Unfortunate weekend, I had so many things that I wanted to do; blog posts, film, meet people, clean the flat. But with the exception of watching Poldark, I actually did f**k all. Instead, I spent two days in a state of fatigue, sadness, and guilt. I just wanted to stay in bed and hide, whilst at the same time, I hated myself for being so lazy. Like a weird co-dependency.
Picture this scene:
Brain: I have so much to do, why can’t I start?
Anxiety: But you’re tired. You don’t feel right. You won’t be able to concentrate if you’re tired.
Brain: Ok, so maybe I’ll have a nap
Anxiety: Isn’t that a waste of time?
Brain: Yes. Oh God why do I feel so low? I can’t focus on anything.
Anxiety: You should feel ashamed, you’re a lazy bitch. You say you want to achieve things, but you’re a complete f**k up.
Brain: Ok I’ll do something. Where should I start?
Anxiety: Is there really any point? It’s 3pm now anyway. You’ve wasted the day.
This episode continued all weekend. Back and forth.
Anxiety isn’t just physical symptoms – heart palpitations, shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing.. (I could go on), although they do claim most of the attention. Anxiety is also a bully and like all bullies it hurls emotional abusive at every opportunity. This, in turn, affects the mood. Remember, if your mood is already low then you’re more susceptible to the bully and it mainly likes to point out how shit you are, and sabotage any attempts to be productive.
Now that the winter months have hit, things are just that little bit harder. Getting up, showering, writing essays, working, being social. Never underestimate how much the dark and cold impact your mental health. It catches me off guard every year. My anxiety encourages me to curl up with it “what’s the point?” Is the general vibe. When I think of ways to make myself feel better such as the gym or ringing a friend, “what’s the point? What’s the point? What’s the point?” On loop. Bizarre that even though you understand how to help yourself you still can’t summon the energy to do it.
Unfortunately, the dark and the winter are not going anywhere and I can’t control this. So instead I try to focus on the things that I can control:
- Thought buster – if you notice a particular thought buzzing through your head on loop then write it down. You won’t want to, but do it. E.g. “I’m a lazy bitch” or “I’m a waste of space.” These thoughts are completely useless and have no purpose. So get them out of your head and into the cold light of day. When you look at the words remind yourself that “this is the bully talking. It’s trying to effect my mood. I’m not going to engage with it. Nothing that it says is true”
- Curl up for a while – everyone is allowed to feel shit. It doesn’t make you a weak person. Sometimes I like to give my low mood centre stage in order to exorcise it. So stay in your pyjamas all day if you need to, eat greasy takeaway food and don’t leave the couch. Feel shit, it’s ok.
- Get up – One shit day is fine, two max. However, after that, it’s important to break the cycle and start doing things. It won’t be easy and the bully will start up again with its taunts “what’s the point?” Or “This isn’t going to help,” but simply ignore it and keep moving. Have a shower and get dressed, even if you’re not going anywhere. Cooking is good too, as it engages the brain. Wrap up and go for a walk, both fresh air and exercise are good for the mood.
- Lists – If you struggle to focus then make a list of things to do. Sounds basic, but it can be very effective. Lists are not just for the office, they can be used at home too. Take five minutes and put one together.
- Don’t be alone – As someone who has Social Anxiety Disorder, I never thought I’d be recommending this! Yet, if you’re going through a hard time and feel low then don’t be alone for too long. Humans are social creatures and being around people is not only a distraction, it boosts the mood. Even going to a local coffee shop for half an hour will suffice. Or if you can’t bear to leave the house then ring a family member or friend. Don’t stay on your own with only the bully for company.
- Five minutes at a time – Try not to focus on tomorrow or even that evening. It’s ridiculously hard I know and you’ll slip up, but that’s ok. Just take a deep breath and start again. Take things five minutes at a time and keep moving.
- The facts – I can’t tell you exactly when you’ll feel better, but I can assure you that you will… because like the good stuff, nothing lasts forever. Take comfort in this. The mood will lift and you will feel better.
Everybody experiences the winter blues, (as many unhelpful people have informed me over the years). It’s true and I respect that. But if you have a mental health condition then it hits much freaking harder. For those who are suffering, I have so much empathy.
Keep moving and it will get better.
One week today is the Mind Media Awards and two weeks today my book will be published! 🙂 I’ll be doing lots of publicity stuff and there’ll be some exciting competitions, so be sure to keep an eye on my blog and Twitter. xx