Mental Health Check In
I’m sure the vast majority of us have had times over this last year in particular, where we have not felt our best. Where we have suffered some anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, or loneliness to name but a few. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health - each affects the other constantly - so we must take time for self care and self awareness… x
I don’t mind admitting that I have found this year very challenging indeed. Below are just a few personal suggestions of the things I have done (and some I should have done more of!) to stay strong, and to keep finding the energy and motivation required to get through the days. These are just my ideas to further increase your health and wellbeing – but there is a wealth of further information online and other resources available, if you are struggling with your mental health. I have given a few contact numbers and websites of organisations at the end of this blog, that you might find helpful.
A good nights sleep is crucial to our mental wellbeing. One or two broken nights we can manage, but if we have continued interrupted or poor quality sleep, this can affect us badly. It can affect our mood, our patience, how we deal with others, our weight, our immunity and how productive we are. If you are struggling to sleep, try to keep away from stimulants such as coffee and alcohol for a while before bed, and cut down on screen time too. Maybe have a warm bath, listen to some music, read a good book or maybe listen to a podcast or audio book on CD, or do a craft activity before you go to bed. Aromatherapy blends, or other products with sedative properties can help you too. Don’t warm your bedroom too much – we actually sleep better if we are not too hot, and in the spring/summer months, it is good to sleep with a window slightly open to get some fresh air in!
The healthier we eat, the better we feel. I personally couldn’t manage without my dark chocolate – so I go by the phrase ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ and I have a couple of squares every day at lunchtime with my coffee as a treat. Of course sometimes I have more, sometimes I have chips, or wine, or my favourite Jack Daniels (!) but the key is not to have all this every day. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit makes sure you get all your vitamins, and it’s also good to check that you are getting all your fibre, protein, fats and carbohydrates in a balanced way. Another good idea is to have extra Zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C at the moment to keep our immunity strong. It is beneficial to not eat too late in the evening before bedtime, and to keep a fair few hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal the next day, to allow your body sufficient time to process all your calories!
Exercise and Mindfulness
Getting outside every day, whether that be walking, cycling, yoga, training etc., is always important, but especially at the moment when so many of us have been so isolated. I have been trying to walk every day during the various lockdowns, but have definitely had days where I’ve not been motivated enough to do it. Then, when I have, I feel so very much better. If you are isolating or preferring to stay indoors, there are plenty of online classes you can join via Zoom etc., and yoga or dance classes are a great fun way to keep fit. Our mental health is always improved with exercise – sometimes it’s a case of ‘mind over matter’ if we are not naturally sporty types of people (I include myself in that!). Meditation and deep breathing are useful for some people too, and again, there are lots of helpful apps and online help with finding guided sessions to help you get started. Find something you enjoy, then you are more likely to stick with it. Perhaps use it as a way to keep in touch with a friend in this difficult time too, by meeting for a socially distanced walk together.
Try to carve out some time to do something you love every single day. This is so incredibly important for our mental health. When I broke my ankle last year, I rediscovered my love of colouring books and knitting! In lockdown I started creating some diamond paintings and paper carvings, and I obviously made loads of lovely Aromatherapy Products too. I have taken more time to read at night, and listened to some fantastic podcasts for the first time (usually whilst making my bath bombs!). Whether you are into crafts, music, baking, exercise or DIY – whatever floats your boat – make sure you are spending a little time doing that thing every day. It’s vital to our self-care and mental health that we are making the things we enjoy a priority – whatever those things are. Doing something new is great for our energies – but also doing something we are already good at, and something we enjoy, boosts our self esteem and makes us feel good.
Family and Friends Check In
This year we have been separated from the people we love the most during Covid lockdowns and restrictions. We may not be able to see them, hug them, spend proper time with them, but it is really important for our own mental health, and of those we love, that we find other ways to check in. A phone call can change a day for the better. A quick text can tell someone they are loved. An email can update someone and let them feel included. A video call can bring a smile and share a story in a more personal way. A handwritten letter can completely make someone’s day! Just check in with those you care about when you can.
