Why Is Looking After Your Mental Health Embarrassing?

My favourite section of any bookshop has long been the self-help section. I love reading books on wellness and mindfulness and anxiety, basically anything to do with improving your mental wellbeing. For a long time I was always a little nervous of heading into that quiet corner of the shop. What if someone saw the books I was looking at and wondered what was ‘wrong’ with me?

More recently I was sitting on the bus with a guided meditation app playing in my earphones when it suddenly occurred to me to make sure that the screen was off so that no one saw what app I was using. As someone who is quite happy to talk about their mental health, why do I feel so uncomfortable if people find out that I’m making a conscious effort to look after it?

We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad. Some people can take care of theirs without much effort, some need a little more help, whether that’s through therapy or medication or self help books. And whilst I know there’s nothing embarrassing about that, there’s still some social stigma around people knowing that it’s effort for you.

No one would bat an eyelid over you stretching your legs to make an injury feel better or popping antacids for some indigestion, so why do we feel embarrassed about looking after our mental health?

Maybe some people find having a positive outlook easy but for me, it’s definitely something that I have to work on. I frequently overwork myself or don’t give myself enough credit and as a result I often overlook the positive aspects of my life in favour of the negatives. Over the past couple of years I’ve made a real effort to do everything I can to make sure that my mental health is just as good as my physical health is. I exercise regularly, I aim to get enough sleep every day, I have a mood tracker, I do yoga, I practice meditation, I set myself goals, I don’t drink too much alcohol (most of the time).

Whilst I talk about lots of those things on my blog, I would rarely tell anyone in ‘real life’ that I meditate or that I fill in a mood tracker every day. For me, on some levels, it does feel a little embarrassing that I need to make the effort. Surely everyone else doesn’t have to go to the same lengths to keep their mental health in peak condition.

But on reflection, looking after my mental health doesn’t feel so much different to looking after my physical health. When I go to the gym and eat well, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud for taking matters into my own hands, for working hard and for seeing results when I look in the mirror. When I look after my mental health, I should feel the same. But at the moment there’s definitely a wall there for me.

I hope that 2018 is the year that I can proudly tell people that I meditate because it makes me feel calmer, that I track my mood so that I can see if certain days, or times of the month are good or bad for me and that looking after my mental health isn’t something that comes as easily to me as my physical health.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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How To Remember To Be Sociable

I recently wrote a post on how to be alone. Being alone is something I excel at, whereas being sociable is a skill I’m still working on begrudgingly. Spending time on your own as an introvert is addictive. I not only crave it, I firmly believe I need it to function. And that’s why sometimes I really have to remind myself to be sociable.

I find conversation difficult. I’m not a chatter and I don’t command attention when I walk into a room. I much prefer to listen than talk and I would always prefer a good book over a night out so I’m often of the belief that a social event that doesn’t include me looks pretty much the same one as one which does include me.

But as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that socialising is actually quite important. Gone are the days of having a set of school friends that you see every single day. Sometimes socialising is the only time you actually see your friends. In all honesty, socialising is something that I tend to forget to do. It’s not a priority to me. So with that in mind, I’ve created some rules to help me be more sociable.

Compromise

I hate going on nights out but my friends love it, so every once in a while I’ll say yes. I try to focus on the idea that it’s the company that I’ll be enjoying even if the activity wouldn’t be my first choice. Making friends and keeping them is hard as an adult so don’t lose friends just because you don’t always want to do the same social activities.

Be the initiator

Without sounding incredibly selfish, I find that the times that are easiest for me to socialise are when I’ve picked the activity. Doing this actually works in an introvert’s favour. I don’t like going to clubs or shopping with other people (just the thought of that makes me shudder) but I love going to a coffee shop for a chat or going on a country walk with friends. If you initiate the activity then you’re much more likely to go and not just spend all day in your pjs reading in bed.

Find a hobby which forces you to socialise

When I started blogging, I had no idea that it would open up a whole world of opportunities and events. I thought that blogging was a completely solitary activity, one which I’d never be able to talk about with anyone because how was I going to meet other bloggers when we’re all sitting at a desk type away to no one in particular? But, I was so wrong. Getting invited to events has forced me to socialise and to make new friends who like the same things I do. Miraculously, a solo hobby like blogging has helped me realise that I don’t actually hate socialising.

Don’t pressure yourself

Don’t make yourself feel bad when you don’t want to socialise. My battery quickly runs down when I’m around others and I need all the alone time I can get to charge it up again. So don’t feel like saying no to social events makes you a bad person, we all need time to ourselves, just some of us need it more than others.

Stop believing that your input isn’t worthy

I am always of the belief that I don’t really have anything useful to add to a conversation which is why I stay quiet a lot of the time. As a result, it puts me off from socialising too much. I used to think that my presence wasn’t needed at social events so I just wouldn’t go. But I’m slowly learning that that isn’t the case. Everyone has something to give, so stop believing that your input isn’t justified.

Do you find it easy to socialise? Or is it something you have to work at? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Things No One Tells You About Meditation

When it comes to meditation, I am a mere newbie. Over the past few years I’ve come back to meditation time and time again with no success until more recently. Before I really put some effort into it I thought meditation was a load of rubbish. I just couldn’t see how sitting quietly was going to make me feel better. But miraculously it has helped, a lot.

I’ve told very few people that I meditate but those I have told, have given me some erm varying responses, such as

“It doesn’t do anything, you know.”

“Didn’t have you down as a hippie.”

And from my Mum:

“I always think it’s nice that you try new things.”

Generally people aren’t as nice as my Mum was so it’s usually met with a negative response that makes me sound as though I’ve just told someone I can levitate. After some research on the internet, it seems that there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation, so here are a few things that no one tells you about it.

