As I mentioned in my last post, the past couple of years have been incredibly difficult for me with regards to my mental health. Finally, however, I feel as though some of the more recent strategies I’ve employed have started to make a difference to the way I feel, think and perceive/process information and events, and I thought it might be useful to share them on here, particularly for those of you who – like me – have struggled and continue to struggle with the challenges of living with a mental illness (or mental illnesses) on a daily basis. I will say though, these aren’t miracle cures: recovery is so incredibly challenging, and is possibly the least linear process you will ever experience; just because certain things work for me doesn’t mean you’ll find them useful, and vice versa. When you’re feeling consistently low and/or enervated, it can be extremely difficult to have the desire to get better, because it takes work. Types of therapy and medication can help you to help yourself, but – and I learnt this the hard way – they can’t do it all: that’s down to you. That being said, however, there will always, always be people there to listen to and support you – you deserve health, you deserve happiness, and, possibly above all, you deserve hope. As always, if you ever (and I mean ever!) need someone to talk to, then you can drop me an email or Twitter DM, and I’ll reply as quickly as possible!
The biggest change I’ve made to my daily routine is definitely waking up earlier – I’m usually out of bed for 5.30am on a weekday, and about 7am on a weekend – but the massive difference I’ve noticed can’t solely be attributed to messing with my alarm clock: that by itself would probably just make me grumpy! After I’ve forced my eyes open and stretched out my ridiculously long limbs, I always make sure to throw back the covers and leave the cosy cave of duvets and pillows that my somnolent self crafted expertly the night before behind. The very notion sounds horrifying, doesn’t it?! Masochistic, even – and perhaps it is – but I can promise you, hand on heart, that your feet hitting the floor for the first time will ground, focus and calm you. The thing is, as fantastic as snuggling down and hitting snooze sounds, you’ll end up feeling worse for it; if you fall asleep again after your alarm has first woken you, it is almost definite that its second blaring will interrupt your sleep cycle, thereby causing you to feel more – yes, more – tired, and essentially setting you up to fail before you’ve even left the house!
When I was at my worst, yoga and meditation seemed like pointless exercises, only useful for those people with perfectly polished and put-together lives – Whenever someone mentioned in passing the concept of mindful breathing or holding a child’s pose, I’d conjure up an image of a tanned, athletic-looking woman in her twenties sitting on a mat next to a bottle of water and an açai bowl in the lotus position, with her naturally blonde hair pulled back into a loose bun, her eyes closed and her hands upturned, with the middle finger and thumb pressed lightly together. The reality is so much different, however; to me, meditation looks like sitting in my pyjamas with my legs crossed and shoulders relaxed, with an Honest Guys track playing in the background and (most likely) a thick blanket draped across my knees. Yoga is also personified in my mind as a sleepy not-quite-adult cracking her bones before slowly extending herself out into a Cobra, or straining to stretch her hamstrings just that little bit more… In short, you don’t have to be an Instagram model or fitness blogger to fall in love with yoga and meditation: you just have to be willing to give it a try. Honestly, it does wonders for my mental health – I feel less anxious, more energetic and just generally more capable of taking on the day; even if I know it’s going to be a tough one, I find myself consciously and deliberately focusing on the positives as opposed to the negatives. At school, I now have permission to put my earphones in during lessons if I find myself becoming overwhelmed so that I can listen to some calming music or a guided meditation track for five minutes to calm me down while I focus on my breathing, which also helps an enormous amount – if this sounds good to you too, perhaps suggesting it to your head of year or even just a trusted teacher would be a good idea?
Now that I’m in Year 13, and – because of my disability – have to use a laptop or Braille device of some description every single day to complete my work, I often feel enervated and in need of a break from technology. Luckily, however, this feeling has subsided slightly ever since I started walking to school with my friends on a morning, which can probably be attributed to the fact that I’m experiencing genuinely enjoyable social interaction, (mercifully) without a phone or iPad in sight. The exercise seems to invigorate me and – alongside yoga and meditation, of course! – really sets me up for the day by providing me with a brief escape of sorts. When my friends and I are walking, we’re free to laugh, gossip and, usually, moan about school, which is surprisingly cathartic so early on in the day! Exercise of any kind is obviously amazing, but exercise (even if, or especially if, it’s as light as walking) with others helps an awful lot: you may well be feeling ridiculously tired, but I promise that your body will appreciate you making the effort and, in the long run, you’ll feel much, much better for it. Drinking more water both during and after even the smallest amount of physical exertion will also help, especially if – like me – you don’t usually drink anything – no more dehydrated headaches and dry throats… Even the notion! Trust me, it’s fab.
Reflectively, this most seems insanely short and a little dull, but I have a crazy amount of schoolwork to be getting on with so please forgive me – remember that you’re incredible, and deserve the absolute Earth.
Thank you always,