Tag Archives: Mental Health Awareness Week

Body Image

This year’s mental health awareness week has the topic of body image. I was unsure how to cover this as I don’t have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. However I realised I have had my own issues with my body and my mental illness has effected how I feel about myself physically.

What is body image?

“Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society.” (Wikipedia, May 2019).

My body image

Throughout my life I have been overweight. This has led to me hating my body and the way I look. It’s eaten away at my self esteem and led to me having little confidence in myself. My body image has had a negative effect on my mental health. It hasn’t been helped by the medication I’m on leading me to gain even more weight. It has become a bit of a cycle of feeling worse so increasing meds leading to increasing weight and then feeling worse again.

People have told me that they have found me attractive or that there are nice features of me. I struggle to believe it and cannot see this at all. My body image in their eyes is skewed. I think this hasn’t been helped by the trauma I’ve been through that has led to me hating my body even more. I can only see something that has been used and abused. Something that has let me down when I’ve needed it most.

Improving body image

There are some things we can do to help our body image. They are not always easy and it won’t be a quick fix.

The first thing you can do is avoid negative media. Avoid looking at diet accounts and airbrushed models. They give us a false representation of what we feel we should look like and feed into our doubts about ourselves. Instead try and look for body positivity accounts to follow. Body Positive Panda is a great account on Instagram to follow and there are many more like her.

Another thing we can do to improve our body image is to stop comparing ourselves to others. Easier said than done, I know (I am probably one of the worst offenders for this). But we should know that we are unique.

We can also improve body image by dressing in a way that makes us feel confident. This will be different for everyone. I’m most confident in a funny t-shirt and jeans. Others may prefer a suit. It’s up to you.

Practicing self care can also help with body image. Seeing ourselves as someone who is worth treating nicely and respecting our bodies will have a positive impact.

For more information on body image check out National Eating Disorders who have lots of information (you don’t need to have an eating disorder to have a problem with body image). Feel free to share your experiences and tips for better body image in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Coping With Stress

Stress is a part of everyday life but when you have a mental illness it can be more difficult to deal with. We all know what it is like to feel stressed and to deal with the pressures of life. There is, however, a link between mental illness and stress. Stress can cause mental illness but also mental illness can cause stress. Therefore it is important to be aware of the signs of stress and how to cope with it.

Stress can give us both mental and physical signs to look out for. You might feel irritable, anxious, depressed or like your thoughts are racing. Your behaviour might change and you might find yourself finding it hard to make decisions, snapping at people or unable to concentrate. The physical signs of stress can include headaches, indigestion, feeling sick, being tired all the time or having problems with sleep. For more information on the signs of stress check out the Mind website here.

How can I cope with stress?

Below are a few ways that I have found helpful when trying to cope with stress. Hopefully they will be useful.

1. Have a routine: Routines really help me when I am feeling stressed. They mean I make sure essential things get done and I can build into them other things that I need to do. Routines make me feel safe and secure. However, try to be flexible with your routine otherwise it can create more stress if things don’t go to plan. It is ok if routines have to change. It is not the end of the world though it can feel like it.

2. Learn to say NO: This is something I find incredibly hard to do but it is so important. It is ok to say no to things in order to give yourself time to look after you. Self care is important and the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. However, I understand that it can be difficult as you don’t want to let people down or feel left out. The truth is you will let more people down and miss out more of you keeping saying yes and then the stress gets too much.

3. Try to be organised: This is easier said than done sometimes but being organised can really help. When I plan things it really helps to reduce my anxiety and I would be lost without my phone to help me. Having everything written down and recorded helps me to feel more at ease and I stress much less about an event if I know what I am doing. 

4. Talk to others: The phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings very true at times of stress. If you talk to others about how you are feeling you may find they can help you. And even if they can’t it can be highly therapeutic to get how you are feeling off your chest. You might be surprised and find others are feeling the same which can make you feel less isolated and alone. I

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol: It can be tempting when stressed to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This is very rarely a good idea and will more often end up making you feel worse. Try instead to eat well and drink plenty of water. This can help you feel much better.

These are just a few ways to cope with stress that I have found useful. For more information on stress check out the Mind website. If you have any ways that have helped you cope with stress feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Relationships and Mental Health (#MHAW16)

The topic for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is relationships. Here I look at different relationships and the impact my mental illnesses have had on them.

The main relationships I am focussing on are my friendships. I am lucky to have quite a few good friendships, but this has not always been the case. When I was at school I found friendships hard to make and even harder to maintain. I had friends but I found myself feeling like an outsider among them. This, I believe, was made worse by the fact that I was already beginning to suffer with a mental illness, that led to me feeling completely isolated.

As I have got older my friendships have changed. I have friends who I went to university with who have only ever known me with mental illness and I think this has had an impact on our friendship. They accept me for the person I am, not the person I once had to pretend to be. They are truly understanding of me. I feel very lucky to have these friendships.

Other friendships that I hold dear have arisen from having a mental illness. These are other people I know because we share the fact we have a mental illness. I have met them either through friends or via peer support networks. They are friendships that again mean the world to me as these people understand without explanation just what is happening in my head. They are friends I can turn to in the bad times who will not judge or dismiss me (I’m lucky that some of my university friends are like this too). They make up a great proportion of my support network.

These relationships are hugely important to me. They are like an extension of my family. But for me they can be difficult to maintain. Having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) comes with difficulty maintaining stable relationships. Therefore I have to work twice as hard (or so it feels) at looking after these friendships. I can become very intense and feel paranoid in a relationship and so have to control these emotions in myself in order to maintain a healthy friendship. I’m lucky to have friends who appear to understand that sometimes I need more reassurance surrounding a friendship.

Overall I think friendships are hugely important in my life and in maintaining better mental health. Friendships can be stressful for someone with BPD or any mental illness, in my opinion, but they are also very worthwhile. I’d like to say a big thank you to all my friends for being so great.

Thank you!