Today, we talk a lot about Mental Health. I prefer to call it Mental Strength because this feels more relatable to me. Mental Health is terminology that I feel is subjective and unique to every individual. What constitutes “healthy” when it comes to our minds, emotions and thought processes? Physical health is slightly easier to define, albeit just as complex. We can stay physically healthy by eating our five-a-day, staying active and avoiding poisonous substances. But how can we feed and exercise our brains? Perhaps this is a topic for a future blog post, once I have had time to digest more information on Mental Health and build an interpretation of it. I have a hunch there may be more to it than mindfulness and yoga, and I want to learn more.
The past eighteen months have taught me a lot about myself. It is a widely accepted fact that people learn more about themselves when they experience hardships. The bad times and the struggles in life are what truly define who you are. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and I speak from experience. Last summer, I reached a very pivotal moment in my life. I found myself starting a new role in a new office with a new team, moving into a new house with new people in a new part of London, ending a new-ish relationship (#byefelicia) and facing some new health issues head-on. It has been a time of my life that has truly tested me. It continues to test me as I fight a battle against my body, which at times, is my worst enemy!
During these times, I was forced to educate myself and find ways of coping on my own. I felt confused, helpless, alone and scared. My family don’t live locally and couldn’t be there for me. My flatmates didn’t know me yet and didn’t understand why I was tired, frustrated and unwell all the time. My friends were “the other side of the river,” as we say in London, and on the occasions when we hung out, I didn’t want to spend this time talking about my struggles. So, I struggled alone. To help make myself feel better and less stressed about what I was going through, I bought face makes and scented candles, had more baths, gave myself manicures, bought a yoga mat, started listening to Podcasts, signed up for fitness events and engaged in activities that made me feel happier, more relaxed, more fulfilled and distracted me from all the physical pain, tiredness, discomfort, etc. that I was feeling.
Sleep was paramount for me during this challenging time of my life and it still is. During the worst periods, I was waking up throughout the night in panic, sweating, having nightmares, aches and pains, and would get up each morning feeling absolutely exhausted. Now, I do whatever I can to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and I pretty much plan my life around my sleep to make sure I’m never deficient. Sleep and hormones have a very sensitive relationship and when I don’t get enough sleep, my mood, appetite, energy levels, stress levels are all completely erratic and out of control. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or just going through a difficult time, I urge you to really prioritise sleep and you may see some very positive changes.
Apps such as Buddhify and Headspace can work wonders for people who struggle to turn off their brains and just relax. I have found a HUGE amount of comfort in music and podcasts. You will never see me without headphones in unless I’m working. Music calms me down more than I can even explain in words. My favourite podcasts are ones which feed my passions, like business, entrepreneurship, tech, start-ups and athletics. On the weekends and on some weekday evenings, I often go for long walks and plug in a Podcast. Writing this blog also helps! I am a very expressive person. I have a lot of thoughts, feelings, opinions and I need to express them, vocally or in writing. This got me into trouble when I was younger, but now I know how to better articulate what is on my mind, sharing it in written format helps me make sense of my experiences and gives me a sense of comfort. Of course, there is a narcissistic aspect to this, which is that I think somebody is actually reading this or giving a sh*t about what I have to say. But a few of you have written to me and told me how this blog has made you feel more motivated, less alone or has given you a little comfort in knowing that someone else “gets it.” Each of those messages have given me little bits of happiness, knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on you, no matter how small that impact may be.
Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about our physical appearance and how we look (myself included). Not enough of us expend the same time and effort on how we think and how we feel. You are an intelligent, interesting, wonderful human being. You have thoughts, opinions and knowledge to share. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise. Let me ask you this: if someone came along and burned all of your clothes, threw some acne on your face, cut off all your hair, and put an extra 20-30 lbs on your frame, what would be your reaction? What if you were fired from your job? What if you lost one of your best friends? How would you cope with the aftermath? Would you be mentally and emotionally strong enough to deal with it and carry on living your life? Teach yourself how to be resilient, teach yourself emotional strength and balance out where you get your confidence from. Do these things so that if you lose something in your life, you don’t self-destruct. Take care of your body AND your mind. The two are intertwined and more connected than we know. Happy Minding and have a wonderful week.