Sharing is caring

It’s cheesy but it’s true.

Most people know now, that when it comes to mental health, it’s so valuable to talk about your experiences and it can be the first and often the most important step in recovery.

But what’s less often acknowledged is the effect that speaking up can have on others. I’ve been pretty open with my friends and family about my own mental health in the past few years and over this time I think that’s made people feel comfortable to come and talk to me about their experiences.

A few of my friends have opened up to me about what they’re going through, and whilst I can’t always relate exactly to whatever they’re going through, I think it’s been reassuring for people to know that they can talk to someone who’s been through anxiety/ depression/ panic attacks, has experienced therapy, takes antidepressants and can answer some of their questions.

The lockdown has affected a lot of people close to me in terms of their mental health and some of them haven’t experienced things like generalised anxiety disorder or depression before. And whilst it’s been a bit strange for me to adjust to being the person on the other side of that relationship, I am grateful that I can be there and help them to get through what they’re experiencing, even if it’s just being there to have a chat or be a distraction.

It’s not just times like these that we should be thinking about sharing though; mental health issues affect most of us in some way or another at some point during our lives and it’s a topic that should be so much easier to speak about without judgment. No one’s experience should be discounted, no matter how small or short-term, and now’s just a good time to practice. We’re all muddling through this weird time together, so chances are whatever you’re feeling or thinking is similar to what your best friend, partner or sibling is going through too (other friends and relatives, of course, apply too).

For anyone who is interested, or needs a few tips, this is what I’ve been doing to keep my anxiety under control:

  • Listening to my body: if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I acknowledge that rather than trying to fight it. If I’m working, I’ll take a short break and make a cup of tea or phone a work friend for a chat. If I’m not working, I’ll have a glass of wine or go for a walk or have a nice long shower. Self care is not just about physical health, it’s about doing things that make you feel happy.
  • Meditation and mindfulness: Headspace is still my favourite app and it’s been my friend for quite a few years now. I’ve come to associate it with feeling calm so just the act of clicking on the big orange circle makes me feel better.
  • Having distractions: I have been vaguely documenting my feeble attempts to learn to crochet and I have actually made some progress. I’ve also been growing way too many plants, reading and blogging to keep my brain distracted, productive and creative. Sometimes you just need an outlet that doesn’t serve any real purpose…
  • Regular exercise: Lockdown has definitely worked wonders for my physical health. I have been exercising more regularly and have started to see visible results for the first time ever. Losing my fitness when the gyms closed was something I was really worried about, so taking this in hand has helped me feel more positive and in control.
  • Talking: This piece is about sharing experiences and the value that can bring, so I wouldn’t be practicing what I’m preaching if I didn’t include this. It’s so important to talk to the people in your life if not to make yourself feel better then to reassure yourself that they’re OK.
  • Sleeping: Obviously sometimes when you’re anxious, sleep is hard to come by, but trying to get into something resembling a routine has helped me massively. I haven’t been sleeping amazingly for the last three months, but I’m trying to give my body and mind the rest it needs and I think that’s been hugely beneficial.

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