Hi Guys, coming to you with something a little different this week. As you may already be aware, October is mental health month so I’ve been inspired to write on the topic. I want to keep this post light. Not everyone has suffered severe depression but I think as humans, we all go through periods of uncertainty, confusion and/or grief. This post is going to summerise my favourite ‘notes to self’ and resources for some self-help.
Speaking about mental health has gotten a lot easier in the last few years but we still have a long way to go in debunking the stigma around mental health and depression. Not only do we all need to learn for ourselves, but also for others in our life.
When we’re sick we go to the doctor, when our car is broken we see a mechanic, when our nails are chipped we get a manicure. But when we feel sad or anxious we do nothing? It doesn’t make sense really, does it? If you think you could benefit from speaking to someone, ask yourself what is stopping you. If it’s shame, then write down why it’s embarrassing, you probably won’t have many great points. If it’s the cost, look into different options. You might be able to find a therapist through your health insurance. You might be able to do cheaper therapy sessions online over Skype or have self-taught sessions with yourself via online courses or books (see below for more on this). When you think about how debilitating emotions can be and how much it affects day to day life, weigh out the cost of seeing a therapist versus the outcomes. If you’re paying a gym membership and getting your roots dyed every few weeks then you can probably find the money and time somewhere. It might be one of the best investments you make.
The Mind Verus the Body
As I said above, when we are sick we see a doctor. Sometimes our minds are so anxious it causes our bodies to become sick. I’ve experienced this first hand and it truly amazes me how connected the two are. A lot of the time I don’t feel any particular way and then BAM my body tells me otherwise with a nasty migraine or IBS flare up. It took me years to connect the dots. My body knows what’s going on before my brain does and it’s annoying but also kinda incredible. Now I know that if I don’t practice simple methods of self-care I’ll become unwell so it’s become a great motivation to be kind to myself. If you suffer from unexplained problems such as headaches, stomach issues, recurring colds or flu, insomnia, or acne than maybe you are more stressed than you realise. These are just a few examples of physical symptoms that can manifest from stress.
But What Is Anxiety?
So there are lots of definitions on anxiety and depression and what it means to have either, but I wish there were more terms we could use. Personally, I feel there is a spectrum, and on one end you might have someone who feels sad about gaining a bit of weight and on the other end you might have someone dealing with the loss of a loved one. Both people feel sad and worried, and the feelings are relative to them, but is it the same?
Unfortunately, the same terms are used for very different degrees of feelings. In truth, we are probably all on this spectrum but our places can largely differ. It’s just a tad annoying to hear Kendall Jenner say she is anxious about flying on her private jet to fashion week. I’m sure she is, the fear of flying is not fun, but I wish there was a different word she could use to describe it. Her anxiety is not the same as someone who can’t get out of bed for a week. It’s really important that we choose our words wisely if we want to debunk the stigma.
Anxiety means different things to different people but the most important thing to remember is, there is help no matter where you are on the spectrum.
The Guest House
I recently came across the concept of “The Guest House” by Rumi and love it! It basically means seeing your mind as a guest house where we allow thoughts and emotions to come in, deal with them, and then let them leave. Accepting how you feel is the biggest step in overcoming your problems. Ignoring them or pushing them to the side will only allow them to collect dust and become bigger. Each emotion and experience should be seen as another lesson we can take with us as we grow.
Not Late, Not Early
I think one of the most common causes of anxiety for people in their 20’s and 30’s is the fear of the future. I know it is for me. Through meditation, I have learned to realise when my mind is going 90 and how to switch it off. I also think it’s really helpful to think about everything you have accomplished so far. Not getting caught up in the if’s, but’s, and maybes along with the awful comparison to others (cheers for that one Instagram) are the biggest ways to overcome anxious thoughts. It’s not easy, it takes consistent work but like everything in life, the pay off is worth the effort.
I absolutely adore this piece which highlights how comparison and fearing for the future is nothing but a waste of time.
If you want to feel better now, and learn life skills to cope in the future, then it’s time to get serious. Just like you make time to shower, eat and watch tv. Things that make you feel good and happy. You need to make time to work on your mind. Take 15 minutes to meditate before bed, read a chapter of a self-help book, watch a youtube video from a great speaker. Take just a few minutes a day or an hour at the weekend to work on your mind. Even if you feel great, those feelings might not last forever so why not help your future self out.
Things that work:
I was first introduced to meditation via the Headspace app a couple of years ago. For a long time, I used the app to help me drift asleep and it really worked wonders. But a few months ago I went premium and decided to make it a more regular practice and follow the programs. It can take a while to get used to but if you stick with it, just like going to the gym, you learn to love it. Now I can’t end my day without 15 minutes of meditation. The app also has a new sleep section that I love.
Other great meditation apps are Calm and Insight Timer.
There is truly an endless amount of books out there to read on the subject. I personally like self-help books that have a fun relaxed tone. Books by Sarah Knight (‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving a Fuck’ and ‘Get Your Shit Together’) are a great example of this. There are so many good ones.
Here’s my self-help book list I’m slowly making my way through:
- The Confidence Kit: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Owning Your Fear by Caroline Foran
- Owning it: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Living with Anxiety by Caroline Foran
Emotional Resilience: How to safeguard your mental health (The Flag Series) by
- Notes to Self: Essays Paperback by
- Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
- The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: by Sarah Knight
- Get Your Sh*t Together by
- Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Arianna Huffington
- Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Life by Tony Robbins
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life: Embrace self care with one of the world’s most fun self help books by Jen Sincero
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
There are hundreds of great keynote speakers you can watch online on Youtube. Ted Talks are a great place to start. View the Ted Talk Mental Health playlist HERE.
If you’ve watched videos or read some books and want to go one step further then taking an online course might be the answer. Similarly, if you have been thinking about therapy but are unsure or maybe can’t afford it right now, an online course might a be good alternative.
- Palouse Mindfulness is an 8-week MBSR course that is completely free and recommended by professionals. See the website HERE.
- Aware.ie have a free CBT course which includes confidential support online. See the website HERE.
These are just two examples of great courses you will find online.
I won’t be the first person to tell you this, but one of the best forms of relaxation is exercise. If your not a fan of the gym then try yoga or just go for regular walks. Anything that distracts you from your thoughts and burns energy is great for the body and soul. It just works.
I think the most important thing to take away from this post is that as humans, we all deal with varying levels of anxiety and sadness. No matter how bad it is there is always things you can do or people you can talk to help make sense of our feelings. Looking after your mind should be a priority for everyone.