I am super determined to make this year a year of self-care (and I am going to ace it), so I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you all and a few (okay 50 is a little more than a few) little ways to look after your mental health this year (and every year).
Remember New Years Day is just another day, this is not a scorecard of your life, this does not determine your future, you do not need to be a 'New You', strive to better yourself for you alone and nobody else! May 2017 be a bright and healthy one for all of you wonderful humans! Sending love and positive vibes!
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that the more people participated in meaningful activities such as helping other people, the happier and more satisfied they felt. Seeking pleasure doesn't boost overall happiness.
For me personally, I could not agree more! Originally this was number 6 down on the list (no particular order) but I felt this had to be the first point as it is the reason I am writing this post in the first place and without starting to volunteer I wouldn't of had the confidence to do it. Okay so points 2-50 are a lot shorter and more to the point don't worry, but feeling super grateful right now!
Starting my mental health campaigning journey this year with numerous charities, but namely becoming a Young Champion for the absolutely wonderful 'Time to Change' has changed my life in so many ways. At times it can be challenging and emotional, but it is also so inspiring and empowering and words cannot describe how grateful I am for all the wonderful Young Champions who continue to inspire me every single day with their strength, determination and incredible campaigning; My awesome Involvement Officer who has shown nothing but support since day one, providing insightful training and just being an all round hard-working and inspiring role model who has helped me grow as a person (who also brings along paperchase post-it notes and Pret for lunch which definitely helps increase my respect - following her footsteps here with an awful joke); The incredible Senior Campaign Officers and manager, and the super interim director who have all provided so much support and knowledge during the whole process and watching co-deliveries in schools has been so inspiring (sorry I'm using this word so much). Last but not least to EVERYONE else at time to change for all of the incredible work you have done and continue to do, I am extremely grateful for all of you wonderful people!
Okay... now onto the bits that will hopefully help you all!
2. Make your bed every day
It does not take up much of your time, and its an easy way to make you feel like you have your life together... even when everything else might be feeling chaotic. Such a little thing but makes a big difference.
3. Get enough sleep
Jump into that wonderfully cosy bed that you made in the morning and if you are able to try and get at least 7 hours sleep each night, if you have trouble sleeping use the 'awake time' to truly rest your body.
4. Write letters of appreciation to the people you love
To start, receiving mail that isn't a bill, a bank statement or junk is awesome and because of advances in technology we are now able to connect with our loved ones much faster, but do not underrate a good old written letter! Showing gratitude and sharing the love is always wonderful, but writing it in a letter adds a little extra personal touch.
5. Make steps to get out of a crap situation
Whether this be a job, a relationship, a friendship, a family member, it is important to distance yourself from 'toxic' situations and people that make you feel anything less than comforted.
"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step" - Martin Luther King Jr.
6. Limit artificial stimulants
Firstly I want to make the point very clear that having mental health issue in no way means that a person automatically has an issue with substance abuse, however the two things unfortunately at times come together. It is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant though it may act as a mood enhancer for short-periods, caffeine can aggravate or cause anxiety, and recreational drugs are often linked to paranoia.By limiting your intake of all artificial stimulants the natural balance in your mind will be better maintained.
7. Remove apps from your phone
For many of you, there will be at least one app on your phone that negatively impacts your mental health. For me this was 'Tumblr' so I completely got rid of it and no longer use it, for you it may be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or maybe news apps - whatever app it may be, if it is causing you stress delete it from your phone, I'm not saying delete your account all together (by all means if that would help you I encourage it), but just removing it from your phone will prevent you getting notifications constantly and checking the lives of others so often.
8. 30-day waiting period for impulse buys
Now, I have a little bit of a habit of buying things impulsively that I most definitely do not need and should not buy....yet I do. Starting today I have decided that when I see something I like and feel like I must purchase and it is not a necessity I will wait 30 days, and I will only buy it if I still want if after those 30 days.
