So, if this is your first time reading my blogs, I am a young lady suffering from depression and anxiety. Every day I have to wake up and face this problem, and I’ve finally got to a point now where I can understand it and even begin to control it. This blog in particular is for the benefit of others suffering the same or similar mental health issues, and I hope it can be some aid for knowing what helps and what to avoid.
What Helps Me
- Long, hot showers and baths – They seem to relax me and allow me to zone out for half an hour (yes, literally half an hour!)
- Yoga and meditation – Not only good for fitness but for mental health. Yoga involves a lot of stretching and connecting with the earth. It feels awesome for the body and I try and do it as often as I can! After this, I normally partake in a short meditation session to create space in my mind and feel ready for the day ahead.
- Sleep – a good amount of sleep is essential, but not too much! Overloading yourself with rest can make you feel more tired.
- Hydrotherapy – going swimming or a quick dip in a jacuzzi completely makes me feel relaxed and enables me to forget about the troubles in my life. Plus, floating in water makes me feel weightless against the gravity of the world.
- Heat therapy – I’m not sure if this is a real thing, but I’ve named it heat therapy. For me it involves going in a sauna, putting a hot flannel over my face, or simply wrapping myself up in a blanket. It makes me feel warm and comfortable, and seems to positively change my perspective.
- Healthy eating – Consuming healthy foods are no doubt going to make a difference. After a few nights of takeaways and rubbish food, I really feel quite groggy and tired. My mood does seem to lift after a week of cramming fruit and veg!
- Keep busy – I like scheduling a good amount of things into my week as it makes me feel productive and I develop a sense of achievement. However, I avoid completely filling up my diary because I find I get tired and irritated if I do too much. Also, if I don’t accomplish something that week I would feel like a failure. Always keep your goals within reach!
- Talking – By talking to my boyfriend or whoever I’m with, I can share what I’m feeling to take the weight off my shoulders. Honesty is always the best policy in any relationship, and you may find they will do things to make your life just a little bit easier. #smallthings
- Music therapy – For many, this will include listening to music. But as a singer-songwriter, I always take it a step further and write my feelings down as lyrics. Once I finish writing lyrics or creating a song, I can then use this as a form of communication to people as everything I want to say is always in the song. (If you fancy checking out one of my songs based on depression, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI7YIMlxrzc )
What Hinders Me
- Hunger – Feed yourself up! It always makes me feel ready to continue my day, and I quite frankly get really stroppy without food!
- Exhaustion – I need at least 8 hours of sleep to make me feel human, although this might be different for everyone. I sometimes find naps in the afternoon can help if I’m feeling a little unrested one day. As I mentioned above though, over-sleeping can make you feel really tired too so find your balance.
- Stress – if something is stressing me out with my work or home-life, this can lead to over-thinking, worrying and less sleep. With my anxiety too, it can be a bit of a nightmare so I avoid as many stressful situations as possible.
- Boredom – Again, just sitting around not doing much causes me to overthink about things that really aren’t worth worrying about. It additionally decreases my sense of achievement, so I always try and keep busy, even if it is doing some colouring or painting while watching TV.
- Feeling unclean – Just go and shower girl.
- Feeling cold – My mood is especially low if I’m cold. Rather than turning the heating up, I like to wrap myself up in a blanket, put on an extra jumper or do a short burst of exercise to feel nice and warm!
- Leaving my boyfriend – Every time I see my other half, I dread the part where I have to leave him. I’m sure this is mostly to do with anxiety, but I haven’t yet figured out how to solve this one.
- Changes of plan – I seem to really kick off if something has been planned for ages and it all falls through. For some reason I can’t get my head around the fact that that event isn’t happening anymore and start questioning “What if?” However, this has recently got better, and I have sort of naturally become more positive about these situations. When this happens, I am now able to cope with it by saying “Okay, not to worry, I’ve just gained some extra time for myself now.”
Remember, I’m not at all a professional; I’m just a regular girl broadcasting her experiences. It may not help everyone suffering with mental health problems, but if it does help just one person I have done what I set out to do with this blog.
