Art, exercise and meditation: a lesson in self care.
Supporting a loved one through mental illness can be hard work. Taking care of someone can be tiring and putting someone else first can be draining. And yet... Somehow it's very easy to find the strength you're looking for if that strength is being used to look after someone you truly care about.
Sometimes I wonder just how much things would improve for mental health in general if we refocused some of that energy into taking better care of ourselves. If we put some serious effort into self care, what could we accomplish?
The world is full of people who will knock you down and people who will build you up; YOU should be firmly in the latter camp. Think of it as just slightly swinging the odds in your favour. If you can become your own cheerleader you have just increased your own fan base by one whole human.
When I get DMs and emails about anxiety there seems to be a fair amount of "beating yourself up" going on out there. And I am the first to throw one of my favourite bits of advice around: try to show yourself some of the same kindness you would show someone else.
Would you really criticise one of your friends in the same way as you are getting frustrated with yourself for the littlest of mistakes? Would you point out their shortcomings in the same way as you do your own? Or would you be celebrating their wins with them, and offering encouragement and guidance?
I am horribly guilty of being my own worst enemy. I find it easy to build up those around me, while downplaying even my biggest achievements. I'm far quicker to point out my flaws than my natural abilities, passions or strengths.
Somewhere along the line 'Selfish' became a dirty word. I think it's time that we reclaim it. Selfish can be absolutely critical when it comes to improving mental health.
Now I'm not saying get on out there and start robbing others of joy just to fulfill minor and meaningless fantasies of your own; but what I am saying is that we should all spend some serious time making ourselves feel good.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am now equipped with an Impala trunk full of weapons designed specifically for fighting my anxieties and defending my mental wellbeing. There are thousands of different things that can improve your mental state, depending on what exactly it is that you're trying to achieve, but here are some of mine that you might find useful.
When I need to express myself...
- Expressing myself through writing (publicly or privately)
- Talking to my inner circle of trusted people (or my dog)
When I need an outlet
- Writing (although this is near impossible if I am frustrated or angry)
When I need to feel mindful/ think
- Being in the countryside
- Listening to the rain
- Listening to music
- Making something (crafts or cooking)
When I need to relax (no immediate panic)
- Listening to music
- Going for a walk
- Having a bath
- Reading a book
- Netflix/ box set (often something new and engaging)
When I need to distract myself (panic imminent)
- Netflix/ box set (something I am familiar with, usually something light hearted)
- Audiobooks (anything read by Stephen Fry is good but also see Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better)
- Podcasts (My Dad wrote a Porno, the Ricky Gervais Podcast, Do the Right Thing)
- A telephone conversation with someone I trust
These things are regularly the difference between having a panic attack and not, and regularly seeking them out keep a lot of the feelings of anxiety away.
Try to think of each of them as loading up with med packs in a video game. You don't necessarily know when you're next going into battle, but if you habitually keep your health topped up that fight is going to have far less of an impact on your gameplay than if you don't bother until you're just about to pass out.
You don't need me to tell you that Art, Exercise and Meditation are far better things to turn to than substance abuse and self harm. Keep your armour in good condition, and you're far less likely to ever need it. You and I both know that the day you go out without it will be the day that you're ambushed.
Show some love...
Blogging is tiring. Anxiety is exhausting.
It would be totally incredible if you could help me stay fuelled by buying me a coffee.