Maintaining your mental health

This one I hate to say does not have an easy fix, it takes some commitment and a promise to yourself to be kind.  It needs to be worked at daily if you want to stay level and in control.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this, in the past it felt easier to self medicate with alcohol and drugs and just ignore issues but I tell you now from experience these quick fixes do not work.  If you don’t process your pain/anxiety/stress etc then it will most likely come out anyway, potentially when you’re not expecting it and you’re completely unable to control it.  By holding it in you can become tightly wound, touchy, stressed and probably not a very nice person to be around.

Now we all have an idea of what is good for us, even if we pretend not to, we know cigarettes are bad and too much alcohol will make us feel rough.  We know if we sleep in, only eat beige coloured food and do not exercise then we’re not going to feel great or have much energy, so then why is it so hard not to do these things?

Is society stacked against us?
This is such an interesting question and to a certain extent I think yes.  I think socially nowadays it’s really tough to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  So much of our culture revolves around drinking and eating and so opting out of these things can feel antisocial (which can have it’s own mental health impact).
When you walk into a supermarket a lot of the advertising is targeted towards the quick, easy fixes and highly processed foods which aren’t great for us.  Our lifestyles nowadays are hectic, trying to fit in as much as we can, work pressures, family pressures and the general pressure of society (and social media) to live a ‘perfect’ life.  As a result we run on auto pilot a lot of the time as doing things out of routine takes a bit more thought and brain power.  With our hectic lives there isn’t always enough time or energy left at the end of the day, generally if someone offers us a quick fix its just easier to take it.
In the short term it’s probably easier not to ‘be good’. We’ve all heard the phrases ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, ‘It’s Christmas’, ‘go on treat yourself’, ‘Don’t be boring’.  We all have good intentions but you have to be pretty strong to stick to them when society seems like it’s pretty much stacked against you.
Think though, if we’re constantly doing what we know subconsciously we shouldn’t be then our we always feeling subconsciously guilty?  I’ll leave that one for you to ponder. 
I was listening to an interview with Matt Haig the other day who was saying as a society we’re almost programmed to be slightly anxious so that businesses are able to sell us more products.  Think about it: makeup, face creams, hair products, cars, holidays the list goes on and on.  Your life will be complete when you have these things, you must need them, right?  Putting you into a constant state of unease and discontent.  
So what do you need to successfully change?
  1. Community/support
    I think it’s incredibly hard to succeed on your own, you really have to make a conscious decision to change and that can mean removing yourself from social groups which aren’t supportive and finding other like minded individuals.  I’m not sure of the stats but I would say you’re much more likely to succeed at something if you have the support of a friend or group of friends around you.
  2. Motivation
    You really have to want/need to do it.  A lot of my changes have come through health issues (so a need), my mental health is fragile and needs constant maintaining along with my gut health and so diet.  Even though my journey started as a need it has now become a want, I see the positive affects of the changes I’m making and I want to continue to benefit from them. My other huge motivation is my children.  I want to set a good example for them and make sure they have all the tools they need to be happy and healthy.
  3. Baby steps                                                                                                                            Don’t change everything at once, you will fail. There are probably a few things which will need to be all or nothing such as smoking – at some point you just have to say enough is enough – but don’t quit smoking the same day you go on a diet and join the gym!  Take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself, these are forever changes so there is plenty of time.
  4. Results                                                                                                                                           I have worked at my health (mental and physical) for a good 5 years now and it is a working progress, I don’t always get it right I go backwards as well as forwards but more recently I can see myself changing.  I feel calmer, happier, socially less anxious, freer almost.  I still have dark days and I know I have a long way to go, I’m not sure 100% is actually achievable for anyone but it’s nice to be heading in the right direction at least.
  5. Take time for yourself                                                                                                      Make sure you make time for yourself and treat yourself well, be as present as you can day to day and try to be mindful as much as possible.
I really think small incremental steps is the way forward, it’s not about, ‘in two months I’ll have lost a stone and be vegan’, it’s about adding in a short walk every other day to get some fresh air and exercise or making one vegetarian meal a week.  All of these small changes will add up over time,  Try not to get focused on big target dates, it’s all about the journey.
Stay Strong xxx

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