Saying that things are stressful right now seems a bit of an understatement; we emerge from covid only to plunge into a cost-of-living crisis, it all seems a bit relentless and that light at the end of the tunnel may be disappearing fast for some people.
It’s not just stress that we are dealing with, it’s also fear; some of us are terrified and don’t know how we’re going to survive.
Personally, I’m finding it hard to deal with, I feel completely useless because of my inability to work, and while I’m fighting hard to get some money in where I can, I constantly feel like a burden to Kim. Over the past few months my anxiety has gone through the roof and at times, my mood has hit rock bottom more than usual, which means it’s been a real struggle to do even simple tasks.
Now a lot of the focus is on helping people financially; while this is important, we also need to be aware of the emotional and mental damage that is being caused. It’s vital that we do all we can to look after our wellbeing.
For some people this winter will be about survival and for others it’s a case of tightening the purse strings and getting through it; whatever your situation the priority must be your personal welfare.
I’m going to do a series of blogs covering 6 areas where you can try to make changes to your lifestyle to help manage your mental wellbeing.
Here are the topics I’ll be covering; I’ll do a separate blog on each one and release them over the following weeks, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Acceptance – This might sound a bit woo woo and it’s probably the hardest, so I deal with it first. Imagine you’re in a river and it has a fast current, what do you do? You can fight against the current, you can give up and drown, or you can go with the current and see where it takes you.
Fighting the current is exhausting plus your focus is on one thing, swimming. When you let go you give yourself time and space to think a bit more clearly and to make decisions, you become calmer; sometimes there is nothing you can do, you just have to go with it.
Exercise – I’ll show you how it helps and that there are so many types of exercise to choose from that there really is something for everyone.
Nutrition – Yep, how you fuel your body can have a massive impact on your mental health; I’ll show you what you should be eating and what you should be avoiding. We need energy to survive stressful situations and most of that comes from the food we eat.
Meditation/Mindfulness – It’s important to calm the mind down out of thinking, ruminating, and worrying, to step out of fight or flight; you need to tap into your subconscious so that you become more aware, creative, and give your body time to recuperate.
Reduce Media Exposure – The news is 24/7 and let’s face it, it’s rarely positive, in fact it can be a main cause of the fear you are feeling. While it’s good to be aware of what’s happening it’s important to manage how much you expose yourself to. It’s called Vicarious Trauma and it can cause anxiety and depression.
Talk/Ask for Help – If you listed the subjects that people find it difficult to talk about, mental health and money will be in the top 5. There is stigma surrounding both and you can easily feel embarrassed to admit you are struggling. I was talking to a journalist the other day as part of my media work with Mind and she told me that they are really struggling to get men to talk about this cost of living crisis; so while everyone should ask for help, this is a message to all the guys out there, stop manning up and thinking you should have all your shit together, put pride to the side, and ask for help if you need it.
If you have children don’t forget to ask them how they are feeling and encourage them to talk if they want to.
As I said, I’ll go into each in more detail, but for now I just want you to start thinking about things; how are you really feeling right now, and most importantly do you need help?
If you feel you are struggling then speak to someone, a friend, colleague, your doctor, or any number of support lines that are there. In the UK there are the following numbers:
If it’s an emergency:
Call 111, 999 or get to A&E if you can.
The Samaritans: 116 123 www.samaritans.org
Mind: 0300 123 3393 www.mind.org.uk
When I read articles on how to manage your mental health, it often appears so simple, and in essence it is, but I want you to know that I appreciate how hard it can be to make changes especially when you’re under stress.
Why is it so bloody difficult?
There are several reasons.
When we try new things, and they don’t work we can become frustrated, we can also feel that it didn’t work because of some failing on our side; these feelings and emotions can be amplified if we are under stress and think that something should be ‘easy’. This can be a particular challenge if you struggle with a low mood or depression. This happens to me a lot, and it’s when I bring out my baseball bat of self-blame…..
We also want a quick fix; I’m sorry to be the party pooper here, but there isn’t a quick fix, in fact there is no fix at all, it’s about doing things that help us to cope and manage.
It’s important to understand that you are battling habits that have been learnt over many years, they have been stored in your subconscious and they run your life; half the time you aren’t even aware that these habits and beliefs exist.
We also live in a society where companies spend millions to get you hooked on their products, they tell you how good their products are, how they will save you time and money, which is great, the problem is that a lot of the time these products are doing you more harm than the good they promise; some companies prefer to put profit before people’s health and wellbeing.
Let me put it this way, changing deeply ingrained habits can be like trying to climb Everest in flip-flops. So, if you’re going to take on a challenge then you need to be prepared and most importantly motivated.
You also need to be aware that you have a choice; we have more power to make changes than we think. The problem is that we can become so stuck in a situation that we feel there are no choices. External influences such as the media can also take away our option to choose because they keep us in a state of fear.
One of the main things I’ve learnt while I’ve been reading and learning is that there are lots of things you can do to help manage your mental health, which is great, because it means that you can try different things and find something that works best for you. It is also important to remind yourself to take things steady, small steps, rather than trying to make lots of big changes suddenly.
Remember, we are all unique, what we are experiencing and how we are reacting to it is different for everyone, so how you manage it is going to be just as bespoke to you and your needs.
And as a final reminder, it’s not as easy as some people make out, so don’t judge yourself too harshly.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.