9. Be a tourist in your own town
How much do you really know your own town? You likely go there because you have to, rushing around from shop to shop, to appointments to lunch dates that you never actually see the beauty that is so close to home. When you go to a different town, city, country we tend to capture the moment in photographs as we are slowly taking in the surroundings. When we do this we are able to appreciate the beauty, so doing this in our own town will provide some mindful moments and show us some gems close to home.
10. Stop comparing yourself to others
This can become more difficult around the holidays, happiness and perfection appears to be all around us, when in reality it is just what society is showing us and more often not an accurate representation of the person's life, they only show what they want you to see, people have so many more layers than that! New Year sees a lot of people wanting to be 'New Year New Me', please don't feel like you have to change over night or become a different person. You are you and you are fab, strive to be the best you, for you and no-one else!
11. Give a name to your negative thoughts and call them out on their bullshit.
Ignoring negative thoughts and not confronting them may sometimes be good in the short-term but in the long term is likely to make these thoughts louder and louder. I like to name my negative thoughts after Katie Hopkins, because if my mind is saying 'I hate you' its a lot easier to say "SHUT UP KATIE! YOU ARE WRONG!".
12. Set goals but don't take failure personally
"Failure isn't falling down, it's staying down". You have not failed, you have simply found a way that has not worked and that's okay, take this moment as a learning curve and something that you can grow from.
13. Budget for little indulgences each month
Budget a little something to spend on something each month that makes you feel good, maybe a dvd, your favourite food, a face mask. Anything that helps you. For me this is a Blurt Buddy Box subscription which is a monthly care-box, which I absolutely adore!
14. Take up journalling
Journalling can me a good way to express your emotions in a healthy way, it enables you to get these feelings out without bottling them up. There are also other types of journalling, that can bring out your creative side, I use to love journals by 'Keri Smith' such as 'Wreck This Journal', there are so many similar ones out there!
15. Pick a new hobby that's only purpose is to make you feel good
When you are asked what your hobby is, what do you reply? Have you even got a hobby? Do you allow yourself time and if you do, is it something that makes you feel good? Do you like taking photographs, go and find the beauty in the world. Do you like art, go and grab a pencil or a paintbrush (or whatever medium you like). It might be something totally new to you, like knitting or pottery! Go and find your thing, it might be a life long hobby, but make sure it brings you joy!
16. Replace 'I'm sorry' with 'I'm thank you'
Of course there will be moments where apologising is necessary, but in terms of the 'small' things learn to show appreciation to the person you would usually say sorry to. For example, you turn up late for dinner with a friend, instead of saying "I'm sorry that I'm late" say "Thank you for waiting for me"; Change "Sorry I messed it up" to "Thank you for being patient with me"
17. Spend more time alone with yourself
Whilst I would definitely not encourage isolating yourself, you also definitely need to take some time for yourself, even just an hour a day - your health is important and that needs to come first. I found this fabulous website called The Quiet Place Project, which can really help to ease a busy mind when you need a little time out!
18. Change "I should" for "I would like to"
"New Year, Fresh Start, New Year, New Me" - this is a time where people tend to evaluate (usually in the form of overthinking) their year and results in thoughts such as "I should be eat healthier", "I should exercise more", "I should stop using my phone so much". When saying things like this we are essentially judging ourselves and it causes us to engage with behaviours that are not what we want. So instead replace "should" with "I would like to" and notice the huge difference - "I would like eat a more balanced diet", "I would like to exercise more frequently", "I would like to stop spending so much time on my phone", it has a much more positive aura to it!
19. Say no more often without excuses
Do you ever find yourself making excuses for not agreeing to something? You have already got plans, you are not feeling well, you can't get there. In reality you just want to say no, but a lot of the time you will find yourself ending up at whatever event this may be whether or not it is damaging for your mental health. If you don't feel comfortable going somewhere, or it is just not your thing please remember it is okay to vocalise your needs and say you don't want to go but thank them for the kind offer.
