When you see the words ‘mental health’ what thoughts and images are conjured in your mind?
Do you feel a tightness in your chest? Maybe you immediately recall a memory or a time where you or a loved one had difficulty with mental health. Perhaps you see the words and it seems like a clinical out of date term.
What does the term ‘mental health’ encompass for you?
For the last few months my mental health has taken a noise dive down a shitty toilet. My anxiety has heightened and depression comes in waves. I am not sleeping and the bags that have puffed up under my eyes are pillowy enough for a small child to slumber peacefully on.
But this isn’t new to me. Anxiety, and to an extent depression, has always been living within me. I was an anxious child who often had difficulty sleeping and needed a rigid routine and extensive control over her environment to feel settled. My adolscent years where dotted with anxious spells and as I approached my late teens my mind crumbled under the weight and left me with a severe eating disorder.
Anxiety has constantly been a little badger sitting in my chest making my heart pound and my blood turn electric. However, this little badger is not out of control, he does not rule my life and he is able to be silenced.
So how in the hell do you tell the badger of anxiety to shut the fuck up?
Well, it’s different for everyone, but here’s how I have been able to sooth myself in times of mental difficulty:
- Positive affirmations. When you’re mentally unwell it’s so damn easy to get caught catastrophising and negative self talk. Often when I’m really anxious I find it incredibly difficult to sleep and as I get more sleep deprived and tired and frustrated I become really nasty toward myself. When I find myself doing this I’ve learned to take some really long and deep breaths and say things like ‘it’s ok, everyone has trouble sometimes’, ‘you are doing your best and that is all anyone can ask’, ‘there are people who love you and will support you no matter what you are going through’.
- Meditation. Guided meditations are the fucking best (in my humble opinion). MARC at UCLA do great ones and I usually listen to one before bed each night to relax.
- Routine. A bed time routine to relax and unwind and let go of the stresses that each day brings is essential even for those not suffering from mental health issues. But as well as this a regular eating pattern of good nutritious meals and also regular exercise are clinically proven to help with depression and anxiety.
- Ask for help. IF YOU NEED HELP GET IT. DO NOT WAIT. GET ON THE PHONE TO A GP OR AN APPROPRIATE PROFESSIONAL AND TELL THEM YOU NEED HELP NOW. I honestly can not stress this enough.
- Self care. You always deserve love, kindness and compassion, but when you’re struggling these things need to be made a priority. Bathe every day and take time washing your hair, make your favourite food, watch a great film, listen to your favourite album, buy some flowers for your room. Whatever you can do to make yourself feel a bit more loved, secure and appreciated is worth doing.
- Talk. Talk to someone. A friend, a parent, a guardian, a psychologist. Whoever you feel comfortable with. Remember when you were younger and everyone said ‘a problem shared is a problem halved?’ well they’re not wrong. Talking to someone and creating a support network means you are not isolating yourself to struggle alone. Community is so helpful in a time of crisis. You may even be surprised to hear how many people you know have also suffered with mental health problems.
Mental health issues are really crap and they can feel like a sadistic form of torture that only Donald Trump could dream up. But you can survive and you can come out the other end stronger.
If you’re suffering right now I’m sending a big warm internet hug your way.