2 tips for helping when you struggle with mental health | June 2016

*Written in June 2016, Sydney

Try as you might you aren’t always able to feel 100%. You’re good but you’re not great. Life is fine but it’s not the best. We often find that life isn’t perfect and now and again we spend our days dipping in and out of our own feelings.

Last week I posted about taking care of you. I was on the right road to sorting myself after feeling blue in recent weeks but my cogs hadn’t fully turned just yet. The day after I shared that post I (finally) took a turn back to Happy.

Two factors triggered this change and they are both things you can do too:

(ONE) I let it all out, big time! I visited one of my oldest friends (uni days, we go way back) in Melbourne last weekend. The day I was leaving (hungover, tired and 24 hours later than planned) I took it upon myself to tell her everything that had been on my mind. I only started really talking as I was leaving on my way to the airport. I suppose I suddenly realised I was off back to Sydney, so if I was going to seek her advice it should be now. Rhia is a mental health nurse; her business is people and helping those in need. Knowing how full-on her job is I didn’t want to offload my problems on to her too, surely she had enough to deal with with her patients?. But I knew we are so close I could say what I really needed to.

We started talking and I didn’t mean to go into quite as much depth but it all came tumbling out.

I admitted I had been “second guessing everything” I was doing. That I “constantly” weighed up pros for being in ”Australia vs being home in the UK”, spending life with my family. I confessed I felt like a light inside me had gone out and I didn’t know why.

I told her that I was often confused by my own thoughts and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I admitted that I hated the fact I wasn’t having much luck passing through this on my own. I couldn’t sort myself out, I didn’t like it. I thought I was stupid but I couldn’t work out how to fix it. I was running, eating well, reading, writing, hardly drinking. All the things we’re ‘meant’ to do I was doing out of choice anyway but the grey wasn’t shifting.

Rhia listened to everything and shared many words of advice but these in particular stuck; “your thoughts are just thoughts, they are not fact, they are not you“. She advised to “be curious” with myself, like “ok I’m not feeling right, thanks for that negative thought – now I’ll go on with my day“. She reminded me to understand that everyone has rough times in life and that it’s part of the journey – no one said this was ever going to be easy.

She also reminded me that “not knowing what’s coming next is exciting” and to take pressure off myself – to really try and give myself the advice I would give to others. I took all of this on board and every day this week has felt ‘normal’. I’m actually smiling genuine smiles and feeling positive about everything as I always did do. I feel like my light is back on.

I appreciate this may sound like an extremely quick turnaround from the weeks I have been feeling off but I think hearing these things first hand from my friend who looks after people’s wellbeing for her job put things in front of me differently.

I can’t recall any clouded thoughts this week. It’s weird to feel like they have just evaporated but that’s what appears to have happened.

Getting up and going to work has been fine; I haven’t felt the need to be bright and positive in a forced way – no matter how low I feel I always do my best to keep professional in work.  But nothing has been an issue, it’s just been normal, easy.

In recent weeks I have talked to my close friends and some of my family about how I have been feeling and no one has judged me or told me what to do, they have just hoped I was ok and given advice where they could. I am very grateful for that. I don’t think it can be easy for your relative to call you from across the globe to say they are not happy. When you’re a world away it can be difficult for both sides. Heaven knows all I ever want to hear is that my friends and family are having fun.

As much talking as I’d already done before this chat with Rhia, it was as if I needed one last hurrah to get my feelings shared and halved. Moral of my point – don’t be afraid to talk to a friend or family member (or a doctor if you feel super shit, there is no shame whatsoever in talking to someone impartial). Even if you’ve had the same conversation 20 times over, sometimes you need to give yourself an extra bonus chance to get the anxiety and tension out of you. Your friends and family are there for you. Everyone leads busy lives but if you don’t ask you don’t get – don’t be scared to share anything that may be on your mind. It could just be a few wise words that bring you firmly back on track.

(TWO) I started using Headspace I strongly recommend that anyone reading this should download the Headspace App. It’s known as a ‘personal trainer for your mind’. The first ten (Take10) sessions are free. These are 10 minute guided meditations – don’t let the word ‘meditation’ put you off here – you don’t need to become a Monk!. I was recommended Headspace by a friend when I said I was feeling low – I think it’s brilliant.

Even if you’re happy and healthy this will 100% guaranteed make you see your days in a different way. I listen to mine before bed and sometimes pass out before the 10 minutes is up. I don’t see it as ‘meditation’, I see it as ’10 minutes a day to chill the f**k out’. You can use Headspace on your way to / from work, while walking, cooking or wherever you can get a bit of time to zone out.

My Stepdad has to be one of the most grounded people I have the fortune to know, yet I would recommend him to use Headspace on his commute into the city from home. Similarly my Uncle is settled and happy, but still I would tell him to give to a go for 10 minutes before bed. I want my Mum to download it and all my friends too! …

I sincerely think it can benefit anyone. No matter how ‘perfect’ your life might be, it encourages more appreciation of the present moment and encourages you to be in touch with you – so you’re having the best 24 hours ever – why not make it even better in 10 minutes?.

One of my friends posted a quote on Instagram today which said ”almost everyone my age has some dangling worry trailing around after them everywhere that somehow they’re not doing everything”. He also shared that ”life scares” him and the ”anxious knot” in his stomach scares him ”every day” too. I read that and could see a reflection of my recent self. When people tell you ”chin up”, ”you’ll be fine”, ”keep busy” you take in what they’re saying but you also look at them like HOW. HOW DO I BE FINE WITH MY CHIN UP WHILE I’M BEING BUSY WHEN I FEEL LIKE THIS. HOW.

Things in life often begin with baby steps and some of the most important start with a caring conversation. So if you’re feeling weird, have had a confidence knock or just want to do something differently in your days, talk to someone (anyone!, just get it out in the open air) and if you’re so inclined, give Headspace a go. I honestly think that App can change your life for the better. Over 5 MILLION people around the world use it and numbers talk – you and I are not the only one’s here feeling odd sometimes.

@Lara Lain



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