day off, (here’s my ‘be sure to check with a doctor before starting a new exercise regime’ disclaimer). Eating well is boring but very important. The brain needs fuel to function properly, so make sure that it is well stocked with the right stuff. Fish in particular is good, along with green leafy vegetables and lots of water.
I also like to make a ‘to do’ list for the week. Completing the tasks helps to trigger emotions of satisfaction. Nothing major, just simple things such as ‘doing the weekly shop’ or ‘organising the endless payslips that dwell in your bottom draw!’
- Be social – during bad times the urge to hibernate is strong. I fantasise about returning to the couch from the moment I leave it! To a certain extent this is fine, down time is good. However, social interaction is also important because it engages the brain. A cup of tea with friends or a phone call with a family member can really lift the spirit. It also stops the subconscious from dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings.
- Stock up on rewards for the evenings – I’m all about historical documentaries. I’ve just finished Robert Liston and the history of anesthetics, but I’m always looking for something new. The evenings can be rough when you’re struggling, so be sure to have a ready supply of nice reward type things for the brain. (Not just booze and chocolate please, be more creative)! I’m also very into Top trumps at the moment and I don’t even care how sad that is!
- Perspective – It might sound naff but I try to take a step back and look at what I have in life. I’m a very lucky girl. That’s not to say I feel guilty whenever I am going through a hard time, because all suffering is valid. However, remembering the positives help to keep me on track. I write a list on my phone.
- Just keep swimming – I say this one a lot, but it’s so true. Try not to think about the future, just take everything five minutes at a time. “What if I feel like this for weeks?” “What’s the point in anything?” – It’s natural for thoughts like this to pop into the head. Don’t try and argue, just acknowledge them and simple keep going about your day. Engage in what you’re doing and stay in the moment.
Today is a purge ‘I feel shit day’ for me and I accept that. I’m going to keep my head down, catch up on admin stuff and have an early night. It’ll pass 🙂
To all those who did something for World Mental Health Day – congratulations, that’s amazing! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that there are so many of us.