I was never someone who put herself first, too caught up in tumbleweed of Anxiety, Severe Depression and PTSD, to realize my self-worth. Stuck in a cycle of self-loathing, I hid behind a perfect mirror image, a mask firmly frozen in place, as I navigated life in someone else’s body. I felt like I was trapped in my own skin, metaphorical crawling ants sending shivers down my body. My inner turmoil convulsed, sending spasms through my chest and stomach, a bundle of knots, where the mental health issues ate away at me hungrily. It took a long-time for me to get help for my mental illness, and an even longer time to get a diagnosis, and treatment, which set me back years emotionally. I didn’t know then what I know now, that mindful self-care is a way of taking control against the demons, to bring joy and light into your life once more. Now, there is light, and there is hope, where there was once darkness, a new Ana, emerging like a Phoneix rising from the ashes. It sounds cheesy I know, but ever since getting diagnosed aged 22, with severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I have been on a journey to find the most authentic version of myself.
Although its hard, I try to reject the clawing thoughts that creep into my brain. I turn my back on the negativity that feeds greedily on my insecurities, and focus on mindfulness instead. I try and eat well, excercise consistiently, and say no to things that make me feel unhappy. As a child, teen, and even as an adult I was a self-confessed people pleaser, who was all about other ‘people’s happiness’ rather than my own. And it wasn’t me being altruistic as well, it was done out of fear, because I was anxious that I wouldn’t be liked, wanted, or needed, which hurt my heart. In my late twenties, I recognized that my need to please others stemmed from childhood, where I was abused by my stepmother, abandoned, and unloved. By giving so much of myself to others, I might have been burnt out, but at least I was ‘useful’. But here’s the thing, while I am unselfish, and love to help others, I realized that I hadn’t been taking care of myself. I was working too many hours, playing too hard, and didn’t eat, sleep, or drink well. In short, I had high-functioning anxiety, which showed me to be completely in control, when I wasn’t. I was 100% spiralling, and couldn’t understand why I had fallen down the rabbit hole.
Looking back I know why, I wasn’t consistient in trying to take care of myself, and centered self-care around others. But here’s the T, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, nor does it make you a bad person. I thought people would see me as egotistical, when I shouldn’t have been giving a damn about what other people think. Instead, I should have focused on what made me happy, and be proactive about mindful self-care. I always dismissed self-care when I was younger, falsely believing that I didn’t have time to be ‘kind to myself’. In my mid-twenties I recognized I was wrong, a fact that was doubly confirmed during counselling, CBT, and mindfulness therapy. Therapy showed me that I was doing too much, it was no wonder that I was burnt out, overwhelmed and always on the edge.
During lockdown I had a lightbulb moment. I had phases over the years where I would be proactive, trying to carve time out. But the problem was that the self-care never felt restful or nourishing, because by that point I was burnt out, too tired and stressed to enjoy it. I failed to listen to my body, and ignored my tulmotous emotions, choosing to put my needs aside, because I needed to be ‘too much’. Why? Because if I took time to slow down, I would hear the echoes of insecurities, traumas, and fears reveberate in my mind. I was uncomfortable with sitting alone with my thoughts, and found it painful to look after myself, because it felt like I was all about ‘me, me, me’. But when the world shut down, and we were forced to stay at home, something had clicked inside me. For the first time I was able to spend time at home, and actually enjoy it. It was hard, because I couldn’t see anyone, but the time in lockdown, forced me to seek change. I went for long walks in nature, when restrictions allowed it, started excercising consistiently, and learnt to be at peace with who I was.
From yoga, to meditation, to zoom calls with friends and family, lockdown helped me connect. Not just with others, but with myself. I had long langorous bubble baths, soapy puffs tickling my toes. Netflix binging marathons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, sipping on soothing honey and chamomile tea. I even got into excercise, cardio, running, and dance, my old flame, taking me back to the good ol’ days. My problem though was consistiency, reverting to old habits as quickly as new habits were formed. Now though, in 2021, I am finally at a good place with my mindful self-care, where I am really trying hard to be consistient with looking after myself. I plan meals, which must contain at least 3 vegetables, keep a food diary, journal, and try and meditate, practice mindfulness as often as I can. In short, I am finally listening to my body, mind, and soul, and hearing what it really wants. Which is why this World Mental Health day, I want to help you, my amazing readers, invest in me-time, and not regret it a damn bit.
