Tag Archives: Physical Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 13th – 19th May 2019

This week in the United Kingdom is Mental Health Awareness Week. Although this particular Awareness Week for 2019 ends tomorrow, the need to be aware of mental health is so important each and every day for a myriad of reasons, personally and societally. 

Mental Health affects everybody, just as physical health does. And we each find ourselves somewhere on the scale between mental wellness and mental illness just as our bodies at different points in our lives can be well or ill. Similarly, we may each be prone to various physical or mental conditions that affect our health and wellbeing. 

Somehow though it has become easier and more acceptable to talk about an injured limb, organ or other physical condition than to talk about an injured mind or brain. Thankfully, the societal and personal stigmas surrounding mental wellbeing and mental illness are gradually being addressed and it seems that we are slowly beginning to accept that these things aren’t shameful, just as it isn’t shameful to have broken one’s arm, and that it is incredibly important to dissolve unnecessary stigmas and talk and raise awareness about such a vital part of human life. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. On a personal note, I had to confront my own stigmas and challenge those of people close to me and listen to the advice of those friends who saw me at a particularly low point and told me that I needed to get help. Years of childhood and adult stress, a chronic situation that our bodies and brains aren’t supposed to be under, resulted in me experiencing full blown symptoms of complex post traumatic stress, severe clinical depression and severe generalised anxiety disorder. I didn’t, however know or understand what was happening to me, and it was very, very frightening. I blamed myself and felt ‘responsible’ for my mind, without realising that these kind of injuries can’t simply be ‘thought better’ and were not one being ‘weak minded’ as for me anyway, they were a result of my body and brain’s ‘default’ being to exist in fight / flight mode, imbalances in chemical regulation physiologically including with the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and the chemical sertraline. I have two first class degrees, and additional awards, and hold down a full time professional job within an organisation that focuses on helping the society and community and individuals facing difficulties on many levels, so having worked so hard to overcome the damage that a severe period of bullying in childhood and adult stress had done to me, and working in a profession that helped ‘really’ traumatised people with actual severe life situations, I felt and thought that I ‘ought to be’ able to function normally. And yet, the reactions my body, brain and mind were experiencing were in fact very normal reactions to difficult life events…and I had in fact done so well to have come so very far, and still be helping society on some level, even while I was experiencing frightening flash backs, severe low mood, fear, anxiety, chronic pain, intrusive thoughts, disorientation, dizziness, dissociation, insomnia, nightmares and severe depression. I had to fight hard to do simple things like even wash a cup or make a meal or walk across the room. I felt like my brain was exploding and there was no off switch or mute button or way to turn it down to get relief. So out of absolute helplessness and necessity for my survival I reached out and went to the doctor (something I was frightened to do, and something I was also advised against in case it affected my career – it didn’t – in fact I have since been very supported at work), and with the encouragement of some friends I finally took that brave step a few years ago and I am so glad that I did. Despite waiting lists, the help from the NHS I have been given both in terms of medicine and psychological support has been incredibly beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, there was no ‘quick fix’ – it has taken several years of commitment, showing up, doing the hard work to be in a place where I can manage my symptoms rather than them ruining my life. And I realise that I have a ‘toolkit’ to be able to get stronger and stronger and help other people too, so this blog post is a real victory, and I thank God for that. 

I want to encourage you if you yourself are struggling….with anything…or know a friend, family member or colleague who you think might be struggling with their mental wellbeing to be brave and take that first step to reach out. I do believe you will be listened to and supported. I know it can be daunting, but there are so many resources out there, and there are professionals who understand what is happening to you even if they don’t necessarily know or understand your individual life experiences, and it could just change or save your or somebody else’s life. 

I don’t know what the best resources are in other countries, but in the UK, here are some very helpful, caring, professional sources that you can reach out to – even if you don’t have any issues as such but just want to learn more whether that be to grow in awareness of mental health issues, or to gain understanding of someone you know, then these are a great place to start.

Please do leave a comment if there are any particular things you’d like to raise awareness of as I would like to write more about mental health and learn from you too as this is so important and might be just what somebody out there needs to hear.

I’ve also linked to a YouTube channel of a licensed mental health professional who is very relatable, so that’s something anyone can access which is good if you’re based in another country.

