Before we begin, I want you to think, and then again – really, how are you doing? You may have already seen a flurry of posts regarding mental health circulating on your social media channels, but what I’m here to tell you is why mental health really matters. One of the reasons is this: it is easier to say, ‘my arm is hurting’ rather than ‘my mind is aching’. Fortunately, mental health has now become more ingrained within the public discourse and has encouraged people to share their stories of times when they experienced (or still experience) bouts of poor mental health. The thing about mental health is, everyone has it. Whether sometimes it feels like a battle you cannot escape, or you feel as though you are plain-sailing – it is important to recognise its existence. The state of our mental health can impact upon the way we live our lives and the decisions we make, so getting to know yourself and the way your mind works can help you to navigate those times when you notice changes in your mental well-being.
Without sounding like I’m reeling off a ‘BBC’s Top Tips for your Mental Health’ article, I want to stress the importance of getting some form of daily exercise. Of course, with the UK now in its third lockdown, this has become increasingly difficult. Not everyone has the same tastes when it comes to exercise and finding the right type of exercise for you is the key. What I have learnt recently is that to see and feel the benefits of exercise, you don’t need to run every day or get a good sweat on every time. You can do a Pilates session and feel just as revitalised as you do after HIIT. There is no right or wrong, or ‘correct’ way to exercise – the correct way is your way. Similarly, starting a new hobby or continuing your current hobbies (if you are able to) is a great way to not only distract yourself when watching the news gets overwhelming, but also gives you the chance to provide yourself with a focus. Having a focus gives you a sense of direction and purpose, allowing us to channel our energy into something we find rewarding or comforting.
When I’m searching for motivation or feel as though my anxiety is nestling its way into my head again, I think of Albus Dumbledore’s philosophy: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Whilst reaching a state of positive mental health is not instantaneous, there still lies some value to that mode of thinking. That is, that we all have the ability to create our own light. Whether that’s through physically lighting candles as part of your self-care routine, having a conversation with your friends, or putting your headphones on and going for a walk; all of these are valid ways of stepping back and prioritising your mental health. You must also remember that you are entitled to feel the way you do. If you are feeling flat because you can’t do what you love, that’s understandable. What you can do though, is work with your feelings. What I mean is, rather than attempting to fight them, you can let them pass through. Accepting the way you feel allows you to understand yourself better and means you can ask yourself what might be contributing to those feelings. The rain passes and so will your feelings. Silver linings lie ahead.
Finally, what I have realised over the course of the past few months, is how much establishing a routine can help towards motivating yourself and having a purpose for the day. Now, that is not to say that we should be productive all the time (as that’s not possible) but it is to say, that dividing your day by aiming to achieve small tasks can assist in giving yourself a slice of ‘normality’. For instance, I now substitute my evening gym session for a home workout. My living room doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere as the gym but keeping that part of my day as a relatively fixed plan helps me to obtain my other goals for the day. One last thing that I will leave you with is, stay. Stay for the new day ahead. Stay for the memories you haven’t made yet. The people you haven’t met yet. Stay because life is always worth it.