Tag Archives: Sleep

Come Outside

If you’re an adult of a certain age in the UK you will remember a programme called Come Outside, which had a lady going on adventures in an aeroplane with her dog Pippin (not an animation, a real woman, plane and dog!). It was prime viewing if you were off school sick. You may be wondering why I bring this up but I’ve realised something lately: being outside is good for my mental health and so I should of taken Auntie Mabel’s advice a long time ago and gone outside.

There are a number of reasons I found going outside difficult. Sometimes even my own back garden felt off limits. My anxiety around being in public places was the worst part. I found going out alone difficult and things got gradually worse until I couldn’t use public transport (my only means of transport at the time) or be alone outside the house apart from attending my medical appointments and even then I needed music to cope. The idea of going for a walk was horrifying. At one point agoraphobia was added to my diagnosis.

The thing is, with some changes that have enabled me to get outside more often, I have realised that being outside actually aids my mental health. I’m very lucky to live in a house with a back garden. Although at times it has been hard to get into it, I’m glad I managed to work through it to get out there. I now hate it when it rains as it doesn’t feel pleasant going into the garden and I can’t sit out there. I’m no gardener but I do find mowing the grass therapeutic. I put my music on and enjoy seeing the finished lawn with its lines (is it even a lawn if it doesn’t have lines?).

So what got me into the garden? The answer: Guinea Pigs. I got myself two Guinea Pigs. And due to my mum’s stance that she wasn’t having them in the house they lived in the garden (in the shed or garage in the winter). This meant I had to go outside every day to them. At first it was really tough. I’m not the greatest with dirt and it was an adjustment to dealing with it every day. But I loved my boys so much that the challenges were fighting through.

The problem was though that they didn’t get me away from home on my own. This was something that got harder and harder. Things went even further back when my Guinea Pigs passed away. Going outside got harder again. Then I started slowly in the summer trying to sit and read out in the garden. This slowly got easier, especially without the dirt aspect and having my cats sit with me helped. But again I wasn’t really leaving home alone apart from attending medical appointments and I had started to go to a group at my local Mind which had been recommended by my psychiatrist. Public transport was a definite no and walking alone was also something I didn’t feel I could do.

The biggest change for me came with another new addition to the family: a puppy. Suddenly I had a little thing that needed me to go out. To begin with it was a case of going out with someone else to walk him, but this was still progress, I was out walking. As he got older I felt more confident taking him out on my own. I didn’t feel alone as he was with me and he’d shown he was protective of me. He made my confidence grow. We also took him to puppy school. Again, to begin with, I couldn’t go on my own. It was hard coping with new people but he was my focus in the classes so that helped.

Now I walk him regularly on my own and enjoy it instead of constantly being anxious. Don’t get me wrong I still get anxious at times going out with him. Also in puppy school I now take him inside alone (my dad waits outside). I’ve also started doing some voluntary work which involves going into new situations on my own regularly. Without my puppy I couldn’t of done it. Without going outside I couldn’t of done it. Not everything is perfect. I still can’t use public transport or go to busy places alone but I’m making progress.

So what are the benefits of going outside? There are many benefits to mental health as well as physical health. These include:

  • Stress relief
  • Increased concenteation
  • Better short term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Sharper thinking and creativity

Getting outside makes me feel more able to deal with things and to even escape my thoughts for a while.

So even if it’s just sitting outside for 5 minutes or standing in your doorway, getting outside can help. Take slow steps to get there. Don’t over do it. And don’t punish yourself if you can’t do it straight away. For more information on going outside check out these links on the Mind website which detail different aspects on getting outside.

If you have any advice please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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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