This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – a topic that is high on my list for 2017. It is a topic that has become more common in both the media, on social media and throughout films and TV. I’ve had a stressful few months if I am honest with myself, I settled in to my new job with a busy few months, I have been trying to manage my blog, I bought a house (say whaaat?) and I have a few other issues happening all at the same time. And all at the same time as this my mental health was going up and down like a yo yo. Somehow though, I have come out the other side, and I feel proud. Proud that I have managed to hold it together, and proud that I now, for the first time in my life, feel in control of my mental health problems.
The Mental Health Foundation is hosting Mental Health Awareness Week but unlike previous years where they have focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation and relationships can impact our mental health, in 2017 the theme will be ‘surviving to thriving’. This is a topic to talk about – are you simply surviving through your mental health issues or are you thriving; making the negatives in to positives and learning how to both manage and take hold of your own mind.
Too many of us experience daily life as a battle. Emotionally, our heads are only just above water. Holding onto our jobs, managing our family life, paying our bills sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. This is often how I feel through my bad phases, that I cannot cope with the basics of life and you learn to accept that this is just standard practice in our lives; experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress and depression are the price we have to pay for keeping our lives on track. But we shouldn’t be simply surviving…. we should be using our illness’ to our advantage. Using our highs to thrive, and using our lows to recoup and look after ourselves.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, I want to set out the real scale and cost of being stuck on survive, to our health, relationships and future options, and how we can build a mentally healthy country. Mental Health should be taught in schools, parents should talk to their children about it, and doctors/therapist and anyone else who comes in to contact with a person with a mental health issue must be trained and ready to help that person.
Here are five things that help with my mental health illness
Essential oils have been around for centuries, dating back as far as Biblical days when Jesus was anointed with frankincense and myrrh upon his birth. They’ve been utilised since ancient times in various cultures, including China, Egypt, India and Southern Europe. Anxiety is a tough battle to face day in and day out, which makes having a natural solution, such as an essential oil blend, important. Here are some of the best essentials oils for anxiety: Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot and Frankincense. Aromatherapy for anxiety is very popular because our sense of smell triggers powerful emotional responses and this can therefore improve your mood and improve your wellbeing.
I would recommend my favourite brand Tisserand, who do some amazing products including a Sweet Dreams range to help me sleep, a De-Stress Vaporising Oil to help me relax and a Happy roller ball which I use when I am in need of a quick fix.
This also brings me on to Rescue Remedy, another brand which I use everyday. Rescue Remedy is the most famous of the Bach remedies, but in fact is not ‘a remedy’ at all. Instead it’s a blend of five different Bach Flower Remedies created to deal with emergencies and crises. It can be used to help you get through any stressful situations, from last-minute exam or interview nerves, to the aftermath of an accident or bad news. Rescue Remedy can help us relax, re-focus and find calm.
There is nothing better than switching off and doing a little bit of yoga in your spare time. Whether this is a structured format at the gym, whilst you are on holiday, whilst out for a run or even in your living room before work. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga can also boost your immune system, increase flexibility, banish migraines, encourage sleep, boost sexual performance and fight food cravings.
3. Getting outdoors
Nothing gets me more grounded than a hike outdoors. I don’t know what it is but the fresh air, the cold against your face, the exercise, and the time out away from our busy lives, just seems to give me calm. Why not spend your Saturday outdoors at the local beach, or wandering through the forest down the road, instead of hitting the shops, or drinking till you feel sick. It might just do you the world of good…
4. Breathing + grounding
One of the weirdest things to incorporate in to your life initially, but honestly one of the best. Breathing and grounding means connecting to and being in balance with your body. Whether due to stress, anxiety or fatigue, you may have days where you feel as if you’ve lost touch with such feelings. Performing specific breathing exercises may help restore these feelings, help you relax and unite your body and mind.
Find a place where you will not be disturbed and adopt either a seated or standing position, preferably with the soles of your feet on the ground. Set your intention for the practice, which is to become more grounded, and center yourself by relaxing, turning inward to your inner stillness, and placing your attention on your breath. Spend a few moments following your breath, inhaling through your nose, allowing your breath to expand your lungs, ribcage, and belly before exhaling through your nose. Even if your mind wanders, bring it back to the moment. Do this for around 10 minutes and you will find within four your anxiety has subsided and you will have a clearer head.
Or try box breathing – a technique used in taking slow, deep breaths. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it in for 4 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds, repeat this 4 times.
Or try my favourite – breathe in for 4 seconds, and exhale for 9 seconds. Repeat for 4 minutes.
Woaaaaah I hear you shout, you get therapy. Yes sir I do. And I am not afraid to say it. We are such prudes in the UK, hiding our emotions, covering up our problems and always answering ‘I’m fine’ But isnt it about time we started getting honest with each other. Life is shit sometimes, and sometimes we simply cannot manage this ourselves. We have to seek help! I have been seeing a therapist for over 8 months now, and it is the best thing I ever did. I see her once every two weeks, we chat about my anxiety, social anxiety and life problems, I am honest, I open up and I get support from her on coping mechanisms. What’s so wrong with that and why are we so scared to be honest?
For more information: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week