Category Archives: Self Help

Things That Help My Mental Health

Having a mental illness is exhausting and can take it out of you. This means it is important to find things you like or enjoy that can help you when you are feeling particularly bad. Below are some of the things that, over the years, I have found help me and how they’ve helped me. I haven’t included people or pets in this as they are separate things I feel deserve a blog post of their own.

1. Harry Potter: I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I love the world and the detail in it. But Harry Potter means a lot to me because of how it has helped me. I grew up as the Harry Potter books and films were being released. It helped me to fit in with friends at school. I was never very good at making friends but it gave me something to talk about and have in common with others. Harry Potter helped me feel less alone in a world that was difficult for me to navigate because of my mental illness. Harry Potter also offered me an escape from the real world and a brain that was struggling. It still does. I revisit Harry Potter again and again when times are tough.

2. Reading: I’ve already mentioned my love of Harry Potter but reading in general has always been a huge part of my life and something I love to do. It offers me an escape from the workings of my mind, and takes me into different worlds. It can also help me understand more about myself. I read a wide variety of books, encompassing non-fiction and fiction. I’ll read about philosophy and psychology, to understand about our brains and society, but I’ll also read children’s books to escape from the difficulties of the day. I just love reading.

3. Music: I don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for music. It means such a lot to me and is a big part of my life. I have found an escape in music; when things are difficult it is easy for me to lose myself in the songs. It is also a great distraction from the voice I hear; I can just out my earphones in and try to drown it out. Music has also helped me to express how I am feeling, not by playing myself, but by finding songs with lyrics that express what I am trying to say. At times I’ve found it hard to show an emotion but music has allowed me to do it in an easy way.

4. Writing: It might be hard to believe but I used to hate writing. Throughout my education I was told I was no good at it so I resisted doing it. However since leaving education I have found a love for expressing myself this way. It helps me to get things out of my head and written down in front of me to see. It has become my main way of expressing myself; I’d much rather write something down than say it. Now writing is something I am passionate about and would love to do as a career. I feel it is something I am getting better at with time.

So those are a few of the things that help me with my mental health. There are others that have had an impact too. What things have helped you with your mental health? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Distractions

Many of us who suffer with a mental illness find ourselves with intrusive thoughts. These can be thoughts of how we are not good enough, thoughts to self harm, suicidal thoughts or other unpleasant thoughts. They can be hugely distressing and difficult to manage. A big part of dealing with these thoughts is using distractions. These are things we can try to do to take away from the unpleasant thoughts. I have had to use distractions a lot to deal with intrusive thoughts and thought I would share some of my favourites.

1. YouTube – When things are particularly difficult and the thoughts are very loud, I like nothing more than to put my earphones in and watch something on YouTube to distract. It tends to take my mind away from everything I am dealing with. Some of my favourite youtubers to watch are Miss Anxiety, Tom Fletcher and Jim Chapman.

2. Origami (or any arts and crafts) – I am not the most creative person at all but have found origami a good distraction. Having to concentrate on the instructions seems to pull my brain away from the intrusive thoughts. I imagine other arts and crafts activities would have a similar effect too. Plus you will have something to show at the end of it too.

3. Playing with pets – Animals can be a great distraction. Most of the time they are calming (unless they are jumping on you while you try to write a blog post, as is currently happening). I love playing with my two cats and they always make me feel better. As did my guinea pigs when I had them. Animals are highly therapeutic.

4. Pinterest – I have a love for Pinterest and it is one of my first go tos when the thoughts are bad. I love looking up things on there and it soothes my mind. I can look up quotes, scenes from my favourite films or TV shows or just pictures of bookcases (yes it sounds sad but I find it very calming looking at pictures of books). Pinterest is amazing. Check it out.

5. Listening to music – I hear a voice on top of intrusive thoughts and when this gets really bad I distract using music. I normally have it on reasonably loud (please don’t deafen yourself) and choose something I can focus on the lyrics for and what they might mean. I find this way I am really focussing on the music. Podcasts can be useful for this too.

6. Writing – I couldn’t leave this one out. Writing can be a useful tool to distract or to get all your thoughts out of your head. It doesn’t have to be for any particular purpose. You don’t have to share it with the world. I know its not ideal for everyone and there are times when I just can’t write but finding a way to express yourself can be useful.

So those are just a few ways I distract from intrusive thoughts. I would love to hear if you have any other suggestions. Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.

Picture from Pinterest

Christmas and Mental Health 

Christmas can be a really tough time for anyone and particularly difficult if you have a mental illness. From having to deal with lots of people to the enforced happiness of the season, it can all feel too much. Therefore I thought it might be useful to share some tips and advice to help cope with the festive season.

