10 things to keep your mental health in tip-top condition
Following on from yesterday’s post I decided to tell you the things that have really helped me break down those ridiculously high expectations for myself. They may also help you too if you’re struggling or if you’re just feeling a bit ‘meh’. And no, they’re not eating healthy and do exercise because we’ve all heard those ones over and over (I guess they do help though!).
The 10 things I would recommend to keep your mental health in tip-top condition are:
1. Stop buying fashion or celebrity gossip magazines
Seriously, those things are so full of shit. Do you honestly care if someone from a reality show you barely watch has gained 5 pounds? Will you ever afford that gold encrusted Hermes Birkin bag? No, so don’t let this rubbish seep into your brain. What they are subliminally telling you is you’re not the ‘right’ size either or you are a failure because you can’t afford the bag. These magazines just feed you crap that makes you feel crap. Get rid of them now. If you’re stuck waiting for a train then buy a puzzle book, or a food magazine or one of the great mindfulness magazines around at the moment. Or buy a real book and read it.
2. Only follow people on social media that make you feel good, make you think or help you to learn.
This is similar to above. Delete all the accounts that make you feel less about yourself or give you an opportunity to judge others. Instead follow people who have similar values, aspirations and dreams as you. Follow people are happy in themselves, no matter what they look like or what they’re wearing. People whose food makes you want to buy all the unicorn frosting in the world (surely that’s a thing?) and get baking. Fuck it, follow people who are hot – a little eye candy never hurt anyone – and also follow people who make you laugh. If you’re interested in who I follow head over to my Instagram account and give me a follow.
3. Pick your battles
I use this phrase all the time, but not only for my daughter. Granted, a lot of my time is picking my battles with her as we are two stubborn females inhabiting the same space, but this also works for husbands, friends, family and work. Ask yourself is it worth it? This doesn’t make you a doormat, it just means that you conserve your energy for the important things. Depression can leave you feeling exhausted so don’t waste your precious battery life, and don’t irritate yourself, by constantly nagging or getting major guilt when you blew up over a small thing. You can pick what pisses you off. Just let that sink in a minute.
4. Choose your friends
You don’t have to be friends with everyone. Yes, finding this out can sometimes mean you get a flashback of being in the playground alone whilst everyone else plays with the mean girl, but you are grown up now. Some people won’t get you and that’s fine. Some people will irritate you for no apparent reason and that’s fine. Some people may have faded away and that’s fine too. They may come back but they were there, at that time for a reason.
So look around you and see the friends you have. Who adds something special to your life? To be honest, for me at the moment, that usually means a Facebook message at the right time, but really take care of the friends who take care of you. We’re all busy but just knowing you’re being thought of by someone can really cheer up a crappy day.
5. Download a mindfulness app or listen to meditations
You may hear Mindfulness and start to zone about because its some hippy, meditation blah blah, but the ‘art’ of mindfulness is to stay in the present and notice things going on around you. Lots of us spend a lot of our time looking back at the past and thinking ‘what if?’ and lots of us look to the future and dream about the days you will be able to afford the five-bedroom house, or when you lose those ten pounds. But what is going on right now? Taking some time to appreciate that stuff really does help the mind reset. I’m not even joking, there are studies that it can rewire your brain!
Ironically I’ve suggested downloading an app but a great way of practising mindfulness is to put the phone down and look around. Play with your child without wondering whats for tea, listen to birds tweeting without wishing you’d put the washing on the line to dry an hour ago. It all helps to realise that there are certain things you can control (the present) and there are other things you can’t (the future and past). Andy from Headspace explains this way better than I can though, so go and take a look.
6. Make sure you have some you time
I can’t remember the first time I had ‘me-time’ after Charlotte was born. I am pretty sure that was because I didn’t really have any for many months after. I think that explains a lot of why I felt like I did through those months. I seemed to think it was selfish to ask for that time for me and it was never offered so it didn’t happen. It’s not selfish. Taking time for myself is the only way I survive now. Even 20 minutes of quiet to have a cup of tea and read a chapter or two of a book is so restorative. Even five minutes to massage in your night cream properly helps. I certainly know now when I’m neglecting my self-care and hope to remind other frazzled mums in my facebook group Five Minutes Peace. And yes, I do feel an affinity with the mummy elephant in those books. Feel free to come and join us.