It’s not like the movies

Meditation doesn’t always look like a Buddhist monk sat on top of a mountain chanting Om. You can do it anyway you find comfortable. Personally, I just plonk myself down on my yoga mat, either sitting on lying, whatever I fancy and breathe. Make sure you’re wearing something comfortable, because the last thing you want when you’re meditating is to be thinking about how tight the waistband of your jeans is.

It doesn’t take up loads of time.

I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day. This fits into my schedule and it’s not too time-consuming. I like to practice meditation after a workout or yoga practice, because I can just tack ten minutes on to the end of it. You can do it for longer if you have the time or shorter, depending on how long you have.

It’s hard to start with…

I am someone who really struggles to quieten my mind. It’s always whirring with thoughts and worries and I’m always thinking about the next thing that needs doing. Meditation is really hard to start with, because bringing your mind back to the present when it starts wandering isn’t something we do on a daily basis.

But it gets easier

The more you meditate, the easier it gets. The worries subside and it becomes so much easier to just focus on your breathing and appreciate your surroundings.

Have you ever tried meditation? Let me know in the comments! 

Rachel x-x-x

 

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How To Be Alone

As an introvert, being alone is something I’m pretty skilled at. I love being alone, I crave it, and when I don’t get it, life feels pretty overwhelming. But not everyone feels that way. There seems to be a misconception that being alone equals loneliness when actually that is far from the truth.

Nowadays, alone time is rare. There’s always something to be doing or someone to meet up with, so getting some time alone is something that you need to make a priority, because being alone can be so beneficial. Even if you live with a partner or housemates, it’s important that you make time for yourself too.

You can think more clearly when you’re alone and you’ll be more productive as a result. It also gives you time for problem solving and deep thinking, and by understanding yourself better, your relationships will improve to.

But, for lots of people, spending time alone can be a challenge. Having spoken to some of my more extroverted friends, I’ve found that they hate being alone, and rarely go out and do anything by themselves.

I spend loads of time by myself and I love it, so whilst spending time with a group of people makes me feel incredibly nervous, doing things alone is just second nature to me.

So if you’re a person who struggles to spend time alone here are some ways that might help.

Understand why you always want to be around others

Some people just love social interaction and want to surround themselves with friends all the time. This is great, but make sure you’re not doing it purely because you don’t want to be alone. Being alone means time to think and that doesn’t appeal to everybody, because thinking too much can cause pain. But you also shouldn’t just be filling your time with seeing others as a way to avoid thinking.

(P.S. I’m not saying all extroverts are running from their thoughts!)

Start small

If you want to do more things on your own but aren’t sure where to start, then start small. Take yourself out shopping or for a coffee before moving onto some more daunting tasks like going to the cinema by yourself or for a meal. But, I promise that no one will think you’re weird for doing these things alone.

Embrace it

Alone time shouldn’t be scary. It’s the perfect excuse to do whatever you want with no judgement from anyone else. Get creative doing something you can’t usually do around your friends and you’ll soon find that you’re more focused on the activity than you are on being alone.

Plan

One thing I hate is when my boyfriend goes out for the whole day and I’m left with a huge expanse of time alone. Like I’ve said, I absolutely love being alone but when the person you spend the majority of your time with isn’t there for a period of time, it can feel pretty lonely. To combat this, I like to plan. I decide roughly what I’m going to do with my day, and make sure I’m not spending 8 hours feeling like I’m desperate for human contact.

Do you love alone time or can’t stand it? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Slowing Down

Sometimes the world seems simply too big for me. Other times it seems miniscule. I feel like I bump into the same people, go to the same places, can’t get myself out of a rut, and then suddenly, faster than I can blink, the world is huge again. The amount of things to do in such a short space of time feel overwhelming. And time is racing.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Often we are quick to react. We get angry, upset or frustrated so much more easily than we are ever happy about a situation. But, I’ve found that the slower I take things, the more I enjoy life and the better I react to negative situations.

We’re always looking so far into the future for the next big thing that we forget to be present. Being present is something that scares me actually. I don’t like the thought that I might miss an opportunity by not planning far enough ahead. I’m scared that life will run away with me if I stop for a moment. But I know that it won’t. That thought it just fear. And, I know that if I just slow down everything will carry on the same way, and more likely, it will be even better because I’ll be present enough to enjoy myself.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and come to the conclusion that I really do want to slow down a bit, so here’s what I’m doing to help myself.

You can only control what you can control

This is probably the most important life lesson I’ve ever learned. There are so many things in life that I worry about and 90% of those are things that I have no control over. Life happens and the only control that you have most of the time is how you react to situations. Slow down and allow change to happen.

Work at your own pace

We all seem to be caught up in this panic that we must all have a stable career by 23, own a house by 25 and be on our way to 2.4 kids by 30. I want to stand on the rooftops and scream down that all of the above is a lie. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone did everything at the same pace? Work at your own pace, choose what’s important to you and focus on living YOUR best life, not the one you think you should be living.

Stop multi-tasking

I’ve found this really difficult. I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t a serial multi-tasker, but the older I’ve got, the more difficult it’s been to multi-task as well as I used to. So now I’m done with it. I need to slow down because my brain just cannot take doing a million things at once and honestly, I don’t think I want to. I want to focus on one thing at a time and give it my full attention.

Look after yourself

Finally, slowing down for me has meant looking after myself. It’s not rushed breakfasts on the way to uni, or living life at 100mph until I go to bed. It’s making time to relax, getting enough fruit and veg and sleeping for 8 hours a night. It’s not a myth. You can actually do all the things you want to do and still look after yourself!

Rachel x-x-x

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