Thanks for reading.
So as this is my second blog, I wanted to address something early on in the process that is quite crucial to many people experiencing depression, anxiety or a number of other mental health issues. It is something that can completely crush you and really can make you feel like your life isn’t worth living – it is stigma. The stigma surrounding mental health has become so widespread that “almost 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems say they face stigma and discrimination as a result.”
My role today is to decrease this stigma by telling you (as friends, family and work colleagues of probably at least 1 person with a mental health issue) my top tips of what to say and what not to say. Read carefully as you could be using these tips on February 4th! (more information below)
- One Question – “How are you?” This is a great open question to start with as it allows the person to judge whether they would like to talk in-depth, briefly, or not at all about the matter in hand. This is a really good one if you’ve not encountered a situation like this before, and me being someone who has received and dodged quite a few of these questions, I think it is a safe way to go if the person may not feel too comfortable. In any case, reassure them and let them know you’ll be there for them.
- Time, Place and Space – Allocate some time for talking with them on your own and in a quiet space away from others to make them feel more comfortable. They may be more likely to open up to you this way and you’ll be surprised how much a cup of tea, a smile and a listening ear can do.
- Text Them – even without being with that person physically, they can still feel involved and loved with just a simple text message. Sometimes when you feel down, you don’t necessarily want to be social, and I’ve always found it really helps if you can have a source of outlet without worrying too much about speaking in person. Also it is less pressure on the receiving end as you can think about what to say before you reply.
- “Anything I can do?” – This one is for close friends, relatives and partners of the suffering person. You might realise that a mental health problem can affect many aspects of life, and without the help of people around them, said person may struggle to complete everyday tasks and live a normal life. Make it easier for them by asking if there’s anything you can do each time you contact them – buying them a few necessities may be the one thing that keeps them going today; or offer to take them out for some fresh air as they may just want company. (This is named the #smallthings by Time To Change.)
Moving onto some of the things definitely NOT to say:
- “Snap out of it.” – This one reverberates through my brain and knocks my confidence every time I think about it. I will not discuss why, but this phrase has definitely been felt by me. One cannot simply snap out of a mental health problem – it is impossible. It is like telling someone to defy gravity with their bare hands.
- “It’s just a phase; you’ll grow out of it.” – This is probably a common phrase heard by teenagers experiencing mental health concerns. Some mental illnesses may be seen by parents as ‘something that happens in the teen years’, however they can turn out to be pretty serious disorders, so never turn a blind eye.
- “Don’t worry about it; calm down.” – Especially for people suffering with anxiety, these phrases are a big no-no. Their brains are wired to worry and they can’t just stop being anxious. You might as well ask them to walk on water.
- “I know how you feel; I get like that too.” – Most of the time, you definitely don’t! Unless you have been diagnosed, you can’t really start comparing your feelings to anyone else’s. And if you have been diagnosed too, it may be helpful to talk to each other about it, but remember we are all unique in our experience.
- “Cheer up!” For them, being happy is a battle, so how can you expect them to suddenly cheer up and feel that everything is dandy with the world when they are suffering feelings that are so numbing and distressing?
- Also, that joke you started about me being lazy and not doing enough? That made me feel crap. As someone who suffers depression, it is literally a war with my brain to be able to get out of bed in the morning, so if I manage to get anything else done at all that day, it is a miracle.
If you’ve managed to get this far into the blog, listen up! It’s your turn to make a difference. Thursday 4th February 2016 marks this year’s ‘Time To Talk’ day, hosted by Time To Change. It’s your chance to help us end mental health stigma, so sit down with work colleagues, family and friends, have a cuppa and TALK. I will be encouraging this throughout my workplace, hoping that people will get involved knowing how much it means to me. Help end the mental health stigma so sufferers like me won’t have to endure the negative impacts that stigma creates.
More information at www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday
 Statistic from www.time-to-change.org.uk – a brilliant non-profit organisation that is helping beat the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.