We’re all guilty of it: slipping into bad habits and harmful behaviours whenever we feel low. Sometimes it becomes increasingly difficult to drag yourself out of these pits, especially if you’ve been repeating the same behaviour over and over for a while. I’ve compiled a short list of things that anyone prone to issues with their mental health should try to avoid when they can – and one thing that I think it vitally important.
When it comes to taking care of yourself physically and mentally, there are some things we all have done in the past and maybe still do that we should pull back from:
If you’re the type of anxious, overanalytical person who struggles with comparing themselves to others (hello, is it me you’re looking for?) then stop with the social media flagellation. We all know that social media is designed for us to only show our best moments, and allows for those moments to be blown up and exaggerated if required. So why on earth do we torture ourselves by comparing our achievements and lives to those of others? Nobody is walking your path, and so, so many Instagram and YouTube sensations have confessed to their lives being less than the easy, glamorous, exciting movie-star existence we see online. Step away from the smartphones and take time doing things that will enrich you and build you up.
Listening to everything out there.
You’ll be happy if you meditate, drink enough water, learn complex yoga positions and practice mindfulness and repetitive wellness regimes. Heard it all before, right? There was a time, not so very long ago, when everyone and her dog was meditating every morning whilst journaling, blending green juice and standing on their heads in the quest to live an anxiety-free life. Now, the die-hards among them will tell you it works 100% of the time for everyone. But a realist will say it can work, but not for everyone. Find your niche. Don’t meditate if it only serves to allow your overactive mind to wander further and dwell on intrusive thoughts. Find what’s right for you and let the rest of the crowd attend to themselves.
- Holding it all in.
Practice letting it go. No, not the Frozen song. But by all means, if belting it at the top of your lungs helps clear your head then go for it. But that isn’t what I have in mind.
When you’re having a truly awful day, like I am today, one thing that helps is getting it all off your chest. Maybe you have a friend or relative who is a great listener, so talking to them is a good option. But if you don’t, or if you just feel like keeping to yourself a bit (nothing wrong with that) then write it down. Get a journal, start a blog, open a Word document, whatever you need to do to exorcise those demons. Write down in a list the things that are on your mind and park them, to revisit later or to cross off once you’ve worked through the issue. Over time, it will help you work out what the important things to worry about are and what you can simply let go of.
- Prioritising everyone but yourself.
Another age-old cliche that seems very hard for someone suffering anxiety, intrusive thoughts and depression to understand and to follow. But taking care of yourself and taking time to indulge the things you enjoy and the things that refresh you is invaluable. I can’t stress that enough. Go have that bubble bath at 4pm, have two if you like. Go to bed super early if it helps you sleep, leave the night owling to others. Sit on that park bench or in that cafe and pull out the book you’ve been meaning to read. Buy the sweet treat. You’re allowed to look after yourself in any way that you need to.
Anyone who has suffered with or has been through a mental health issue knows there are a long, long list of things we’re told to do and not to do. So disregard any and all of the above advice if you wish to, but please consider trusting me on the following:
- Talk about it.
To friends, family, strangers, therapists, anybody who you feel you have a bond with who will provide the ear and the shoulder you need. But I don’t just mean verbal communication. Sometimes you just don’t feel able to sit down with somebody and say “hey, you know what? I don’t feel great right now” no matter how comforting and understanding they may be. So write about it, vlog it, blog it, anything it, just get it out there even if the only person who sees it is you.
Because, eventually, on the good days which will become more plentiful as time goes on, you’ll look back and see just how far you’ve come.