Managing your mental health & self-care Are you are having one of those grey days where you just want to hide from the world? The walls are caving in and it’s all getting a bit too much. This is for you xo ‘I want to feel normal’ you say... What’s normal? We all have our own little world that is normal to us - be that good or bad. The Covid war has gone on for longer than any of us expected... I met the lock down with a smile and a feeling of “it’s only for a while” but that 'while' turned into weeks and when I found myself in isolation for 14 days, alone - well - not much to smile about after all. I found myself binge watching Netflix and very quickly I became aware of how alone I felt. At times it was okay but I felt a real hollow in my heart, it was not a nice feeling and reminded me of a former life where mental health dominated who I was. I recognised in myself those little warning signs and I took care of myself with simple tasks that lifted my spirits. I talked to friends, listened to music and went for walks, I like art so I did some drawing. It made such a difference to how I feel in myself and I would encourage you to care for yourself during this period where so many are feeling socially isolated and a sense of loneliness. You may have been experiencing some difficult issues and perhaps this has affected your mental health in some way? You’ve maybe tried to be strong and soldier on through your feelings or perhaps you feel that everything is crumbling around you and no matter what you say or do you feel lost? Mental Health can affect every part of our lives. It can come in small gentle waves breaking against the shore or it’s a tidal wave crashing into the rocks. We know that it can strike down out of nowhere and there are many causes such as emotional or physical trauma that we have suffered, a bereavement, health issues, relationships, employment and financial …the list is long. Every individuals journey is different and everybody copes differently with mental health. If you are aware of mental health then you have a head start in understanding what you are experiencing. If you have no idea what on earth is happening to you, it can be terrifying and embarrassing. Depression is when someone feels sad all of the time and no longer have interest of pleasure in things that used to feel rewarding or interesting, even the happiest people can become depressed. Anxiety is feeling of unease, like a worry or fear and can happen in even in the calmest of places. Everyone feels anxious from time to time and it usually passes once the situation is over. When anxiety becomes a problem, our worries can be out of proportion with relatively harmless situations. It can feel more intense or overwhelming, and interfere with our everyday lives and relationships. An anxiety attack can happen in the most unexpected time or place and the bravest people can suffer from anxiety. What is Mental Health? Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think and feel. Our mental health determines our relationships with other people, how we handle stress and deal with daily life, and can impact on the choices we make. The state of our mental health is very important throughout the stages of our life from during childhood into adolescents and all through our adulthood. Good mental health is to experience both positive and negative emotions. It is normal to feel happy, positive and confident and it is also perfectly normal to feel down, feel stress and anger, it is not always about being happy. Every day we feel a range of emotions and display different moods based on what’s happening around us. It's perfectly normal to have good days and bad days - but understanding when you are starting to struggle to cope with how you are feeling is important. Here are some links to other organisations and websites that can give you some more information and help you understand some of the feelings you might be experiencing. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/anxiety https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/about-depression/ What you are feeling can range from constant low moods, lack of interest and worrying about everything through to feeling worthless, feeling lost or numb and having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you feel suicidal or are having thoughts of self-harm, then please do contact your GP, 111 or 999 immediately. In this moment of personal crisis when you know what you feel is not normal it is important to respond to what your mind and body is telling you, pay attention to what is happening inside of you. You might be feeling frustrated and a sense of hopelessness, I understand it can become so overwhelming in itself that it is hard to reach out for help when you might not completely understand or be aware what is happening to you. Trying to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs is a short-term problem that will only escalate everything that is happening to you into an even bigger problem further down the line. If you have friends or family, someone that you can confide in please talk to them, it will take so much of the burden away from you. It will be tremendous help for you to have someone you can talk to and get you through this tough time. There are so many services and options available you do not have to suffer alone. There are befriending services if you have no one you can turn to and if you are a parent there is organisations that can support you as you struggle to parent your children with mental health. Some of our previous blogs might also help, particularly this one about looking after yourself as a parent. My name is Claire, I am a domestic abuse practitioner and my role is to support victims of abuse. People share with me how difficult it is to get through each day. We talk about what is happening and as well as talking I listen because to listen is to understand. I always say to people “we will do this together, one step at a time”. Mental health is a step by step recovery process. If you are reading this and you have mental health issues you are so brave because you have recognised you need support. To learn what is happening to you gives you the power to help you get better. Hopefully in your journey you will come to understand you body and mind better than before. Self-care is a huge part of preventing, recognising and treating mental health. Below is a list of self-care tips for you, they may seem simple but these basic things are crucial for a happier, healthier you. Self-Care: Take care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically. Make sure you are eating healthily, have a good fluid intake and are getting enough sleep Where you can have plenty of rest and relaxation, do things that help you to reduce your stress. Limit online activity which can reduce the negative messages that are on a loop. Try to maintain your daily routine, it helps to keep you busy. Use coping strategies to care of yourself, these are things that make you feel better and take you out of the negative place. For example, speaking to a friend or family member, going for a walk because fresh air and exercise is really good to clear your head. Listen to music, use art or craft or read a book. What ever interests you and lifts you up out of that grey place is your coping strategy. I often encourage people to keep a journal of what they are going through, some people find it really cathartic to write down their feelings and they are often surprised how much they open up to themselves. Set tasks for yourself each day, so you have something to complete. They say to make your bed every morning when you get up to prevent the temptation to craw back under the duvet. Instead of the TV listen to music. Get crafting, this is a favourite of mine and especially if you have children this is a fun activity you can do together. Face time & phone. It is always good to catch up with friends and loved ones. Surprising how much a laugh and a chat can pick you up. Darina will be with you on Friday to talk to you about picking yourself up after an abusive relationship, steps you can take to "put yourself back together" and protecting yourself in your next relationship. Until then I wish you well.