mental health

Your mental health comes first.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
– WHO

It ended up not being a blog post last week. I had to take some me time due to personal circumstances that made the week and the one before rather hard.

Living with a mental illness is a full-time job, and often it is a full-time job you try to leave at home and not bring on about your day because of the stigma you might face. Managing mental heath is often a bumpy road. It can be a speeding treadmill where the only change in speed is up, eventually something’s got to give and 9 times out of 1+ it is you.

It is hard to try to get back in control when you are taken for that ride. For me, I always tend to think that the best way is through. I run at the wall, I will power through it; ignoring small symptoms that I always recognise in retrospect. The next wall will be ticker and maybe I can run through that one too. Keep on running and hit the next, just a little bit harder. Keep running. Keep ignoring. Unfortunately your skin and bones does not grow into steel in this process. Eventually a wall will be thick enough to cripple you and bring you to your knees.

I complete this process over and over, even after recognising the pattern. Because I am human. I make mistakes. The important part is to get back up again and how you go about it. What I have learned is that I need to ensure that I put my mental health above everything else, when I don’t things go wrong often disastrously so.

Putting your mental health first, does not mean that you will go about your day just doing what suits you and never compromise. Putting your mental health first means to exercise discipline, it is to go to bed early even if it is weekend, because you know routine is good for your mind. To put your mental health first also means that sometimes you will skip the gym, not just because you don’t feel like it but because you know if you go and underperform it will make you feel even worse.  Taking care of your mental health means cutting out people who aren’t good for you, even if you have a “hell-of-a-great-time”, sometime even if they are family. It is also cancelling plans that you might once looked forward to but now cannot bring yourself to do.

Having that aside, to put your mental health first also means not cancelling plans when you “just don’t feel like it.” It is going to the gym when you would rather watch Netflix, because you know it will make you feel good. It is separating the “I don’t want to” or “I feel like being lazy” from the “If I do this now, I will be worse off because of my mental state,” and take the appropriate action.

Taking care of your mental well-being is hard work and it is knowing yourself, so that you get a breather between the punches. All you can do it practice, learn something and get better; the important thing is to keep in mind that to be happier you should embrace the journey and stop worrying about the destination.

 

 

fitness · Workouts

New Year. New you?

I’m going to be honest and say that I am of that group of people who think of new years resolutions as a big load of bollocks. The concept of new year resolutions is great, but most of the time you just end up making some grand gesture that is supposed to last the whole year and you are burned out by February or March. Most new years resolutions fail because they a too broad or too unrealistic, which makes the resolutions of: “I am going to eat only healthy food this year,” or “I’m going to exercise everyday this year.”

Given my view my next few blog posts are going to seem a little hypocritical, but I am a believer in change and I believe that we all can benefit from changing for the better. And I know that when struggling with extra challenges such as a mental health disorder, change is extra hard. So based on the fact that anything is better than nothing, I will be posting a low-bar, no equipment needed, work outs three times a week for the next 4 weeks. Each week I will device a blog post with an update, I will aim to have it up by Sunday, but it might sometimes end up not being up until Monday. The work outs will be posted on the Instagram page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. the weekly blog post will be updated to contain each work out on the respective day.

All the work outs will be as intense or as easy as you want to make them as I am basing them on the HIIT-principle (High Intensity Interval training). If you need the work out to be harder, go faster, if you need to ease up go slower. None of the work outs should take more than a maximum of 20 minutes, most of them will probably be done in 10. They are short enough that if you already are following a training program you can just slap it onto the end of your program before you cool down to get some variation, and they are short enough so that time won’t be an easy excuse. Absolutely no equipment will be necessary, not even a chair, in order to ensure that everyone do them from the comfort of their living room. Though I would recommend the use of a stopwatch function on your phone or computer, so that you can monitor your progress.

My challenge to you this second week of January is to do these simple work outs three times a week and then that is all you need to do. Working out in itself is a great anti depressant, and even a short period of exercise will help elevate a heavy mood and increase your wellbeing. Even if these work outs only takes 10 minutes or 15 minutes,  any number of minutes is better than 0 minutes.

So with no further ado I will be posting Monday’s work out below:

Complete 5 rounds of:
10 Squats
10 Press ups
10 Ab crunches

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time in the comments.

mental health

Practising self-care that actually works.

In September I wrote that I was aiming to write one post a month, obviously that did not happen, regardless how much I meant to be committed. There is not really any excuse, only an explanation: I have been busy practising self-care through one of my hardest periods this year. Which up until this working, I had no idea that it was actually working up until last weekend.

My happiness has always been anchored to other people or even things (like my FitBit). Or maybe rather whether or not I can catch on to someone else’s wave and stay afloat on their life raft. Most of the time I would not even be aware that I was doing it until it was  way to late.

