I’ve previously blogged a lot about my experience with depression (see here, here and here!) it clearly struck a cord with many of you as the series of posts are all the most read posts on the blog. I think it’s important to also keep talking about mental illness, unfortunately it can be a difficult topic for many people because of the stigmas associated with it. In a series of two posts I’ll be going into how I manage my mental health.
Firstly, the opposite of depression is not constant happiness, it is natural to feel ups and downs, you should feel the ups and downs, even on medication, because you are human! I still have crap days when I feel sad or low, but instead of letting them escalate I do things that help soften the blow until it passes. There are also other long term things that I do to help recovery.
Exercise is a well-proven treatment and preventative for depression as it helps release feel good chemicals in the brain. I know from experience that as soon as I stop exercising for an extended period of time my mood is affected.
I do weights at the gym 2-3 times a week, I try to walk/run (however I’m currently injured) and occasionally do yoga.
It’ll need to work for you, so don’t feel like you have to throw yourself into an extreme fitness routine (unless you want to!), even a short daily walk can make a huge difference to your mood.
I’m lazy, I like to take the easy route when it comes to food, so occasionally I end up sneaking to McDonald’s more often than I should, or living on chocolate bars at work because, let’s face it, they taste better than almonds. Crappy food makes me feel crappy, not just in my body but also in my head.
Diet can be a contributing factor to mental health, eggs, oily fish, leafy greens and even green tea are all considered great brain food which can help depression. I try and eat a relatively balanced diet, day-to-day I eat pretty simple as I work full time but I also enjoy going out for meals and I never say no to a glass of wine!
I’ve also found cooking to be therapeutic, it’s a task that forces you to focus on the moment and I like the challenge of trying something new.
Time Out For Me
Despite having an older sister, I actually grew up an only child so I cherish time spent by myself. I get overwhelmed and anxious when I’m around people for too long, for example if I have something on every night of the week after work. My bedroom is my sanctuary, it’s comfortable, I have scented candles, lots of pillows and I love to unwind with a book or a TV show and a cup of tea. Personally I find if I can’t retreat to my space a few times a week minimum then I feel anxious.
I think it’s extremely important to find a place that’s yours, it could be anything, your room, your car, even a quiet park bench.
I think reading works because it forces you to be mindful, mindful is a term that’s grown popular recently but it refers to doing tasks with focus. For example not watching TV while you eat, or talking on the phone whilst trying to cook.
Reading is great because it forces your brain to concentrate on absorbing the story and building the imagery in your mind. For me it calms my anxious mind or constant stream of thoughts.
If you’re not a huge reader, then try something else, colouring books, puzzles (I love Sudoku) anything that forces your brain to engage and not simply be passive in front of the TV.