This is a lesson I have had to learn this year. None of us like to ask for help or admit we are struggling. But we all have difficult times, and we all need others to be there for us sometimes. Those that are used to being the strong, helpful ones, are also often the ones that find it the most difficult to admit we need help or support. If you can feel your mental health suffering, it is SO important to reach out and tell someone you trust, so you can share your worries and ease your burdens, knowing that someone is there to listen and to help you. Sometimes you just need to be heard, and to get things out of your head. If you don’t have anyone close to that you can talk to, then please do contact a local counsellor, or one of the organisations listed at the end of this blog. You do not need to suffer alone. Throughout Covid, most counselling and support services are offering online consultations if they are unable to see you face-to-face, and this can still bring great support at the time you need it most. Also – if you do find the courage to reach out and you don’t get the support you hoped for from that person, group of people or organization – please don’t give up. Trust that the next person you ask will be more helpful. Not everyone knows how to properly listen or help you when you are struggling – a lot of people find it hard to hear you are not doing ok. But the right ones will step up.
Wellbeing Journals and Diaries
I know many people find writing things down each day really helps with their mental wellbeing. It can either be in a diary, or just a thoughts journal – getting things out of your head and down on paper, can be a supportive exercise. You might also want to keep a note of your sleep patterns, food or exercise diaries, and see how those affect your mood. These can be helpful for noticing patterns of behaviour and feelings, and what works for you and what doesn’t. Or you can just use it as a check in tool – to write things down explaining how you feel. We can also use journals as a really positive tool - to write down the things we are grateful for, or maybe to set yourself a few tasks each day. During lockdown and time off work, I am writing down 3-4 things every night on a piece of paper that I would like to get done the following day. It gives me a reason to get up, showered, dressed and focused each day when I can’t work with clients. Some days I will do far more than is on the list, some days only the things on the list, and a couple of days, I haven’t achieved even those few things, but it gives me a great starting point and a focus.
Letting Go of the ‘I Shoulds’
For all of the advice and suggestions, there are also without doubt, days when we just can’t find the motivation to do these things that we believe to be good for us – all the things we think we ‘should’ do, rather than just going with how we feel. Sometimes our souls are just tired, and rest is all we actually need. Those are the days to just let yourself off your ‘to-do’ list, and indulge in a day of rest, whatever that means to you. To me it would be a warm bath, a read, a walk, something creative and maybe a good drama, documentary or movie on Netflix. Taking time to cook myself a lovely healthy lunch, and treat myself to a really nice coffee and my dark chocolate. Making time to cuddle the cat and allow the worries time to pass through, and to drop the constant expectations you unfairly put on yourself. A day to put aside the paperwork, the list of chores, and other pressures. A day to turn off the phone or tablet for a while (along with social media – do it – you can!) and concentrate on your needs alone. To spend time just with you. Time to have faith in things being ok. These days are important… and they are different for everyone.
Doing something lovely for someone else when you are struggling yourself is an amazing tonic. Try to be the person that you need right now. To get is great, but to give is wonderful. It doesn’t matter how small the gesture – giving pleasure to others by its very nature will help your mental health too – give it a try! Surprise someone today with a random act of kindness… you may be the one person who has reached out on their bad day, and made all the difference to them, and in knowing that, your spirit will also be lifted.
Organisations for Mental Health Support
There are many resources out there to help you with your mental health. I list a few below, but if you look online you will find many, many more, that may be more specific or appropriate to your needs. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok to suffer alone. There are people everywhere who want to help you feel better.
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm). Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (Daily, 5pm to midnight). Website: www.thecalmzone.net
Men's Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email. Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD. Phone: 0300 772 9844 (Daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider's Access Charge. Website: www.nopanic.org.uk
Young suicide prevention society. Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (9am to midnight, every day of the year). Website: www.papyrus-uk.org
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness. Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm). Website: www.rethink.org
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Website: www.samaritans.org.uk
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare. Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum. Website: www.sane.org.uk/support
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals. Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm). Website: www.youngminds.org.uk
If you have any queries regarding what Aromatherapy products I can offer to help relax and soothe you, that would be suitable for yourself, your family, your friends or loved ones, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions, on: 07710 173354 or email me at: email@example.com. I would really love to hear from you.
With all my love and hugs, please stay safe (and sane!) all. See you next month!