That is a receipt for disaster every time, and a vicious circle, spiralling out of control so fast. It is also unfair, because no one should ever be solely responsible for someone else’s happiness, it is straining on any kind of relationship you try to forge. So for the better part of a year I have been practising being my own anchor, because the circle can only go one way.

The hard thing is, that there is no one-size fits all route to wellness and happiness. I used to read through all these self-help books, I did hypnotherapy, CBT. I tried listening to these wellness or happiness gurus whatever you might call them. I have read The Secret a million times, Later I tried making lists of things I am grateful for and I tried crying hysterically by myself trying to make it all come out. But the truth is that for any of these things to work, you actually need to have a fundamental shift within yourself. A shift which for me was entirely on a subconscious level.

Below I will write somethings that worked and seems to be working for me, I do not claim that these will work for everyone but it is was I think is affecting my mood and help me to better anchor myself.

So winding back a couple of months, I was at the height of being miserable, again. It was the sort of bottomless feeling of giving up on everything. A place where the sole act of breathing became a chore. When I was swimming there in the bottomless black sea of nothing but numbness I started to have a look around my current state of being and I made some decisions. First I decided to make lists of things I wanted to have done, I love lists and ticking things off them. So I put the most pedestrian things into my phone’s reminder app:

  • Re-Fill water bowl for the cats
  • Go to bed before 23:00
  • Play with the cats
  • Make dinner 2 times this week
  • Smile
  • Don’t eat bread
  • Do laundry

It was just every day things that I wanted to have done, tagged to dates and times I wanted to have them done by. And I still do this. I do not think I was aware of it at the time, but ticking off my self-given chores gave me a sense of accomplishment, which gradually helped to lift my mood.

I started to try to make things nice for myself. I purchased a lot of tea candles, votives and fragrant candles and I lit them, even if I was alone watching TV in my living-room. Just to create some god ol’ “hygge.” I purchased lots of tea, because I really like the idea of drinking tea in a candlelit room (turns out I do not like tea very much). And I even purchased myself flowers (turns out Lilies does not smell anything like most lily-fragrances will have you belive).

Making food has always been something I cannot be bothered with making if I am just making it for myself. But I started to make my own food, turns out I can make a great chicken curry and that even I can make gravy that does not lump. Not to mention that homemade food does taste much better than most of the bland takeaways you find around (I am not saying there are no good takeaways, but most of them are the same bland food in my opinion).

Over the summer I also finally signed up for that PT-course, which I completed in October/November. Which brings me to my next point: a change of scenery. I am not suggesting that you book a one-way trip to Australia or go on a crazy adventure. What I am suggesting is that you give yourself a break. For me it was the PT course. Even if it was highly intensive and compact course, it was a breath of fresh air. I was out of my normal 8-5 work environment. I did not have a single headache for those two weeks, I talked to new people and got a fresh input. It even kicked me back to the gym which I had been avoiding for the last 3 months prior to the course due to my mental exhaustion and lack of motivation which sprung on at the end of summer.

The course also gave me a new and bigger sense of accomplishment, because I have always been doubting my own abilities in all kinds of matters. I am a great student, I am good at acquiring new knowledge, understand it and put it to use. But, when push comes to show I usually bail out or I panic and fail, or I leave everything to the last-minute and screw everything up for myself, exams has always been the absolute worst for my nerves. This time I managed to pass all my exams with no fuss, no panicking (until after I turned in the exam at least) and on the first try because I did not make a half-assed attempt (like I often do to sabotage myself because I am too scared of not being good enough so I bail on the reading all together). It was a great win for me.

More recently I have started something I have always thought of as rather stupid. I have started to keep a journal, which I write in everyday. It is not like I list everything I did every day or write down a thousand things I am grateful for. What I try to do, is to write down anything I experienced as positive during the day. Sometimes it might just be one sentence, other days I can fill in paragraphs, depending on the day. The key is that I only write down anything I perceive as a positive event or train of thought. It was an Idea I got from listening to Introducing Happiness from Audible as one of the “exercises” they give are similar. The thought behind it is to try to remember the positive events and let the negative fade into the background. I started it as a silly experiment following listening to the Audible Podcast, but it is actually very giving or soothing now that I have adapted the suggested exercise to something that suits me. And I keep on doing it.

That leads me to the big finale where I for the first time could answer a pedestrian question “How are you?” with “I am fine.” For once I actually recognised that I was actually happy, and hardly recognise or trust. Which leads me to why it has taken me 7 days to compose this text, because I needed to be sure it was not the start of mania. So far, I feel safe about it.

So I think the message from me here is, that you need to find something that works for you. In order to find your inner calm or happiness, you need to do things that bring you joy.

Recommended reading, if you are interested: 

  • Introduction to happiness (Podcast on Audible.co.uk)
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy
  • The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • The Power by Rhonda Byrne
  • Wallace D. Wattles Premium Collection (You can get the 9 books in One Volumes)