So what does mindful self-care mean to you? To me, self-care is doing things that make you happy, and nourish your mind, body and soul. It’s saying no to toxic situations, putting yourself first, and realizing that looking after yourself is not selfish, in fact it is worthy. After all, you are strong and powerful, when you are at your most energized. To feel good energy, you need to surround yourself with positivity, love, and joy. When we do things that bring us happiness, we are investing in a happier, more grounded version of ourselves. But what do I mean by this? Well, think about what makes you happy, and eliminate scenarios that make you unhappy. Don’t feel like you need to say yes to something, if your heart is telling you no. Sometimes self-care is about sitting in silence and hearing what your body is telling you. Because this World Mental Health Day, I want to teach you how to practice self-care habits that are simple, yet effective. It’s about striving for balance in your life, and doing something for yourself, not because others want you to.
So where do we start?
Spend Time With The People You Love
It goes without saying that spending time with loved ones can do wonders for our mental health. For many of us, we found it difficult to navigate a pandemic, without being able to physically see our people in person. Now, that the world has opened up, we rejoyce once more, in the welcoming hands of our support band. And yet, if you are like me, you lost loved ones during lockdown, unable to see them one last time, have a final hurrah, or have the opportunity to say goodbye to them at a funeral. For my childhood friend G, my angel in heaven, was someone who passed last year, friends since we were five years old. There is pain in her passing, but when the world resumed, her death taught me to appreciate the friends, and family I had, and show them how much I care. Its poignant but we don’t know how much time we have on this earth, young or old. No matter who we are or where we are from, time runs out for us all.
So spend time with the people you love, parents, friends, partners, siblings. Even if like me, you have a complicated relationship with family, make time for those who have always been there for you. Who have never let you down, and have had your back, again and again. For while they make mistakes, because they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t, they are still perfect, in your eyes. For me that loved one is my Aunty, my mum, dad, and aunt all rolled in one. My confidante, my hero, and icon. The one person who isn’t afraid to tell me exactly what they think, who is unnervingly honest, yet caring too. The most selfless person I know, who is never afraid to put you in your place. This kind of person, loyal, truthful, and fiercely opinated, is a true loved one, who makes you feel good, when you are around them. There is no bulls**t, s**t-stirring or drama. Instead, there is unwavering love, in its endless bounty, waiting to be claimed by you.
My partner too, is another person, who I love to spend time with. Though we drive each other bonkers sometimes, he is kind, generous and thoughtful. He wears his heart on his sleeve, isn’t afraid to show you how much he loves you, and is patiently compassionate. Even when I shut down, and put a guard up, or grow distantly cold, he tries to crack through the ice, not taking no for an answer. He is exactly the kind of person you need to be around, when you are depressed, low or down, because his wit, charm and humour, will wipe away your tears, and hold you in calming embraces. His calm, to your anxious storm, is like a balm, especially during mental health week, when your mental health has been so up and down. But he dosen’t mind, that you aren’t always predicatable. Because as he tells you, so kindly, he’d rather be with you at your worst, than not at all. And that is true love, in its purest, rawest form. It’s the kind of love that helps you practice mindful self-care, because you are surrounded by all the good feelings.
As I get older, I realize that there were times where I would spend time with people who I loved, but who also made me feel bad in return. Who dangled me like carrots in front of bloodthirsty rabbits, who didn’t care about me the way I did them. And I am not the only one. Part of creating a mindful self-care routine is identifying the people that make us feel good, when we are around them. These are the people who are real, authentic and exude good energy. It’s the type of people that lift you up, rather than bring you down. Most of all, they are loved ones who champion everything that you do, your biggest fans, who love you unconditionally. Remember, it does not matter about the amount of time that you have known them, but about the connection you have instead. If you feel like you are floating on air, everytime you are with them, then that is a pretty good sign.
Write Down What You Are Grateful For
Keeping a gratitude journal has changed my life, teaching me to re-define my mindset. At times I was so focused on being as ‘real’ and as authentic as possible, that I would often come across as negative. I would get told that I was fixating on the negatives, and bringing down the energy of the people around me. It hurt to hear that, especially when I was only being honest about the way I felt. Although their words felt like spiked barbs, I did realize to an extent that they were right. I was convinced that they were ‘attacking me’ personally, and while their intentions were misguided I did learn something. I needed to re-frame the way that I was thinking, and be mindful of how I was viewing myself, and the situations I was in. I could still be real, and truthful like I had been, but at the same time, get out of the ‘not good enough’ funk, that I always found myself in.
