We all have mental health

10th October is World Mental Health Day.

I have suffered from (do still) depression and anxiety.  It’s an important topic and I’d be happy to talk to anyone – whether they need someone to talk to or want to just gain a greater understanding.

BUT

Mental health isn’t just depression or anxiety or any one singular condition. Mental Health is something we all have – it’s how we deal with life, how we feel.  You might feel great that’s still mental health.  We all need to be aware of how we take care of ourselves, to keep ourselves well mentally and much as physically.  Self care isn’t only for people with illnesses – it’s soemthing everyone needs to practice.

Every year there is a specific focus of World Mental Health Day–This year being “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

According to WHO “Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. Our focus is on building mental resilience among young people, to help them cope with the challenges of today’s world.”

One challenge highlighted is the impact of technology in people’s lives.  This topic can go beyond young people however, there will be few people of any age who do not find themselves increasingly relying on various forms of technology in all aspects of their lives (if you’ve lost your phone recently you will probably have realised just how much this is the case).

Social media is probably one of the most obvious ways in which technology has changed the world in a matter of years. The expanding use of social media undoubtedly brings many benefits to our lives – we can develop social contacts and business relationships regardless of location.  However, the same technology can also bring additional pressures into our lives, as connectivity to virtual networks at any (ALL) time of the day and night grows and becomes the norm.  Being ever connected and seeing more aspects of other people’s lives in a way we previously would not have can have a profound effect on our own mental health and how we view our own situations.

Only this morning I was having a conversation with a member at a gym I teach at who recently removed themselves from Facebook for this very reason.

They have been away studying at university and seeing pictures of friends from home together every week, having fun together as a group, whilst this person was miles away and couldn’t be with them produced negative emotions. Despite speaking to them and knowing that these Facebook posts were not the full picture (during the week these friends barely get a chance to speak and it’s not all constant socialising) the emotions the Facebook posts created wasn’t positive and since removing themselves from Facebook they feel happier.

We all know social media posts create a version of our lives whether we mean to put a filter on things or not it’s inevitable that it happens.  Whether we present something as glossy and amazing or terrible – we have decided how it is presented to the world.  The world then views it from their own prism and puts their own spin on what we’ve said.

All this sounds like I’m anti social media but I’m not.  I use Facebook, Instagram (occasionally Twitter, never really got the hang of Snapchat) and obviously I blog.  I have got work from and made business connections through the advances in social media.  It has so many benefits and can add value to your life as long as you are aware that it can also add new types of pressure.

So here are a few ideas of things you can do to protect your own mental health and help create a healthy relationship with technology:

  • Keep social media buttons organised together in a folder on your phone and keep it away from your home screen so you don’t feel like a slave to the sometimes endless notifications popping up.
  • Decide when you will look at messages and emails (maybe once or twice a day) and ignore all incoming things in between these times – if it’s urgent people can call you!
  • Try not to look at your phone for the first hour after you wake up. Getting some fresh air and thinking about your day without seeing what others have posted can change your outlook on the day completely.
  • Try not to look at your phone for an hour before you go to bed. This allows you time to unwind and relax before you go to sleep which will probably help you get to sleep quicker.
  • If you use a sleep app which tracks your REM cycles they often mute all social media notifications once turned on which helps if you struggle with self control on reducing message checking.
  • Just like parents do with their kids – give yourself maximum daily screen times. Don’t let yourself mindlessly scroll through social media platforms.  Give yourself a limit each day and once it’s been exceeded stop mindlessly scrolling through your feeds.
  • Call people sometimes. Having a chat can be great for your mental health and takes away the anxiety that can be created via the misinterpreting of a text message.
  • Actually arrange to meet up with people too when you can!
  • Remember that what people post isn’t always 100% what you think it is- those pictures of smiling people don’t show the argument they had 10 minutes beforehand because someone forgot to put the bins out.
  • If you find yourself getting annoyed by someone’s posts there are a variety of ways of muting them whilst remaining their friends
  • If you enjoy using an app – use it. If you start to feel it adds stress – stop.  I use Facebook and Instagram and enjoy interacting with people on it.  Snapchat just stressed me out so when I got a new phone I just didn’t install the app.