20. Develop a morning routine
A morning routine will be different for everyone, and it can be difficult to find the motivation when you're struggling with your mental health, but putting a routine in place that is specific to you will help to put you in a better frame of mind to face the day. This could be making your bed, exercising, writing a 'Today I Can' list (to-do list), mindfulness, writing in a journal, watch your favourite show. Whatever works for you.
21. Develop a bedtime routine
This, just like a morning routine will come in many different ways, it is important that you find something that can help you to unwind before bed and clear your head a little bit which can often keep you alert. This could be taking your make up off, washing your face, having a cup of herbal tea, reading a book or listening to an audiobook. Most importantly turn off technology, switch off your phone and unwind.
22. Create a memory jar
Our minds have a really delightful way of constantly bugging us with the negatives that have happened, 2016 was a year of really poor health for me, so I found myself constantly saying how awful 2016 was. When actually looking back at everything that had happened in my 2016 memory jar I saw how many positives had happened that I'd forgotten about. This might be done daily, weekly or even monthly, but having little reminders is a wonderful way to look back on the year.
23. Share what you are going through with friends
This is not easy, and shows such amazing strength to open up and allow yourself to feel 'vulnerable' with someone. One of the main reasons people seem to keep things to themselves is the fear of being a 'burden'. Mental illness is insidious and warps your thinking. You are not a burden, you are human.
24. Decorate your space so you're surrounded by inspiring things
Make your living environment as visually positive as you can do. Make it specific to you, what inspires you and what makes you happy. For me I have the above Dumbledore quote as wall sticker, an awesome Himalayan Salt Lamp (highly suggest), as well as lots of photos covering the walls alongside many other things. Always good to have something inspiring to look at when things are feeling difficult.
25. Assume you're enough, always
You are you and your are awesome okay. Please don't judge yourself so harshly. Ever find yourself not taking an opportunity or trying out something new because you don't feel like you're good enough for it? You might take up art classes and find you are the next Picasso... or it could be abstract if you squint, but hey its a learning curve and it does not make you any less of a person! You are awesome!
26. Start each day with a positive thought about your life
Okay I'm not going to preach that this is an easy thing to do, particularly if things may not feel particular great right now, but hopefully there will be one positive in your can draw on no matter how small you may see it.
27. Express gratitude
The more we focus on what is good about our lives, the more goodness shows up. Keep a journal where you can write down what you are grateful for each day, week, month whichever would work for you.
28. Keep educating yourself
This is not all about getting your head stuck into textbooks, by all means go for it, but keep learning new facts, skills, information, keep your brain active and gain confidence - at best you will see benefits to your mental health at least, you'll be ace at trivial pursuit.
29. Revisit some of your favourite things from childhood
Got a favourite childhood book? film? food? music? place? Whatever it might be take a trip down memory lane and revisit your favourite childhood moments. At times being an adult sucks, so get back in touch with your younger self.
30. Call your person on the phone more often
Whoever your person may be; a parents, a friend, a neighbour even if it's just a few minutes its always good to check in with a familiar voice and may make your day that little brighter.
31. Don't spread yourself too thin
You and your health come first. It is impossible to please everyone, and without looking after yourself it won't be possible to support those around you. "You can't pour from an empty cup" so make use of self-care.
32. Find a General Practitioner you love if you haven't already
If you haven't already, find a GP that you have a good liaison with, ask the receptionist which doctor would be best to see for the concern you have. This can make the treatment process feel more comfortable.
33. Try tracking your moods and habits
By tracking your moods and habits you may be able to identify the little things that make you feel better or worse. Always remember even your worst day only lasts 24 hours.
34. Commit to less negative self talk
Many of us are quick to put ourselves down, at least a lot quicker than we build ourselves up. This negative self talk can be incredibly damaging, as your subconscious will begin to believe it when you repeat it over and over in your mind. Positive self-talk involves giving yourself positive reinforcement, motivation and recognition in the same way you would for a friend. Congratulate yourself when you do well, constantly remind yourself of how able you are and of all your accomplishments, strengths and skills. You are awesome!
