Although Mental Health Awareness week should be every day of every week, it is such a good reminder of the issues most people face and a great platform to encourage discussion globally. I have never endured the more extreme ends of mental health but I have definitely battled with some severe anger and some very dark moments of sadness during my childhood and teenage years. I have witnessed members of my family and some of my closest friends succumb to depression, anxiety and suicide. It is heartbreaking to watch people you love suffering internally, yet thankfully most of them have pulled through and I admire them for it in so many ways.
The Mental Health Awareness week topic this year is ‘Stress’, and this is something everybody can relate to. Whether you find yourself stressed because of work, family, friends, money, or just life in general; you can guarantee that someone else will be experiencing similar thoughts somewhere in the world. In the modern world we live in, where everything is becoming faster, and the need for things to be instant and readily available is constant, it is no wonder that people are becoming more stressed as they too try to keep up with the pace of day to day life. Nor is it surprising that people are turning back towards a more natural and holistic approach to life. Whilst it is an exciting time we live in, the dramatically increasing number of people who are stressed on a day to day basis is not. If left unchecked, stress can lead to an array of illnesses, such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even (to the extreme) death. It is therefore increasingly important that we continue to raise awareness around the subject, not push it aside as a ‘normal’ occurrence of everyday life but instead start to look at ways in which we can decrease stress in our lives for good.
Unfortunately there is no clever ‘off switch’ we can press. Instead we need to take the time to look at ourselves and those surrounding us, in order to work out what makes us feel relaxed and what revs us off the clock! Can we change or lose any of the negatives? Can we increase the positives?
Recently I have been reflecting on what helps calm me down. What reduces my stress? As someone who is self-employed, I regularly struggle with self-doubt, anxiety and a huge amount of stress about my financial situation. I cry, shout and shut myself off, before dusting myself off and cracking on again. However, recently, I have been noticeably more calm and content than usual, regardless of the fact I have unexpectedly lost a couple of jobs and am, in short, completely broke! Yet, I am laughing it off, and I feel the most settled and content since a long time. I therefore took the time to reflect on what I have changed about my daily routine recently and how that may have helped me reach this far more positive state.
- I started keeping a journal again. I used to religiously keep a diary whilst I was growing up and I found it such a release for the more painful parts of my life. Writing in general is a deeply soothing practice for me and it really helps me offload and structure my thoughts and feelings in a completely judge-free space.
- I am working less. Granted, not everyone has this option, but I do have the luxury of being self-employed and deciding when I work! I don’t have as much money as a result but on the flip side, I am far less tired then when I was running around all over the place like a headless chicken! For me, tiredness is one of the main things which aggravates my mental state and stress levels.
- I am drinking less! I love a glass of wine in the evening! Actually give me a drink at any time of day and I probably wouldn’t say no. However, I am actively trying to reduce my drinking during the week (sometimes not drinking at all) and I haven’t been getting completely smashed on a weekend either. This keeps me in a fresher state of mind and my body definitely also thanks me for it!
- I am being more sociable. I moved to Manchester in September last year and whilst I love the city and where I live, I have found it incredibly hard losing my main friendship group and my family. Not that they are no longer in touch! But I no longer have easy access to them! For me having a handful of people I can meet up with, chat to and just relax with, is incredibly important to my wellbeing. Slowly, slowly, though I have started to make some new friends and I am meeting new people I can talk to about life, worries and anything else that springs to mind!
- I am doing less physical Yoga. I injured my wrist at the beginning of the month and it has really forced me to take a step back from the more physical side of Yoga. I love flowing through asana and I have gradually been increasing my practice once more but I am also aware that I don’t need to flow along for vast lengths of time in my classes and it is ok not to always do a lengthy asana practice everyday of the week by myself. I actually feel far more energised having cut it back. Yoga isn’t just about handstands and made positions, it is about breathing and checking in with yourself, to discover that inner calm.
- I am getting outside more. Whether I walk to the shops, go for a run in the park or just sit in the garden for 10 minutes after a day at the computer, this makes a HUGE difference to my mood. Yes, I am definitely a sunshine girl, and when the weather is cheery it can change my outlook in an instant! But being outside, surrounded by nature and away from screens, just does wonders for your mindset and is something that is so easy to access. Breathe that fresh air and look at the trees!
- It has happened about 1000 times before! This is not the first time I have been exceptionally low on cash and nor will it be the last! Yet it has happened so many times before that I now find it so much easier to deal with. Previously, this would have sent me into a downward spiral of panic and mayhem. Presently, I am calm, positive that it will all turn out right in the end. I have got through it before and I will get through it again. A great reminder that when things do go wrong, they are making you stronger and preparing you, so you can deal with them in the future, with grace and ease.
I hope these little pointers provide you with a starting point for areas you can change, adapt, or increase in your day to day life. Everyone is different, everyone deals with stress in their own way. But talk about it, keep the discussion going and don’t be afraid to be selfish! Work out what works for YOU. Control what you can to keep moving in the right direction but also accept that somethings are beyond your control.
Happiness isn’t always permanent but we can boost ourselves up when things are looking a bit down. We just need to work out the things which help us do so.