As much as technology may cause some increased stresses to our mental health it also allows people to talk about it more openly about the topic of wellness and to a much wider audience so there are lots of positives to our changing world.

Talking about and being aware of the potential issues arising from change can help us work though them and stay well.  We all need to be aware of our mental health and develop systems to help us maintain a happy healthy life as our surroundings change.  That’s not easy- believe me I know – but days like today and discussions like the ones created by days like this can all play a part in helping work towards better mental health.

Buddy Box Review

Earlier this month I received the September Buddy Box in the post.

Buddy Box is one of those subscription boxes a product which has grown in popularity recently often boxes filled with the latest beauty products – that you get in the post once a month, filled with products you don’t know you’re getting until they arrive.  The appeal here coming from not knowing what you will receive ahead of time, and getting to try new and different products you may not otherwise.

These boxes have a different purpose however.  They are designed to promote self-care, with each months box having a theme related to looking after yourself and taking some time out for you.  You can buy the boxes on a subscription basis or as a one-off box.

I first came across the company, Blurt, a couple of years ago when I was going through a period of severe depression and a friend gave me a subscription to these boxes – now every now and then I buy one and it gives me a little push to look after myself a bit more than normal.

Blurt, in their own words “exists to make a difference to anyone affected by depression. Being diagnosed can be overwhelming – there’s a lot to learn and plenty of prejudice to battle. Telling people is tough, and not everyone will understand. That’s why we’re here for you, whenever you need us, for anything at all.”  One of the ways they do this is by their subscription self-care boxes.

https://www.blurtitout.org/

This is what I got in the September box:

https://www.blurtitout.org/product/grotty-times-buddybox/

  • Bath bomb for the shower – I’ve not tried this yet but the Lavender smell is designed to help you sleep – something which can help you feel better when you’re stressed and down. I’m not a huge fan of baths so I like he idea of  a bomb for the shower.  I’m saving it for the next time I want a chilled early night – possibly this weekend.

  • 54 Self Care Idea Cards – A set of 54 cards- each with a self-care idea on them. The idea is when you need to take a moment for yourself you can pull out a card at random and try the idea on the card.  I’m not sure how well this will work if your already feeling unmotivated but I like th idea of small actions creating self care and it does take away the need to have to think of what to do away from you- which during low periods can help in iself.  These might live on my bookcase so I can grab them as and when.

  • How To Grow Your No map – A map guide of how to learn to Say No! Not sure how I’ll use this but it’s an interesting little guide into how you can build up slowly to saying no when you really don’t want to do something – a great tool for those who suffer from anxiety and find themselves saying yes a lot.

  • Peopled Out Door Hanger. Pretty self-explanatory but a cute little door hanger to brighten up a room.

  • 365 Days Self Care Journal – This is Blurt’s second book. A journal which you can use in any way you wish with the idea that every day you jot down how you feel to help you work through any low periods. I’ve not started using it yet but plan to get into the habit in spending a few minutes each day jotting to see what impact it has.

  • Magazine and Postcards – little extras to read / use as you wish.

If you’re looking for a little pick me up, or even a nice gift for someone else who could do with a bit of a mental pamper these make a great buy – whether it be a subscription or one-off purchase.

No Jazzy Title, Just an Honest One Today

I’ve struggled to train recently. I’ve also struggled to hit a calorie deficit in the last few weeks, having some really good days food wise and then some days where I’m dramatically overeating all the wrong stuff. This has coincided with not feeling 100% myself.

I don’t know why – nothing has happened to make me feel down and there hasn’t been any reason for my training or food intake to be affected. Often I find the two go hand in hand though – so if my training or diet isn’t great I will feel a bit low and when I feel a bit low I’ll eat my bodyweight in chocolate and train less.

I’ve realised that I, like most people I imagine, get myself caught in self – destructive cycles where if one thing isn’t perfect it feels like nothing is right, and in turn I let myself sabotage other areas of my life. I get a downer on myself where I feel like everything I do is substandard. The last few weeks I’ve questioned myself on so many things that to others may seem ridiculous and been upset about things I should have brushed off.