My internal dialogue would often tell me that I wasn’t good enough, I would never be worthy, or that everyone was better than me. It was self-destructive, and quite frankly a liar, that made me pour self-hate and scorn over myself, until I was scorched with flames. The fire was hot, and the scald was ever-lasting, a laceration of self-wounds, where I hurt myself emotionally, and physically. When I tried to defeat my negative mindset head on, and disengage with my inner sabotour, I was able to find the inner peace, that I had been searching my whole life for. My journal showed me an emotional journey, from beginning until now, a once lost young adult, who had matured into someone who was happier in herself than she has ever been. And that is true, while I do still have depression, and anxiety, I am happier now than I have been my whole life. What’s my secret? Finding the key to inner happiness started in writing down what I was grateful for each day. It didn’t have to be big, in fact it could be something small. What mattered was the way it made me feel.
When I started a gratitude journal, I was able to identify the positive influences in my life, that brought a smile to my face. One day it would be cozying up on the sofa, swathed in blankets, stealing secret kisses with the love of my life. The next it was seeing a friend, who made me glow with happiness, who, despite the time that had passed, made me feel like it was just yesterday, that we were hanging out. It was the little things in particular that I was grateful for. Warming cups of herbal tea, that soothed my stomach condition, fluffy hot water bottles that gave me warmth on cold winter nights. Sparkly sequin dresses that shimmered excitedly, supportive friends, and family, who made me feel, and look good. Career successses and triumphs, followers who reached out to me and showered me with praise. It didn’t have to be something that others found significant. Because to me, it mattered, and that’s all I cared about.
When I journalled, I had a written record of the positive things that had happened in my life. It helped me to come back to these, when I was feeling low or rough, to gain perspective, and realize that I had so much to be thankful for. So what am I thankful for this World Mental Health Day? In 2021, I am thankful for the power of love, for having a wonderful partner, who supports me in anything I do. Who understands who I am, and what I need, who is unflinchinly patient, even when he dosen’t understand what I am going through. His compassion, fills me with gratitude, and helps me see myself in a new light, like I have never seen myself before. He says, ‘I wish you could see me, the way that I see you’, and to an extent, I do now. I see someone who is bold, and intelligent. Who fights for what she believes in, who isn’t afraid to stray outside the box. Who is unique and colourful, a one of a kind collectiable, who loves people, animals, and is fiercely loyal. Who would go above and beyond to be there for others. It was then, I realized that I needed to start being there for myself. To start treating myself, like I had always treated others. With compassion, love and loyalty.
So why should you write down what you are grateful for? Well, perspective is everything. When you shift your perspective, you can see anything in a new light. Remember, that all you can do, is all you can do, and that is enough. It sounds like I just repeated myself twice, but re-centering your belief system, and teaching that your ‘best’ is enough, makes you feel worthy of mindful self-care. It shows you that you can’t compare yourself to others, nor can you ‘hate on yourself’. That’s not only incredibly unhealthy, but it also teaches you to always put yourself down, and feel like nothing you do is good enough. But listen, I know now, that I am good enough, and so are you. As I get older, I know that I should do more to champion myself, and everything I have achieved, because I don’t nearly give myself as much credit as I need to. I know I am not the only one who is guilty of this!
Give Guided Meditation A Try
As a first time meditater, I was confused. Why could the people around me tune out, and find their inner zen, when my anxious thoughts swarmed around me like angry bees. Despite the attempting soothing voice, I felt paralysis, a victim of my own mind, who had locked me up in a rusty cage, and thrown away the key. The soothing voice, became demonic, and despite my best attempts I was unable to fully let go, and let the calm wash over me. That has always been my biggest problem, letting go. Whether it was letting go of fear, anxiety or control, letting go was hard. I guess it was hard to let go, when life was filled with so much uncertainity. Was there any wonder that I wanted stability when my life had so many ups and downs. I know that we all have our moments, but for me it felt like it was constant. Letting go of control, meant that I couldn’t predict what would happen next. I guess it made sense, that at first meditation wasn’t for me. It was painful, messy, and I found it hard to silence the demons and their deafening bellows.
