Taking a Break

I’m currently 5 days into a week away. This is my first beach holiday since 2015 and has been exactly what I needed. I normally opt for city breaks over the beach (largely due to my lack of tanning ability!) but these can often leave you coming back more tired than refreshed. So this week was long overdue and has been a chance to completely relax, enjoy some sun, read, eat and drink at leisure.

Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays or spa breaks though there’s plenty of ways you can make time for you everyday and plenty of benefits for doing so. Just taking out 30 minutes a day to spend some time on yourself away from people and work makes all the difference to your mental health, you could:

  • Go for a walk on your lunch break
  • Read a book or watch your favourite film
  • Take a long bath
  • Go for a coffee
  • Sit and read the papers in peace
  • Exercise
  • Practice Yoga
  • Just sit and do nothing
  • Paint your nails or put on a face mask

Doing this can have numerous benefits;

  • Greater well being – doing something for you will make you feel happier, less stressed and more positive towards yourself
  • Improve work life balance – taking time away from work can reduce potential for burnout and make you happier within your work
  • Allow for self reflection – spending time alone can allow you time to reflect on your own thoughts and emotions
  • Improve concentration – taking a break allows you to come back more focused than you were before
  • Improve productivity – taking time out can actually mean you get more done after due to feeling rested, more focused and positive
  • Reduce stress and unwind – taking time out will almost always make you feel better, put things in perspective and leave you feeling more relaxed.

With that I’m off to enjoy the last couple of days of my holiday, and there will be less of a break between now and the next one this time!

Social Media, Mental Health and Living Your Best Life

Social Media isn’t reality, did you know that?

It feels like recently there has been a lot of acknowledgement that people tend to post a ‘best of’ of their lives of Instagram and Facebook- nights out, impressive meals, pretty hotels etc. and that can sometimes make us feel bad about our own lives; that we are perhaps not exciting enough, successful enough, interesting enough.

More people now, possibly in response to this, post more mundane / normal things on Social Media (if you want to know what I’ve eaten at any given time check my Instagram stories and there will be a not very attractive meal that may or may not have some nutritional value to it but to be honest is likely to involve cake, because I’m a fitness instructor and like to fuel my body with foods that provide it with value but I also really really like cake).  That’s good right- fewer perfect lives and more normality will make people feel less disheartened?

But actually does it?  Is my account any different from someone living their best life?  I would say my social media is reasonably warts and all, I post the days I eat the food I planned but I equally post the unplanned cake and chocolate.  I post pictures on nights or days out but my Twitter account, which is basically a tool for complaining to Northern Rail about their ever worsening service, demonstrates that my daily commute is far from glamorous and my days are simply long most of the time.  Yet even I unwittingly self ‘airbrush’ my own life.  In what ways?  Well, obviously not everything I do or eat gets posted, so I might not specifically hold back certain things and post others, but what I do post can’t totally reflect my day or who I’ve seen / spoken to or how I feel (I’m a historian by degree and we will tell you that all historical accounts are subjective so this isn’t something new with the advent of Facebook).  If I’m feeling a bit anxious or down for whatever reason I’m a lot less likely to post anything, so it’s not that I always feel OK and sarcastic as my accounts may suggest, just that my response to not feeling on top form is to withdraw a little rather than tell the world.  So even if you follow people who are pretty open and honest you still don’t see everything.

This make me sound like I’m not keen on Social Media but that isn’t the case at all.  I use many forms frequently and find the positives outweigh the negatives for me personally most days.  But nothing is cut and dry.

Social Media allows fitness professionals to talk to people openly beyond the clients in their gym and there are many excellent fitness professionals, both well known on Social Media and those only known more locally, who provide great insights to people for free.  This can potentially then encourage someone to go and seek out more advice and make huge strides in their fitness journey.  Equally, advice and posts could be misunderstood or someone could take advice that was meant for a different demographic to them and not get the results they want.  So positives yes, but we also need to be careful about what we say and promote.

