Mental Health Awareness Week Post

I haven’t written a blog post in two weeks.  To be honest up until yesterday I’d also not done a podcast for two weeks.  I’ve worked (many many hours overtime) and I’ve done what I needed to do and I’ve trained a bit but apart from that I’ve really not done much.

I’ve found lockdown hard, I live alone and I’m used to be being very active, very busy and seeing lots and lots of people every day.   I’m lucky I’ve continued with most of my work (obviously not teaching classes) so I’ve been able to keep busy.  Busy only helps for so long though and whilst to start with being even busier at work probably helped the days go quickly it’s built up to the point of feeling really quite overwhelming in the last couple of weeks.  That’s fine, it happens, I knew that as Social Distancing started to ease I’d end up being under pressure for a while.  Equally knowing stress is coming and so not feeling overwhelmed by it don’t necessarily go hand in hand.   I think there’s a lot of guilt in the current world as well, not intentionally, but a feeling that you should always know there are people worse off than you.  My nan passed away during Lockdown (suspected but not confirmed Covid case) and you find yourself saying well she was old and had underlying health conditions and it’s happened to lots of families, it’s almost like you feel you need to underplay a loss that at any other time you’d acknowledge it for what it is, the loss of a family member.  I think in general I’ve felt ok but overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ in the last couple of weeks.  I wouldn’t say I’ve been depressed or suffering with anxiety (I’ve suffered from both and I know the difference for me in those to what I’ve felt like in Lockdown) but I’m also not loving this and I’m tired and struggling to sleep and restless and in a kind of limbo.

I can imagine that is how lots of people feel right now to be honest.

So that’s why I’ve just not really blogged recently, because some things needed to be dropped to stay sane.  But this week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I felt like that deserved a blog, especially right now, especially in light of what I’ve just shared – right now a lot of people’s mental health are potentially fragile, and a lot of people who have perhaps never struggled before are starting to feel strain.

There is always a theme to Mental Health Awareness Weeks and this time it is Kindness.

I feel like this period has shown lots of incidences of kindness but equally a lot of judgement too.  I’ve seen more posts of Facebook than I’d have like to see judging other people for their actions, their opinions, their geographical location!  There’s been a lack of appreciation that what might seem bearable for those with families, gardens, nice local areas to walk in has probably been quite horrible for those alone, isolated, ill, in tiny flats with no outside space in inner cities.  There’s been at times I think, a lack of ability for people to express things without being jumped on or attacked or a lack of willingness to listen and consider another point of view.

Kindness takes lots of forms.  It of course means showing appreciation to those doing great things, it also means understanding other’s situations, appreciating that those who have views right now that you might think are terrible may have those views for reasons you know nothing about, it means accepting that what might be manageable for you might not be for others and it means being kind to yourself as well as others.  It means sometimes accepting you were wrong, or that you weren’t necessarily wrong but neither was the other person.  Being kind to yourself doesn’t just mean doing nice things like having a bubble bath or a face mask, it can mean cutting yourself some slack, it can mean doing practical things to help improve your mood (for instance for me I always feel better if I’ve trained, especially if I get a run outside, it’s a complete game changer).

It’s so complex because you need to look after yourself but you equally want to look out for others.  I’ve seen quotes about checking in with people during this pandemic and quotes about those around you owing you nothing and of course both are true.  It’s a balancing act, but then it always is and our mental health relies on us taking time for ourselves but actually as we are social creatures at heart it does also rely on us interacting with others- and checking in on others can have as positive impact on your own mental health as having someone check in on you.

I feel like when week’s like this happen it’s so easy to post a meme or a quote when actually these topics are so complex and have so many points of view to them, often contradictory but it’s good that they are covered and that it creates conversations because just raising awareness is a great step in promoting better mental health.

I know this blog has been jumbled and that’s probably a good reflection of how organised my thoughts are at present so I’m not even going to try and tidy it, I’m just going to post it as it is.

Be Kind To Yourself

What have you been doing the last couple of weeks?  Feeling super positive and bettering yourself?

I’ve spoken to lots of people who feel a little rubbish after watching other people doing all kind of things in lockdown (fun things, productive things) because they’ve just about got through the days.

Equally I know there are people out there who are pushing on with projects and trying to make the best of the situation but are finding that even after having an ‘on paper great day’ they still feel a bit rubbish and don’t know why because they are doing everything ‘right’.

Honestly, I feel like a bit of a fraud at times right now asking how others are or trying to support them if they need it, when I myself don’t feel like I’ve got it all together right now.  I don’t know if that’s me being silly or something other people are feeling too.

Then I think we all feel a little like we maybe don’t have the right to complain.