1. It’s OK to not be OK- First of all I think this is an important thing to remember throughout the season. Just because it’s Christmas does not mean your mental illness goes away. In fact it might even be a bit worse. And that is OK. If you want to say no to something because you feel it will make things worse that is fine. Don’t feel forced into socialising if you cannot cope with it. Your health is more important.

2. Take breaks- If you do find yourself going out and socialising remember it is OK to take breaks from people. If you need to spend five minutes in the toilet that is perfectly fine. You are doing what you need to do to get through. Also if you have a lot of social occasions planned, try to plan in an evening or day for yourself to get some respite. This can help you feel able to cope more with attending. If you are staying with family, try and find a quiet space you can escape to for a bit of peace. Its OK not to want to be with people all the time.

3. Plan ahead- Christmas can be hectic with buying presents and organising social events. If you plan ahead it can make things a lot easier. For example, before you go shopping for Christmas presents maybe look online and plan what you want to buy for each person. Or plan which shops you are going to visit so you don’t feel like you are wandering around forever. Before a social event it might be useful to make a list of who will be there and who you need to buy presents or write cards for. Lists are so important to me to make me feel more on top of everything.

4. Don’t drink too much alcohol- This one might masks me sound a bit of a party pooper but drinking too much alcohol can have a depressing effect on your mood and make things seem much harder. I’m not saying don’t drink at all (although if you don’t want to drink that’s perfectly acceptable) but just drink responsibly. It can be so tempting at this time of year to drink a lot but you may end up feeling worse.

5. Remember to use self care- You are important. All of the tips so far link into looking after you but it is also important to make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well and drinking plenty of water. It can be so easy to neglect yourself during this time but you are special too. Talking can also be self care and reaching out for help if you are struggling during this time is important.

So those are some of my tips and advice for making Christmas easier. If Christmas is a struggle for you remember The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you have any tips or advice for coping with Christmas feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.

Picture from Pinterest

#365daysofselfcare

If you follow me on twitter you may know that I have been taking part in something called #365daysofselfcare set up by The Blurt Foundation. The idea is to do some form of self care every day. Today marks day 365 of the challenge for me, so I thought I would reflect back on it.

Self care is something I have always struggled with. I struggle with the idea that I am worth anything and therefore I don’t always feel I deserve to look after myself. However through this challenge I have learnt that self care is incredibly important for my mental health.

Self care makes a real difference to mental health. I was sceptical when I started the challenge. I didn’t see how doing little things could make a difference to my well being. I was wrong though. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this is a magic cure and that you will feel brilliant all the time. By doing something for myself each day I felt I was achieving something which made me feel a little better about myself as well as showing myself some self respect.

So what kind of things did I do as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge? My self care took on many forms and ranged from small things such as a nap to bigger things like a day out at a scarecrow festival. Other things I did included haircuts, clean bed sheets, eating 3 meals, drinking plenty, talking to people, playing with my pets, relaxing in my hammock and enjoying time outside.

What next? So now I’ve come to the end of the challenge I’ve been debating what to do next. I have decided that I am going to carry on with trying to do a bit of self care every day. I’m also going to still share it on twitter as I feel that recording it means I make sure I try to do something each day (I’m by no means always successful as is shown by the fact that to achieve 365 days has taken me over a year).

I would also like to say thank you to The Blurt Foundation for coming up with this challenge. It has really helped me and I would encourage everyone to give it a go. Remember you are worth looking after and deserve to respect yourself. You are worthy. Here’s to the next #365daysofselfcare.

Picture from Pinterest by introvert doodles.

Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep is a huge part of our lives and can have a massive effect on our well being, both physical and mental. Therefore I thought I would discuss some of the problems I have with sleep as well as some tips to improve sleep.

I have had all sorts of issues with my sleep over the years and, for me, it has become an indicator for when I’m struggling mentally. I can either sleep too much or struggle to get enough sleep. Both have down sides and are a symptom of depression. Currently I am struggling with getting to sleep. I take two medications at night that have a sedative effect but at the moment it is taking hours to fall asleep. This leads to me feeling constantly exhausted. This constant tiredness has an effect on my mood. When I haven’t had enough sleep I feel irritable and a lot lower. My tolerance to deal with things is much lower and I am triggered more easily. So getting enough sleep is vital to me staying mentally stable.

So what are some tips for improving sleep?

You might of heard people going on about good sleep hygiene before and dismissed it but I have found some bits of it really do work. Here are some things I have tried.

1. Getting a good bedtime routine- I find having a routine for things really helps me. I love routine in many different areas of my life so adding in a routine for bed sounded good for me. My routine involves getting ready for bed at a certain time and building in time to wind down as well as taking my night time medication. My routine is really important to me and I do struggle if its put out at all.