35. Treat emotional pain like physical pain
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and it should be treated that way. If you need to take a day out for your mental health then take one. If you are finding daily activities more exhausting than usual, or you aren't finding enjoyment in the things you use to then visit your doctor. Just because it isn't as visible as a physical injury it doesn't mean it's not just as serious and worthy of treatment.
36. Get Creative
Take a break from your busy life and get creative, whether it is natural to you or not. Pick up a pencil, a paintbrush, start a pottery class, grab some wool and get knitting. It can be incredibly therapeutic to see something being made from scratch
37. Commit to a work-life balance
Finish at 6pm? Leave on time. Don't check your emails and leave work responsibilities at work, I know for some jobs this can be incredibly difficult but it is important you create that balance. It means accepting you can't give 100% to both, but don't judge yourself for what you are not able to do, be proud of yourself for what you are doing.
38. Put your phone on do not disturb at night
Turn off the screens, there is nothing going on at night that you can't look at and deal with in the morning if need be. Without constant notifications you will be more relaxed and sleep better.
39. Mute, Block and Unfriend
Have a social media spring clean. Ever find yourself scrolling down your social media feeds and seeing posts that make you feel less than good, often have comments left from people that were not welcomed, or content that you don't wish to see? Life can be difficult enough without having to deal with the frustrating of people on social media that you don't want to see on you feed. ADIOS AMIGOS!
40. Listen to some hilarious podcasts in your downtime
Listening to a podcast is a great way to relax, you can take your eyes away from screens. There are a list of fabulous podcasts that you can make a list of here.
41. Celebrate the little victories more often
No accomplishment is too small to celebrate! You got out of bed, you rock! You washed your hair, you are awesome! You left the house, You are amazing! Remember to always praise yourself for the smaller victories in life.
42. Get rid of old things you can't use right now
Got lots of old things lying around that you find yourself keeping 'just in case' and its suddenly 5 years later and you've not used it once and instead make you feel negatively. Keeping old clothes in the hope that one day they will fit again? Treat yourself to a new outfit that compliments your unique and beautiful figure. Declutter and take it to a charity shop where it will come in use!
43. Work on being a better friend
Better friendships will lead to a happier you. It may seem like things are currently very busy and you are just too stressed to be a good friend at the moment. It doesn't have to be a big gesture, it is often the small, simple gestures that make a huge difference. Send a text, buy their favourite snack, take a trip down memory lane, compliment them.
44. Invest in a massage now and then
Because you deserve to treat yourself and relax with a bit of self-care... and you will be getting out a lot of tension and knots!
45. Treat yourself like you treat others
I feel like this photo already says it all. You deserve to be treated in the same way you treat your loved ones because you are worthy.
46. Feel your feelings
They won't always be positive, but that's okay. Let them in, and express them in a healthy way. Do not eternalise and bottle it up. This may be a difficult process so make sure to talk to your support network when you are struggling.
47. Stretch your brain
New challenges and activities can strengthen your brain and help you learn new skills. Keep your mind active, complete a brain teaser or a sudoku, problem solving is excellent work for the brain and keeps it in good use.
48. Learn about resources available to you if you ever need a bit of help
You don't have to go through anything alone, there will always be someone out there ready to talk to you, I have created a signposting and support poster that may help in moments of difficulty which you can download here.
49. Make yourself a WRAP - Wellness Recovery Action Plan
This is something you can create for yourself alone, with a friend, a therapist whichever works for you. You can download an example template created by Time to Change here.
50. Accept who you are
Things won't always feel great, but that's okay. It is okay to not be okay. You are wonderful and I am proud of you. Keep on shining like the star you are and reach out for support when you need it.
Though I know what helps will vary from person to person and it is extremely unlikely that all points will help you but I hope at least one of these 50 ways to look after your mental health can provide you some emotional peace and clarity this year. Wishing 2017 is a healthy one for you all.
Sending positive vibes