Maybe you’ve had one of these thoughts:

Struggling to work from home?  Well at least I have a job. Furloughed and in limbo / bored?  At least you’re getting some income in?  Self employed and lost your income?  You have the opportunity to still earn or look for other income streams.  Struggling with home schooling?  You have family around you and can spend time with your kids. Student, no income, education in limbo? You will still be able to get your degree and maybe be doing lectures remotely.  We should grateful.  And yes of course we should.  In the grand scheme of things staying indoors to keep safe is probably one of the easiest sacrifices a country has ever asked of it’s citizens in times of emergency.  But all of these concerns above and many more are really valid, it’s ok for us to feel stress and upset over them.

I think right now there is a pressure on anyone who admits to struggling with what is going on in their life that they should look on the bright side as they will be better off than someone.  Of course that’s true.  It’s always true not just in this situation but in general, but what is different about this situation is that we don’t really have much control over it and it all happened so suddenly it’s a lot for any of us to process and deal with.

So I think it’s important right now to go easy on yourself.  If you manage to progress your business or learn a new skill be proud of that but also know that doesn’t mean you can’t have bad days.  If you get through it by being kind to yourself and doing what needs doing then that is ok too.  If some days are good and others are bad or if you are there for people even though you don’t have the answers all of that is alright.

It’s hard at the best of times to admit in public that you might be struggling with your mental health, even now there is much more coverage.  This situation has bought mental health much more to the forefront of peoples minds but also doesn’t make it any less difficult to say when you might need a bit of support.

I’ve written and podcasted a lot about how you can work on you fitness and nutrition during this time.  For some people perhaps I myself am making them feel bad if they really don’t want to think about that right now (you don’t have to by the way but if you want to and it helps why not).

There was a lot of talk just a month ago about being kind and we need to remember to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others right now and do what you need to do to make yourself feel ok.

What Day Is It?

What day is it? Have you started to lose track a bit?

I’m still working so week v weekend still has some structure but not teaching classes means I’m a bit lost on the actual day. Normally the class I’ve taught that morning indicates the day of the week!

It becomes really hard to think of new things to write about, talk about when you stuck indoors almost all of the time.

I could talk about setting new goals or trying new things, using the time effectively, but actually as much as you might want to right now (and may even be doing so) it’s really tough.

Because yes you might have more time now.

But the other conditions in your life are different.

So you’ve been wanting to start that project and have just needed a few clear days, now you have them, but the project might have required things you can’t currently buy or going to locations you can’t currently get to.

So yes, now could be a great time to work on your side hustle or upping your game. Equally maybe those projects may have to be out on hold. That doesn’t mean your failing.

Perhaps instead there are other things you could do. These could be money making ideas but equally they could be self care things, things that do something positive for you.

Again I really didn’t know what to write about today because days are getting a bit Groundhog Day like.

But whatever you’re doing at the moment, it isn’t any less important than what anyone else is doing.

Overwhelm

This year has been tough so far, I’ve been stressed an because of that I’ve found myself training less and eating chocolate like it’s the only food on the planet.  At first it was lack of time stopping me training.  I normally do most of my sessions on my lunch breaks at work but I’ve been busy and kept thinking if I just work through my lunch today I can catch up.  Of course I never did catch up but I have got myself completely out of the habit of training.  I normally eat chocolate quite frequently anyway, that’s fine, it fits into my diet perfectly well but as I’ve been more and more stressed I’ve turned to it more and more, it’s a comfort food thing I suppose.

The issue is eating well and training are anchors in my life.  When I am in my normal routine of a short training session most days and getting some good meals in me along side some chocolate I feel good, I feel capable of dealing with stress and juggling lots of roles.

So falling out of these habits because of stress kind of creates a never ending circle where I’m not doing the thing that prevents stress because I am stressed.  Not great, especially as I suffer from anxiety and so keeping track of the anchors that make you feel good is really important.  As an added stress on top of this is that because I’ve been eating more and training less I’ve also put on some weight, whilst I’m still not overweight or dramatically busier my clothes feel tighter and I feel less comfortable, this of course doesn’t help when you already don’t feel great.

None of this is uncommon, lots of people have these struggles.  They are perfectly valid, we lead high stress lives these days and it’s easy to end up a bit overwhelmed and a bit crap.

For me I always think it’s bonkers that you’re a fitness instructor, so you know exactly what you need to do to fix it, because you advise and support other people with this regularly, but that knowledge doesn’t always equate to making things easy.  I mean most of us know we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose weight, simple concept, not simple to do.  Most things in life are really quite simple at their core, it’s the application that is the thing that trips us up.

The thing is it’s ok to fall into a this cycle but you do need to be able to pull yourself back out of it too.

So how do you pull yourself out of a cycle where you are struggling with your training / nutrition?  Small changes, focusing on doing small simple things that you know will make you feel better over time.  I’m not talking bubble baths and face mask style self care, I’m talking doing the easy practical things that will make you feel more purposeful and on track.

