Sunday Funday?

It’s Sunday! Instagram says it’s #sundayfunday, facebook shows all of your friends out with their kids, doing Parkrun** or watching sport. What if Sunday isn’t such a Funday after all?  Sunday can mean a sleepless night worrying about work, thinking about all the stuff you didn’t do this weekend.  The ironing isn’t done, we can’t eat at the dining table because it’s buried under paper and my kid hasn’t brushed her hair since Friday. I’m a failure at life- waaaaah!

 

This cycle of negative thinking is easy to fall into but much harder to climb out of. When the negative self talk starts, it’s tempting to plan how you’re going to get out of that cycle and achieve all those things you didn’t get done. This is not the time to start a project. No planning how you’re going to lose the extra stone in weight, land a job you love and get rich all whilst looking gorgeous and being hilariously funny.  I’ve spent so many hours scheming how I’m going to get there. How I can improve myself so that when I reach all of these (frankly unachievable) goals, my mental health issues will magically disappear and I can sail off somewhere hot on a super-yacht whilst sipping a large cocktail. If I could just push myself a bit harder, work a little harder, stay up a bit later then surely I could achieve everything I want and more?! What really happens is that I set a series of unachievable goals, fall at the first hurdle and the negative talk becomes a shout.

 

Somewhere down the line, you have to hit the stop button. The quest to “have it all” or “reach perfection” is damaging and unsustainable. I’ve identified that (for me) perfection is the enemy but how can we stop it? Ironically I sometimes feel completely paralysed because I know if I *start* something, I’ll have to do it perfectly. Sometimes it’s easier just not to start. Procrastination means I don’t have to face imperfection. I’m going to write more about this in the coming weeks as I attempt to find a way to let go of my deeply ingrained perfectionist tendencies and embrace the middle ground.

 

So instead of worrying about what you haven’t done and planning how you’re going to take over the world, take your finger off the button and have a Sunday Funday.  Do something small to care for yourself and start your week the right way.  My ideal Sunday Funday involves fun with my family then sitting down on the sofa (probably in PJs), with a blanket covering me and reading a really good book. Tell me a little about yours?

 

**I’m sure other runs are available, I wouldn’t know as I never run anywhere.

 

 

Advertisements

5-things to do when you’re struggling with your mental health

Having hit rock bottom (with a splat) several times in my life, I’ve built up an awareness of what does and doesn’t help my symptoms.  Now, before I share this list, I’m want to say: this stuff isn’t rocket science but in the middle of a mental health crisis getting out of bed is hard, let alone anything else. It’s also easy to dismiss small changes and activities that stuff that psychs/nurses/relatives tell us will help.

During one particularly bad call to my crisis team I remember being told to slow down and start breathing deeply. I wanted to scream down the phone:”Breathe?! WTF do you mean breathe?! Of course I’m bl**dy well breathing, I’d be dead if I wasn’t. I’m calling you because I feel like I want to die and the best advice you can give me is breathe?!”

As it was, I did the breathing exercise like I was told and after a couple of attempts felt much better. I still remember the name of the nurse who took my call, her nagging me to breathe made a world of difference. I’m not going to say if you get your breathing right your mental health problems will vanish, we all know it’s not like that.

So without further rambling, I give to you my list of 5 things to do when you’re struggling with your mental health:

1. Write it down: I’ve journaled for about 15 years now, my journal provides a safe space for me to vent but it also helps me track my mood and look for patterns in my behaviour. It also means I get to splurge on stationary (particularly stuff that’s shiny….I love shiny!). If you’re struggling to open up to loved ones or professionals about your feelings, show them your journal instead.

 

2. Exercise (at the right time and with the right type of activity): I do not enjoy sweating. I don’t like lycra. You won’t find me in the gym. BUT I love how I feel when those happy chemicals are floating around after an hour of dancing. There’s plenty of research about the benefits of exercise to help regulate our sleep patterns, reduce our stress and increase our energy levels. The key is finding what works for you, I don’t run anywhere but I love yoga and cycling. On the days that feels like too much, a 20 minute walk is enough to give me a boost. A word of caution- time your exercise well, during a particularly highly strung phase, my evening exercise class gave me such a buzz I was awake until well after 1am. The Royal College of Psychiatrists have a nice leaflet about exercise and its’ impact on mental health here.

 

3. Avoid excess alcohol: Yep you feel more relaxed after that first drink. Maybe you’re drinking a few drinks to get you off to sleep each night. But remember: alcohol is a depressant. It wipes out that happy chemical serotonin (which is also the chemical many antidepressants work on). So not only are you making yourself more depressed, you’re also making it more likely that your antidepressants won’t have the full effect. Drinking to excess also puts you at risk of making poor judgements calls by decreasing your inhibitions.

 

4. Use technology to help, not hinder your recovery.  I love the internet. I love being able to research, read the news and access support groups at the same time as stalking people I know on social media. I also like to go on pinterest and make boards about tattoos I will never have the guts to get and recipes I will never actually make. Social media can bring out the worst in us: never ending comparisons about people we haven’t seen since school (Wow, she looks so happy, her family are gorgeous, I’m so jealous of that car etc) or reading too much into situations (two of my friends went for coffee?! Why wasn’t I invited?! I’ve obviously upset them and they don’t want to be friends with me.)  Lets not forget the sleep destroying effects of blue light emitted from phones and tablets. At its’ worst tech leaves us overstimulated and anxious. Can’t take a break? Force yourself to let a loved one change your passwords for a week- the temptation is gone. Or make a firm decision to put the tech down an hour before bed so that blue light doesn’t impact on your sleep.

 

5. Do something to occupy your mind. Distraction is a useful tool and yet one that we struggle to use. When I’m low, an hour can feel like a week and I don’t always see the value of doing something to take my mind off things, I’d rather sit in my pyjamas and stare into space. Do something to take your mind off things: read a book, do some colouring in (I’ve got a swear word colouring book that I love, intricately colouring the worse Asshole with pencils always amuses me), walk, knit, paint your nails, do some puzzles, download a free mindfulness app and try one of the exercises. Even if you set a timer and do it for 10 minutes, just DO it. You’ll feel proud that you have and often when the timer goes off you’ll carry on with your activity. I love to read but when I’m a bit manic I can’t focus on the words so instead I like to bake cakes. When I’m down I watch Youtube videos of baby animals, also a good way of keeping little people amused if you have them.

 

What small things do you do to help look after yourself when you’re struggling with your mental health? What baby animals would you watch on YouTube (panda’s are my fave). Let me know by commenting or e-mail. Pictures of sparkly stationary are always welcome too!