Social Media can connect people who would otherwise not have met and provide opportunities to get advice and mentorship from such people and allows businesses to connect with clients on a more human level.  Equally it can cause debates and misunderstandings as people don’t know each other to understand why they have those opinions or view points because their situations are different. It often appears easier to argue with someone you never have to see and that can create an environment where people feel more able to say things they wouldn’t in person.

Social Media has opened up conversations around mental health.  Now I’m still a little dubious about this.  I like how people feel more comfortable talking about it.  I am less keen on how sometimes when people do post things about their own mental health they can be met with well meaning but not necessarily helpful reactions.  It’s tough to know whats really going on behind even the most honest of status.  I think being aware of the emotions of the people we talk to daily is a better way to show support to others.  Watching out for the signs that suggest that someone is maybe a bit stressed or anxious is possibly going to be more helpful on a realistic level.  However well meaning, we aren’t doctors or health care professionals and whilst listening to people express their feelings on Social Media can help both break down barriers and make the person in question feel heard / better understood, it also encourages us to offer advice – which might end up being helpful but equally could not be. Our feedback could end up being harmful to the person posting. Nonetheless the reduction in stigma surrounding mental health issues is a positive thing.

Social Media can help keep you motivated.  I know of many social media accounts which responsibly promote building a healthy mindset and teach hacks and systems which allow you to approach life’s challenges and which don’t try and fix whether you are ‘happy’ or not (if you are interested I can direct you to some people). Equally however there are well meaning posts that show a happy picture and a quote about only wanting to deal with positive vibes.  Those posts are probably normally quite personal to that individual and reflect what they are feeling at that moment and are not a dig at others.  Yet I sometimes feel they could have a negative effect on people who maybe at that point do not feel positive.  Because let’s acknowledge that depression means you don’t always feel positive but that this doesn’t mean you are a ‘negative’ person.  In reality we all have days when we don’t feel 100% positive and that doesn’t make us negative people.  Sometimes we don’t need to be told to be more positive we just need to be able to vent or have a rant and clear out our mind / work though our thoughts. When we post on social media we don’t always think how our words could be interpreted by others, nor can we be held responsible for how someone else takes our words of course – this is just another one of the double edged swords of the medium.

Like real life, Social Media isn’t all great and isn’t all bad – it’s messy and can be viewed differently day by day.  So in reality how we respond to anything whether it be something showing someone’s ‘best life’ or someone posting something real and honest is going to depend on how we feel ourselves that day and on any given day the same post could be viewed as inspirational and motivational or equally something which makes you feel a bit shit. That’s our internal reflection of what we see more than what is actually posted.

So yes, sometimes accounts may only show the best bits, but I think all accounts however honest and real can affect people in different ways regardless iof intention.

How do we deal with that, because for a lot of us, Social Media is a part of life and just dropping out isn’t necessarily an option we want?

Well in part I think just acknowledging that Social Media is always a life through a filter or a censored opinion – even when we think it’s totally real- it’s just not possible to be 100% real via a computer / phone or photo, even when you try. I go back to history as my example, as a historian all sources are tainted by subjectiveness – be they propaganda materials or diaries and personal testimony.  

Some people are more honest and open in how they use Social Media though so you could look to pick people to follow who match with your values and make you feel better / empowered rather than crap – people who will talk to you, respond to questions with honest answers.  If there are people on your feed on any site who make you feel rubbish you can remove them or mute them (because you may not be able to remove your mums neighbour three doors down without causing awkwardness in the supermarket).

If we choose to use Social Media for positive it can be a great addition to our life, it just needs to be something that we are aware of how it affects us and react accordingly to that. That means breaks when needed and setting boundaries that work for us (because everyone’s limit will be different).