My small things for this week are:

  • Track calories for the week to see where I’m actually at with food consumption
  • Drink 4 litres of water a day
  • Take my lunch break very day regardless and go down to the gym and train for 20 mins
  • Stretch every day
  • Get in at least one long walk this week

I’m not expecting at the end of the week for these things to have magically made me feel amazing, but I think that if I do these things I’ll feel better than I do right now and that is a step in the right direction.

 

Be Kind – but please also read this

This is a blog post written in the aftermath of the death of a British celebrity who following a couple of months of intense (not positive) press coverage took her own life.

Yesterday and this morning there has been an outpouring of posts about being kinder, saying that they are there for anyone who wants to talk and other variations of these.

One hundred percent I agree, and this post will echo much the same but I also wanted to delve a bit deeper into a couple of my own thoughts that arose from the news and subsequent comments and posts.

Be Kind –

Variations of this will appear many times over the coming days. Fact is every person no matter how nice has at some point done something not kind.

We have all at some point said something mean, taken the piss out of someone, vented about people who’ve upset us, talked about people we don’t like. We will have always seen our reasons as just at the time, probably said something or written a comment and then thought nothing more of it. We didn’t think this could have a massive impact on the other person, had we thought that most of the time we probably would have shut up. But we’re humans – it’s natural we react then think, that doesn’t make us bad. I’m not saying it’s ok not to be kind – I’m saying you can say something and then reflect and change your mind and shouldn’t be lambasted forever for your past. Because if we can’t forgive each other or ourselves for what has happened then actually we still aren’t being kind.

I can’t say I’ve never said unkind things. I can’t change that, it also means I’m not inherently unkind and doesn’t mean I can’t try and be kind. Life is complicated right.

Speak out-

Again lots of posts saying I’m here if you want to talk. This is nice. To be fair I’ve always said the same – I’m an open ear.

But actually – beyond the specific mental health days etc. are we there to listen? Have you ever said to someone to stop moaning, be more positive? Posted a ‘Positive vibes only’ quote or meme? So we’re you there for that person when they tried reaching out? Did you put that person off from even trying to reach out because they were feeling the positive vibes?

Often people who need support will struggle to reach out to start with. We need to notice more of the people around us and try and help those people if we notice a change.

I’ll be honest this week my mental health has been shocking (nothing I can’t fix I’m tired and I know how I can help myself feel better and I’ve done that this weekend) but I’ve sat at my desk at the point of tears all week – nobody noticed or if they did nobody reached out. A death of a famous person shouldn’t make you offer help. Seeing someone you see or speak to daily a bit off form should (because actually just a do you want to grab a brew or something is a better start to helping someone than a do you want to chat might be)

Nothing is ever clear cut –

It isn’t. The press published a lot of stuff, she was in the news because of a court case. The police had to investigate because they had to. She chose to be in the public eye. That made the court case more reportable. Did you have a water cooler conversation about it? You did because she was famous.

It’s not as simple as people said mean things so she took her own life. It’s a disservice to Caroline and everyone else if we simplify this. It’s awful but also how do you think the people who reported on her in the news, the CPS person who decided to prosecute her feel today? They were doing jobs, they didn’t do that knowing this would be the outcome. In condemning those people we also affect their mental health. Everything in life is a circle. Our actions affect us but also other people. That doesn’t mean doing what isn’t right for us because of how it affects others but it doesn’t mean not acknowledging that fact either.

I think it’s entirely right people mourn but we can’t put everything down to right and wrong good and bad. In no situation are we ever in one camp or the other and all sides in every story are affected in some way.

I debated writing this – I worried this post could be taken as negative to some, but isn’t that the point – your words at any time, however you mean them could upset someone else. Your well meant advice could be perceived by someone else as mean. For every person you might be able to help there will be people out there you’ve upset or hurt at some point because by the time we reach adulthood we’ve all at some point behaved in a way that wasn’t the best. If we really think about every single one of us who writes ‘be kind’ at any time about any thing could be described as a hypocrite because every single of us has at some point in our lives, not been kind.

Social media exists and could be both viewed as the cause of much upset but equally a positive force. A few years ago I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts on fitness to as many people as I can now (be clear my blog gets 50-100 reads a time I’m in no means a wide reaching writer but that’s still a lot more than I could have reached before Facebook), hence the realisation this year that I now have the tools to open discussions on topics that are traditionally less discussed. This is why I’m in the process of writing a series of blogs in conjunction with people where I hope to look at topics which affect many but are less discussed than they should be. I strongly believe talking about stuff honestly and openly can be beneficial.

This will never cancel out the bad aspects of what has, and probably will still, happen on social media but we can all move forward, learn from the (our own/other peoples) past and hopefully be more understanding and forgiving of each other and ourselves.