One thing I’m getting better at though is recognising this in myself, because this is when you can step back, get some perspective and draw a line.

  • Realistically I’ve still trained 2-3 times every week for the past few weeks, as well as teaching and running a half marathon – so I’ve not really been lazy.
  • I’ve finished the last two weeks in a calorie surplus which isn’t great, but I’ve hit my protein goals and I’m not overweight so I’ve not done any lasting damage.
  • I’ve been a bit down but I know I’ve had some stressful situations to deal with plus been poorly so this isn’t the start of something terrible, I’ve just let myself get a bit stressed.

What I’ve started to try and do when this happens is train – no pressure- just go to the gym and do something (and enjoy it) and then eat nice but fresh food that isn’t processed and sugar filled. Normally I’ll start to feel more positive quickly just from this little system.

Three points from this:

  • A week or so ago was Mental Health Week and there were lots of great posts- but people struggle all year round so don’t be afraid to speak up at other times if you feel like everything is getting to be just a bit much.
  • Sometimes depression doesn’t affect you all in. Sometimes you are perfectly fine and functioning just not feeling 100%. This doesn’t mean it’s any less important to recognise and deal with it – and being aware of how you feel and how you can improve your mood can sometimes help you catch yourself.
  • For me – physical wellness and mental wellness are closely linked. Small habits make a big difference to my mind-set.

15 Tips to Help Improve Mental Health

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to offer some ideas of simple things you can do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve your mental health and manage depression and anxiety:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when i eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better thab turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hars to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do and hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxes by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

It’s Good to Talk

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I’ve seen lots of people open up on Social Media about their own experiences in the hope that it may help encourage those who are currently suffering to reach out and seek help.

I love this. It’s such a positive thing to do and I try to be open about my own experiences with others as I believe that being honest about depression and anxiety will have a more positive impact than trying to hide it and allowing the stigma that still exists in some people’s mind to win.

I suffered with, first, anxiety and later depression for a long time until eventually it caused an almost complete breakdown of my life. I’ve spent the last couple of years slowly rebuilding and in many ways the experience has made my life better as I have a different perspective on many things now.

I have to be honest. I’ve had (and still have) set backs. Life generally throws up road blocks from time to time and trying to beat depression sometimes feels like taking two steps forward one step back. But there is help out there in lots of forms. Some things will work for you, others will not.

One thing I would say to someone who is suffering from depression right now and doesn’t think it can get better is to try everything suggested to you. Some things won’t make much difference (no one thing works for everyone) but something you try will help, and whilst it will take time, things can improve. Not overnight, but slowly they can get better.

There’a a chance you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t have believed me a couple of years ago. But to be honest if you’re currently suffering you don’t have much to lose from at least trying things.

This of course assumes you have reached out already.

And for a lot of people their mental health issues are made worse because they are dealing with stresses that nobody knows about. I know full well that just saying your problems and worries outloud is hard.

So the other thing I would say is talk to someone. Today, tomorrow – Find someone – anyone – and tell them what is causing the problem.

I eventually turned a corner by complete accident.

In a general chat one day I just suddenly splurted out everything that was causing my stress and anxiety. Once I started speaking it just kept coming and eventually I’d said outloud for the first time all my fears. I didn’t even know the person that well at the time.

It was the catylst for beginning to tackle the things that were causing the stress and drastically improving my mental health.

As I talked they didn’t react with shock or disgust. They listened and then we talked about it. Saying it and not being judged was the starting point that gave me the belief I could fix things and wasn’t a failure

It doesn’t matter who you talk to – a friend, family memeber or stranger. It will help reduce the load and allow you to move forward and start to improve your mental health.

Almost everyone is affected by Mental Health issues in some way at some point so if this week can remind us one thing it is to not be ashamed to speak up and ask for help.

Tomorrow as my own contribution to raise awareness (because it is a fitness blog!) I’m going to share my tips on how exercise and food can help improve your mental health – something that everyone would benefit from.