Beyond that, I believe working on our own emotions and head space is a really important thing. How we train, eat, feel can be impacted by Social Media only so much when we are in the best place we can be at the time. How often does a post trigger you into a mood on a bad day but on a good day you’d find the same thing funny? That is why when I don’t feel so great I spend less time talking on Social Media. It is also why I haven’t just invested time and money into my physical well being but I also work with a trainer on my mindset as well – our wellness is a much more rounded package than just our bodies.

For me systems and creating habits in the real world, which help me respond differently to triggers than I used to is the key to then feeling healthy towards what I see on Social Media (and beyond).

This blog started as one thing and then sort of meandered elsewhere so apologies for the random nature of what has essentially been a mind dump on how I feel about Social Media and mental health, but as I said I have systems in place that help me process my own thoughts and sometimes this blog ends up being one of them … so here it is a very public social media style way of considering social media.

Also – sometimes we just do nice things and want to post them for people to see. So as reflective as I have been sometimes we really just had a nice holiday and want to share!

Would love to hear your thoughts – whether you agree of disagree!

2019 So Far

Well that went quick.

Two months into 2019 already.

63 days since you set your 2019 resolutions (or better still goals). 302 days until you’ll probably set some more.

How are you getting on? Have you stuck to working towards them, reached some of them already even. Or do they seem further away than ever?

I’ve made progress. Not as quickly as I’d have liked… a failed exam, some frustrating news and a torn tendon in my knee have all set me back in one way or another in terms of where I wanted to be at the end of February, either fitness nor personal goal wise.

Yet I have made progress, I have made positive steps towards my goals, I’m nearer than I was to them two months ago and I’ve taken those set backs, gone back to the drawing board, adjusted my timescales a bit so they won’t be reasons I look back and feel like I failed.

If you don’t feel you started 2019 as you’d have liked, well we’ve only done 1/6 of the year. Plenty of time to turn things around. If it’s started well that’s 302 more opportunities to move closer to your aims. Whichever camp you fall into regularly reviewing your progress will increase your chances of ending 2019 happy with your progress.

I’m writing this on a flight to Edinburgh during some pretty windy weather so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride (excuse any typos it’s currently a bit like a ride at Alton Towers). Tomorrow I’ll spend the day reviewing my progress and working out my next steps with a group of fellow fitness professionals, as we do once a month to keep up focussed and striving for improvement.

I wrote a lot of blogs in December and January about making small changes to get closer to your fitness (or other) goal. Wherever your currently at pick one small thing to do in March and just do it.

P.s. We took off late because of a problem with paperwork at Manchester Airport- the captain just announced he took a shortcut and we made up the time and will still land early. If that’s not a metaphor for what I’ve just talked about I don’t know what is!

Being Busy

Quick blog today because I’ve had a busy couple of days at work and want an evening off to relax!

I say I’ve been busy, I’ve actually been pretty productive with what I’ve got done.  When I set to do a job I’m good at focusing and not distracting myself until it’s done.  This week I’ve boxed off a fair few tasks that have been sat on my to do list for a while and were at the point they HAD to be done.

That causes a bit of stress though, leaving things until you HAVE to do them.

What I much prefer to do is plan stuff in and get it done in comfortable time so I don’t feel that stress.

What has held me back from doing this has been my routine, I’ve not allowed my self the time to be in control.  This means on occasions I’ve had to be reactive.  That’s not how I like to work.

This in turn has a knock on effect on my training and nutrition as I’m rushed and sometimes some things have to give.

So my plan for the next few weeks is to nail my morning routine.  Alarm goes off and I get up, no snooze button, no waiting until the last minute then having to rush around.  By allowing myself time to stat my day right I know the rest of my day will fall into place as I’m generally good at time blocking my day, I just need to avoid the domino effect that happens if I start the day on the back foot.

To be honest there isn’t really a point to this blog, it’s more just my internal musings…. but if you are feeling overwhelmed at the moment, take a look at your week and pin point why, then work out what one change you can make that would improve that situation.