7. Go to bed earlier
This is one of those ones which is always said so I’m sorry for repeating the obvious, but sleep helps so much. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this though as I am a night owl and can’t can’t seem to get to bed before 11.30pm most nights. My sleep is almost always broken by a 6 year old climbing in bed or asking for water or a whippet whacking her bum against my bed to tell me she needs to go for a wee so I really should head to bed earlier to make up for it.
I do however, know that sleep helps. Steph from Don’t Buy Her Flowers coined the phrase Naps Save Lives and she’s probably right. Tempers get frayed, your memory goes to pot (anyone unloaded the dishwasher last thing and found the mugs in the fridge – no me neither!). Your head starts to hurt as you’ve strained your eyes all day looking at a computer and then you’re sat at home looking at the TV or your phone and you’ve probably had another glass of wine or a few biscuits too haven’t you? Now’s the time to go to bed, I promise you a few early nights will help.
8. Get outdoors
Fresh air can do wonders. The weather has been so rubbish so far this year which makes it very easy to hibernate and depression can make you want to dive under the covers and never come out, but I promise you once you’ve layered up and done a lap or two of the park you may just feel a teensy bit less bleugh. Get out as part of your ‘you-time’ and listen to an audiobook or just the birds tweeting. Or, kids react well to fresh air and open spaces too so drag them along. Cooped up kids can quickly become feral which is good for no-ones mental or physical health for that matter, so bundle everyone up and get out. Invite friends to kill two birds with one stone. It also doesn’t cost any money so you can do it daily!
9. Do something you love
I found that you can very easily lose who you are, other than the bum wiping, dinner making, after school club taxi that is a mum. If you’re a working mum this can compact your sense of ‘being’ further. More often than not you’ve gone back to a job for finance’s sake rather than the love of it so having something that is just yours that you enjoy doing is paramount.
What did you used to like doing? Sadly Rio’s, my cheesy local nightclub has closed and Warehouse no longer sell shiny sleeveless tops to wear to it. So that’s that hobby out of the way. But I’ve always liked writing, drawing and crafts. Finding these things helped me get through some of the rubbish times I’ve had since being a mum as it reminded me that I was good at other things as well as spelling everything phonetically and v-e-r-y slowly. You may not have even found you’re ‘love’ yet so go out and try things. Pick up a camera and take photos, start crocheting, bake, take a vehicle maintenance course, learn to code…there’s so many things out there and you deserve to find something that gives you an opportunity to feel like more than ‘just a mum’ every now and again.
10. Accept who you are
This is a hard one which is why I left it until last. It definitely takes some time to get there (just like this long post – sorry!). Hopefully by doing some of the list above this will become easier, but it still takes some conscious thoughts to get here. I’m not there yet but I’m getting better. Accept yourself. Accept your body. That doesn’t mean you cant make it stronger and healthier if that’s what you want to do, but it does mean that you don’t need to beat yourself up every time you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of yourself in the window.
Understand and accept your personality. As above, you may not be everyone’s cup of tea but who cares? If social media is good for one thing it is finding your tribe, so if you have a penchant for kitsch china teapots there will be people out there who do too. If you would rather gouge your eyes out that join the PTA that’s ok. And don’t feel guilty for saying “no thank you” to anything you’re not comfortable doing. Accept that you are good enough just as you are and anyone who tells you otherwise is frankly a cockwomble and not worthy of your time.
I hope that some of these tried and tested recommendations help you when things are starting to feel just a bit too chaotic or the black cloud is descending overhead. If you do think that you may be suffering with depression, anxiety or if you just feel rubbish and have been for a few weeks, then please do talk to your GP who will be able to offer advice and options on how to help you.