I felt motivated to write this post after reflecting on how January has been. It wasn’t as super productive on the blog as my high hopes had planned it’d be and at the back of my mind I could sense a small negative voice about to berate myself for not doing more on the blog, but I paused for a moment to think about the highs and lows of the month (quite literally in terms of my diabetes and blood-sugars) and thought, you know what, I did the best that I could and though I wasn’t posting lots on the blog or Instagram it was down to not feeling well and needing to prioritise my health and self-care which is really important. Definitely not something I should berate myself for. I thought maybe I should talk more about what self-care means to me, the things that have really helped me and what I do. Quite aptly I’m sharing a bit about my journey with anxiety and self-care today, on national Time to Talk Day. A day run by Time to Change to help spread awareness about mental health and encourage us all to be more open by talking about it and listening to hopefully make a difference.
The Time to Talk campaign highlights that anywhere can be the right place to talk about mental health – including at home, at work and platforms such as blogs and social media. Today at work we ran a charity bake sale with proceeds going to Mind who are one of the organisers of the Time to Talk campaign. It wasn’t just an opportunity to support a great cause and indulge in delicious cakes, but also a chance to strike up a conversation, spread a little kindness and ask how someone is doing.
It’s so important that we talk more openly about mental health and I don’t say that just because of my own experiences. Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year yet a sense of embarrassment or silence can be as bad as the mental health problem itself. Our attitude to mental health could change someone’s life.
It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health, it can be something that feels hard to talk about, .but the more we talk about it, the better life can be for all of us. People with mental health problems can be at risk of feeling isolated, of low worth or ashamed. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. Just having a conversation about mental health – with a friend, family member or anyone else could make a positive difference.As we enter February, it’s safe to say January has been a tough month for many of us. There can be a lot of pressure for it to be a great new start which sets you on a ‘new year, new me’ path for the year and when there are set-backs it can feel a bit overwhelming. The grey, gloomy days and cold weather definitely doesn’t help either. I know that I have struggled this last month. I started off the year feeling so positive, I was super excited about finally getting an insulin pump and perhaps my hopes on the changes it would bring about and how quickly were a bit too aspirational. Everything went a bit haywire and my blood sugars just kept dropping, I think my record was 14 diabetic hypos in 10 days and then things went the other way. All of it left me not able to get a good night’s sleep and not surprisingly exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to do much, definitely no energy to make any progress with my 10K training or meet up with people for long and my brain even felt a bit too frazzled to blog (I did try but my blog posts were just not making much sense at all).
Those last few weeks have at points left me feeling anxious and sometimes quite low as I worried about my diabetes and not having the energy to do all the things I wanted to do outside of work. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, there was a positive lightbulb moment which really highlighted for me the importance of self-care and helped change things around.
So what is self care?
Just over a year ago my diabetes consultant put me in touch with Chloe, an amazing CBT therapist, who honestly made the world of difference. Apparently diabetics can be more prone to anxiety which I hadn’t been aware of until my doctor mentioned they were running a CBT course focusing on diabetes and anxiety. One of the tools Chloe and I worked on putting in place & something which has been invaluable so many times since was a ‘self care’ list. A list of activities which I enjoy; a list I could turn to when I feel aware of my anxiety rearing its ugly head. The list wasn’t just a column of activities but also little reminders to be kinder to myself, check in with myself and be aware of any early warning signals of bad anxiety. For me self care means listening to my body, being kinder to myself, doing things that bring me joy and make me feel more relaxed and positive so that I feel in a better position to manage my anxiety.What’s on my self care list?
Things feel better after a shower
When my anxiety is at its worst, I can find it difficult to get out of bed. Sometimes I just feel too anxious about the day ahead and want to hide under the duvet. Sometimes the anxiety has my tummy all cramped up in knots which almost makes me feel pinned down and not able to move. I remember once speaking to my best friend during one of these tougher times and her advice was to try and get up and get in the shower, that everything always feels a bit better and clearer after a shower and those words have always stayed with me since. Sometimes as much I may not want to, I make sure to get up and get in the shower. It gives me a little nudge, I feel more awake and the hot water does wonders for just relaxing my body and tense muscles. I feel fresher and most often then not it causes a chain reaction of activity to help face the day. If though some days all you manage is to shower and change into fresh pjs, that’s ok too. Even the smallest thing can be a big achievement.
Change your surroundings
This can be big or small – a holiday away or stepping out into your garden or the park. A change of scene I find gives me a chance to take a deep breath, to look up and around at my surroundings and clear some headspace. In January I was lucky enough to escape to Valencia for 2 days but just being able to see blue skies and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin made a huge difference. I know we may not always be able to jet off somewhere, but even a 10 minute walk around the garden or park can have a positive effect. If you don’t have a garden or aren’t very mobile, caring for plants or animals indoors can still help you get some benefits from nature.
Don’t isolate yourself
I say this to myself as much as to anyone else, but it’s so important not to close yourself off or suffer in silence. Reaching out to a friend or family member – maybe making plans to meet up, even a text or a call can provide a meaningful connection. It can really help to talk about mental health and it makes things feel a lot less lonely. Sometimes though I find what can really lift me is just the company alone. Having someone to share a cup of tea, cake and a laugh with always makes me feel lighter and more calm.
Here are some of the other things on my self care list:
Buying a bunch of flowers – it doesn’t have to be expensive – a bunch of Tulips or Daffodils always cheer me
Heading outside for a walk
Getting a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a little treat (my favourite is those Portuguese Nata custard tarts)
Going to the cinema
Baking something or trying a new recipe from a favourite cookbook and sharing the meal
Eat something tasty that makes you feel nourished and good
Curling up with a book – a little bit of escapism and I find when I’m lost in a book my mind isn’t in overdrive and worrying about everything
Sitting in the park or my favourite café and people watching
Doing a fun class at the gym
Pampering myself – a soak in the bath with a face mask on while reading my favourite magazine cover to cover
Wearing clothes that make me feel good
Wearing a bright lipstick
Playing music that makes me feel happy and want to dance around or pretend I’m in Save The Last Dance!
Mental health isn’t always easy to talk about I know, but it’s important that we do. I always find it helpful to hear about similar experiences from others and in turn it’s made me want to be more open about my own mental health and how I manage my anxiety. I know today is Time to Talk Day but it doesn’t just have to be today. Self care is an important part of our daily lives and that should include talking about mental health too. If you are struggling please know that you’re not alone and things can get better.