Love to you all and thanks for reading, and for being you. Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help – that’s what it’s there for, and everyone is important and valuable. Also, if you know of any helpful resources in your country leave a comment in case someone else is looking for help where you are. Thanks. xx

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

MIND: https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/mental-health-awareness-week-2019/

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/scotland/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

Breathing Space: https://breathingspace.scot/

The Blurt Foundation: https://www.blurtitout.org/

YouTube Kati Morton Licensed Therapist: https://www.youtube.com/user/KatiMorton

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Simple Self-Care Challenge # 3 (What’s in your Toolkit?)

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Hi Friends,

I hope you are well today. However, even if you’re not doing too well, part 3 of the simple step-by-step self care series is very much for you.

(Parts 1 and 2 can be found here: https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/simple-step-by-step-self-care-series-simple-self-care-challenge-1/

and here:

https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/simple-self-care-challenge-2/).

Take it at your own pace, and revisit the previous ‘challenges’ as often as you like, just do what works best for you.

What is a Self-Care Toolkit and why do I need one?

Today, as you will have gathered from the title, I’m going to be talking about your ‘Self-Care Toolkit’. So, a good place to start is to discuss what a self-care toolkit is.

Like everyone, I’m sure you have your ups and downs. Some days are very good days, and others, not so much. However, some of us who suffer from and struggle with longer term health challenges such as depression, anxiety, PTSD…..the list goes on and on! the bad days can be very difficult indeed! To limit things from getting so bad that they become overwhelming and we feel that we can’t cope, we need a strategy. Even if you don’t feel that you struggle with these more severe conditions, it is still important that you are aware of how best to take care of yourself.

I find that it is usually when we are having slightly better days that it is a good time to plan ahead for the days when we will struggle.  One way of doing this is to have a ‘toolkit’ for your self-care and wellbeing. The ‘toolkit’ isn’t so much a physical thing as it is a bunch of ideas for you to keep at hand so that when you are struggling  you know what your ‘go to’ helpful things will be.  However, you can also keep a toolkit of physical things too.

So, what goes in the toolkit?

Just as we all have different learning styles, we will also have different approaches to putting together our self-care toolkits. I’ll share some of my ideas of what works for me to give you a starting point from which to develop your own.

I personally find that I can make sense of things better with lists and categories. Therefore, I will group ideas into the following two categories:

  • Emotional and psychological self-care
  • Physical self-care

Emotional and Psychological Self-Care

Depending on your general wellbeing you may wish to incorporate some of the following ideas into your self-care toolkit:

  • Contacts – trusted people whom you can reach out to. These might be close friends or family members, support workers, a psychologist, or even helplines that you can contact. Your resource list of contacts from organisations will depend on where in the world you live, so if you think it will be helpful to you take some time to do a little bit of research online, ask people you know or as health professionals. Make a note of contacts in your self-care journal that you started in week 1.
  • Distractions – can be greatly beneficial when we find ourselves struggling or slipping into a negative mood or unhelpful thought patterns. They bring you back into the present, out of your head, and provide enjoyment and relief that can tide over your ‘bad spell’. Some of the distractions that I like to absorb myself in include: adult colouring in books (there is a plethora to choose from!), art and craft hobbies, writing, photography, music, watching a comedy, doodling, planning ahead in my diary to keep focussed on the future and planning in positive things to look forward to no matter how small they might be, reading, meeting with a friend, going outside, etc. Have a think of what your healthy distractions could be and write them down in your self-care journal 🙂

Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care is equally as important as emotional self-care and you will find that a lot of aspects of both overlap with each other. Here are some starting points to consider:

  • Is there anything you need to intentionally avoid in order to stay safe during difficult times? If so, have a contingency plan and where possible make sure you have a couple of trusted people that you can be accountable with.
  • Plan ahead with healthy meal ideas. Nutrition is so important for both physical and mental wellbeing. If you take some time out to write down some healthy meal ideas, then when you feel stuck and unable to think of what to eat (and equally what not to eat), then you will have something written down to refer to. But don’t forget you are allowed to treat yourself every now and then aswell.
  • Drink plenty of water and make healthy snacks a part of your every day routine.
  • Make a note of any medications you require to take should you be likely to forget.
  • Get fresh air and exercise, and where possible spend time in the beauty of nature.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Do some self-pampering at home such as making your own ‘foot spa’.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation.

You may also find it comforting to have a little box of ‘goodies’ of special objects or things that make you feel calm to keep at hand for times when you need that extra boost, or that just make you happier even if you already feel alright.

So, have a think about these suggestions as a starting point, and remember to make them your own. Do what works best for you, and make a note of them in your self-care journal, and I will see you soon for the next ‘challenge’.

In the meantime, stay well.

Much love, x.