2. Set times to go to bed and get up in the morning – This builds on from having a bed time routine. I have found that having a regular time to go to bed and get up by has helped me to sleep better. It has also improved my mental state as I feel I’ve accomplished something when I stick to it.

3. No screens in bed – I slip up on this one quite a bit but I do find if I haven’t been using a screen in bed I sleep better. This is all to do with the blue light that screens give off. If you feel you need your screen you can get things to reduce the amount of blue light. My tablet even has an option to reduce the blue light.

4. Not napping for long in the day – This is another one I struggle with as I love a good nap. I’m not saying never nap but try to reduce the amount of time you nap for. Sometimes if I haven’t napped at all I find it harder to get to sleep but short naps are useful.

There are other things you can do to improve sleep hygiene such as exercise or reduce caffeine. These are not things I have tried so cannot really discuss. For more information check out the Mind website. And if you have any tips for a better nights sleep feel free to share in the comments.

Image from Pinterest

Holidays

Holidays are meant to be enjoyable occasions where you get away from it all, relax or take in some new sights. However if you have a mental illness they can be far from enjoyable and instead trigger negative thoughts and anxiety.

I recently went on holiday and found myself bathed in anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Therefore I thought I would write a bit about them and some of the ways I coped.

My first anxiety was about packing. I always find it highly stressful and convince myself I am going to leave something absolutely essential behind. I also worry about what I am going to wear each day as, for me, I have to have it planned in advance. To help ease this anxiety I made mental lists and set out my clothes before packing. This helped me see that I had everything and planned my outfits. You could also make actual physical lists to overcome this stress.

My next anxiety came over leaving the house. I was convinced something bad would happen to it while we were away. I have this same fear sometimes when leaving the house for a few hours but leaving it for days it was multiplied. Part of my anxiety was managed by the fact we had someone coming in to water the plants so the house wouldn’t be left for a whole week. Another way I dealt with it was checking thins were secure prior to leaving. It just gave me peace of mind.

The journey was the next anxiety provoking aspect for me, especially e fact that we would have to find places to stop along the way. This was fairly simple to overcome by lookin at the route prior to leaving and seeing what places were available.

Eating out always causes me anxiety and on holiday this is usually something we do a lot of. My anxiety centres around different things related to eating out; from finding a place to eat, to what’s on the menu, to whether we’ll get a seat. All these things race through my mind and twist my stomach in knots. One way we tackled this was to look up eating places before we went out for the day, but some of the anxiety I just had to bare and use strategies to not allow it to take over. There will always be some unknowns.

Finally, a big anxiety for me was linked to toilets. I have a huge issue with using other peoples toilets and public toilets are near on impossible. So how did I deal with being away from my own toilet for a week? I struggled as there was no easy solution and I had to force myself into the situation and use coping strategies to control the anxiety and negative thoughts.

So overall holidays offer many triggers and pressures. I hope by sharing my issues you will feel less alone with your struggles. I hope if you have a holiday planned you enjoy it but remember it is also OK to not be OK. If you have any tips for dealing with holidays feel free to share in the comments.

Birthdays

This is a personal piece. Please be trigger aware.

I recently had my birthday and it got me thinking and reflecting. So I thought I would share with you a few of my thoughts surrounding birthdays and tips for dealing with them.

I find birthdays quite stressful. I feel there is a lot of expectation associated with birthdays, especially to be happy. But when you have a mental illness this can feel impossible because, guess what world, mental illnesses don’t disappear for the day. Oh how joyous it would be if we could say to our mental illnesses “quit it, I’m having a day off for my birthday” but like I said it doesn’t work this way. I even had my support worker say I would feel better because its my birthday. How wrong she was.

How to deal with this expectation of happiness; first of all don’t put pressures on yourself (easier said than done I know) and don’t feel you need to put on a false face for others. Its your day. If you feel rubbish that’s OK. In fact it is OK to not be OK any day of the year. Just take the day as it comes.

Birthdays also have a huge expectation to socialise or do something to mark the day. If you dont want to though that is totally OK. It’s your day, no one else’s. Do what you enjoy. If you are forced into socialising though try to have something you enjoy arranged afterwards.

I find birthdays hard because I reflect and my past still bothers me intensely. For one birthday I was even sure I should not be alive to see it. If this is the case for you I first offer hugs. This is a tricky one to deal with but some self care may help. Self soothing and distractions can also be helpful.

On the whole birthdays can be times of stress (I even had a panic attack on my birthday) but there are ways to try and make em easier. If you have any tips please feel free to share them in the comments. And remember if you have a birthday it doesn’t have to be happy, sometimes you just need to take it as a day.