It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, so I thought it would be a neat idea to tell you about my favourite things that I use to manage my mental health. Some I use for my anxiety, some for my depression and a fair few of them for both.
1 – Creating A Schedule
Sometimes my mental health is worsened when I feel out of control, it’s as if my life is unravelling and I have no idea how to cling on or how to keep it all together. Setting myself a schedule that’s completely manageable, helps me all the time but especially on days where my depression and anxiety is at its worst.
If I don’t set a schedule, my mind turns into jelly and it wobbles ALL OVER the place. I imagine a massive list of things that I can’t get done in a single day and then I don’t want to do anything. So I schedule one to two important tasks a day (this is crucial for me as I also work from home but it also works for housework, self-care, anything you want to get done) and it’s easier for me to do them and when I tick them off it’s a huge achievement.
I think having a routine in place also helps my mental health in more ways than one, it helps me get a better sleep at night and ensures that I eat proper meals and I make time for me!
2 – Music
Spotify is my best friend. I couldn’t live without it. I listen to music first thing in the morning, it helps me get out of bed. Preferably uplifting music that makes me dance my way into the shower and gets me in a good mood. Music is also there for me when I’m anxious, as it can calm me down but I also listen to music when I’m cooking, doing housework, editing my photos, exercising or walking outdoors.
3 – Readings blogs / books
Reading other success stories, tips and even just things I can relate to, often helps me with my own mental health. I love to read blogs and self-help books – here’s a few of my faves at the moment:
The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
4 – Self-Care
Life gets a bit much sometimes and having a lot on my plate can be stressful on my mental health, especially if I have a lot to be anxious about. Being a Wedding Photographer means that Summer can be extremely stressful on my anxiety, I get anxious before every wedding, so having lots of them to photograph in a short period of time is draining mentally. It’s times like that, that self-care is majorly important.
My favourite things to do when practising self-care are having a nice hot bath, relaxing to music, eating copious amounts of Dairy Milk Giant Buttons and watching a good box-set under my duvet.
5 – Reflection
When my mental health is in a bad way or I feel myself slipping back into anxious/negative thoughts, I like to gently remind myself of the things I have managed to accomplish despite all the obstacles that have been in my way. Reflecting on positive things that I’ve done helps to establish a belief that I can do it again, or I can get through anything.
6 – Supplements
I use a mixture of supplements to give me energy and often improve my mood if need be. My favourite supplement is the Life Extension – Vitamin D3, 1000IU, 250 capsules as I work mostly from home, which means I don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun and, well, living in the UK means I don’t get much of that when I’m out of the house either! Vitamin D supplements just give me that boost of energy that I need to help both my mental health and my chronic illness.
I’ve also recently started taking 5-HTP for my mood and that’s been a really big help, I could feel myself slipping back into a depression and these really helped me crawl back out of it.
7 – Alternative thoughts
When I’m having an anxiety attack or feeling close to one, it’s important to me to have those alternative thoughts ready to counteract any horribly shit thoughts I’m having. Like turning “oh shit, I’m gonna fuck everything up” into “It will be okay, you’ve managed to get through situations like this before, you can do this!” or turning “everyone is staring at me” into “no one is concerned about you, people aren’t looking at you”.
I talk quite a bit about how to direct your negative thoughts into positive ones in my new book here.
8 – Setting Goals
I have a list of goals that I like to tick off, I don’t always set a date for them and bigger goals I like to break down into smaller pieces so they’re easier to achieve. I feel like having something to work towards makes me more productive, gives my life a bit more purpose and stops me from feeling out of control and lost. It also helps me to push through my anxiety in situations that involve reaching my goals.
I have them listed on a Word document, I simply put a strike-through the text when I’ve completed the goal.
9 – Talking About It
Talking about my mental health has helped me in ways I never thought it could. I don’t just mean talking to my friends and family and people who know me in real life but also talking to strangers on the internet, like you lovely sods! It’s been incredible to find a network of people who understand what I’m going through but also it’s been comforting and also eye-opening to hear other people’s perspectives on their mental health.
I definitely recommend talking to people about your mental health. Here’s some resources of mine that may help:
My Facebook Group for people with Anxiety – It’s a closed group so no one outside the group can see your posts.
How To Explain Social Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn’t Have It – My most requested post and now one of my most popular posts.
10 – Nature
Walking in the forest, the smell of pine trees, the sounds of the birds, watching the sun dance on the lake, hearing the waves crash… all of those things improve my mental health greatly. It’s amazing how different I feel just spending even a few minutes in nature. I also love stargazing and often take my camera out to capture the stars, that definitely makes me feel something that books, supplements and self-care can’t. My fears feel so much smaller when I look up at the sky and see all of those stars.
11 – Letting It All Out
Sometimes it’s good to just have a good cry and punch a fucking pillow. The worst thing I’ve ever done for my mental health is bottle everything up and keep it all inside. I ended up worse off than I was before, because it all built up and I ended up having a breakdown. Just get it out. Cry about it, think about it for a bit, tell someone how you feel, anything to get it out there before it becomes a burden you can’t bear.
It’s important to acknowledge what you’re feeling, rather than sweeping it under the carpet.
12 – Being Creative
Photography saved my life in a way. I’d just been diagnosed with a Social Anxiety Disorder, just dropped out of school, couldn’t ever leave the house but photography helped me do things I was too anxious to do before. Slowly, it helped me leave the house, it helped me meet new people and learn conversational skills, it helped put me on the spot and learn how to cope with that, it gave me a job when I had no qualifications. It was my biggest passion and I think that passion gave me enough drive to get through the worst of things.
Not only has my creativity with photography helped me with accomplishing things in life despite my social anxiety, my creativity in general helps me to focus on something I enjoy. I love writing, crafting things for my photo shoots and I also do a little horror photography on the side of my photo business to keep my creative spark alive.
13 – Exercise
I’ve only just started getting back into this since my recent surgery for Endometriosis but exercise has always been amazing for my mental health. I used to love running in the forest or by the river and now that I live in Somerset, there are lots of country walks for me to go on. It’s not just the natural endorphins that are released when you exercise that I find good for my mental health but also the feeling of being strong and feeling of accomplishment as well.
14 – Cutting Down On Social Media
Social media fucks with my head so much that when I’m particularly delicate, I need to cut down. I have to step away from my phone for a while and just be present, or I end up feeling incredibly low and incredibly anxious. There are lots of reasons why social media makes me feel this way and perhaps you can relate but these are the main reasons for me:
- I end up comparing myself to everyone, on Facebook and Instagram especially.
- It lowers my self-esteem drastically.
- All the posts about bad news and terrible things happening that are out of my control make me feel useless and severely anxious.
- It sometimes becomes an obsession to be perfect on social media and have likes etc.
- Seeing other people have things I can’t have, like when I had a miscarriage and having to see everyone’s pregnancy announcements and baby statuses or when my social anxiety was extremely severe and having to see my friends going out without me having a good time.
15 – Writing About It
Of course this had to be on the list! Writing my blog has opened up a whole new world for me, in a sense that I get therapeutic value from writing about my mental health on a frequent basis but I also get to talk to lots of people who are going through the same thing. It’s also opened up other doors such as being on the radio for BBC Radio 5 Live, which was a massive challenge for my social anxiety disorder.
For more of the tools I use for my mental health, check out my resources page. Let me know what helps you in the comments!