Looking back now, I couldn’t imagine my current life without mediation. It gives me purpose, and calm, when I need to feel centered. When I have a panic attack, it helps me re-frame how I am reacting, and teaches me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. For so long, I wasn’t comfortable with hearing the honesty of my thoughts, but then I realized, I needed that clarity in order to move on. My partner, is exactly how I was then. Cynical, unable to zone out, believing that mindful self-care isn’t about meditation, and mindfulness, to him it means something else. I know that meditation is not for everyone, and your first time might not be pleasant. But I am so glad I stuck at it, because it has taught me so much. It has encouraged me to be comfortable in my own c0mpany, and block out the noise around me. It has shown me to slow down, and take stock of the moment, letting my emotions wash over me. No matter how painful those emotions might be, it was OK to cry, feel angry, or elated. It showed me that the way I feel matters.
The way that you feel matters too. When you meditate, you recognize that you don’t look after yourself, as much as you should do. Your self-care is often rushed, hurried, and you priortize everything else, before you priortize yourself. Because of this, meditation as a first experience might feel alien, uncomfortable and confusing. You might find it hard to visualise aspects of the meditation experience, and can struggle to reach a positive state of mind. Your mediation can be interrrupted by whats around you, or you might end your meditation abruptly, because you are scared of the way you feel. And that’s OK, you don’t know it yet, but meditation can reduce stress.
During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being, that makes you feel happier. When you re-focus your attention, and clear your mind, you can find that the way you look at the world has changed. The way you react to stress might be more rational, the way that you communicate might be open and honest, and the way that you love may be more positive, free from toxic insecurities. Because that is exactly what happened to me. Through a combination of CBT therapy, mindfulness, and meditation, I was able to be more vocal about how mental health made me feel, and identify the triggers in my life, that were stopping me from healing. While your mental health is always an uphill battle, it’s important that we take the steps needed, to be our realest selves. Even if being ourselves make us feel weird, happiness often lies in authencity. Meditation taught me that, and it can teach you too.
Spend Time Eating Mindfully With Nourishing Foods
Despite being a vegetarian for over a decade, it wasn’t until recently, that I actually ‘ate well’. There have been times where I have deprived my body from nutrient rich foods, because I didn’t priortize food as mindful self-care. Whether it was grabbing food on the go, eating food with empty nutrients, or not eating, when I should be, I have been guilty of not ‘eating well’. I would blame it on being busy, or not having ‘the time’ to eat like I wanted. Hell, even the fact that I lived with so many people, and was uncomfortable with cooking in front of them, because I didn’t like drama, stopped me from living my most nourished life.
I always loved food, but I didn’t know that I had an unhealthy relationship with it. There was no consistiency, as there were periods where I would eat well, and then eat really badly after, which would counteract all the hard work I had put into my nutrition. I was priortizing things like work, sleep, and personal connections over my diet, and while these are all important, so is food, if not more so. But in the last 2-3 years, I have really taken huge steps to change my diet, especially as I do have a stomach condition, allergies, and intolerances that affect what I can and can’t eat. I try and stay away from foods that trigger my condition, and make sure that I have at least 3 vegetables, on each plate. I attempt to follow a balanced meal plan, and have now got to the point where I am having 2-4 mindful meals, in smaller portions so I can eat well, without being sick.
And it’s not just portion control, but I have done an extensive amount of research as to what I should, and shouldn’t be putting into my body. I don’t count calories, because life is too short for that, but instead, I try and make my own fresh meals when I can, batch cook in advance, and organize my time, so that I really do put my food needs first. And what a difference it makes. I know when I have a ‘bad food day’, because i’ll have migraines, stomach cramps, feel irritable, and often be sick. And yet when I think holistically about what I put into my body, I realize that it has such an incredibly positive impact on my mood, physical, and mental health. I feel happier, I have more energy, and have more patience. I am less likely to snap, am more relaxed, and have more motivation to kick ass. In short, food is our mental health saviour.
I value food so highly, that I am now looking to work with a nutrionist. I have tried healing my body, through my own research, but would like to work with a professional, who can help me find clarity. I have already done wonders, as I am able to control my stomach condition more effectively now, but I do need expert help. After all, I could unknowningly be eating foods that are making my stomach condition worse, and want to eat a healthy, balanced diet, that is gut-friendly, and reduces the acid that I have in my body. When I spend time eating mindfully with nourishing foods, I really feel a world of difference. Not only do I enjoy the food a lot more, but I also make it an opportunity to disconnect with technology, relax, and savour every single damn mouthful. Don’t just take my word for it. Experts show that eating well boosts immunity, helps the digestive system function, reduces depression and anxiety, and even builds self-esteem.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert (I should know!). It can also improve concentration and your attention span, whereas an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and can slow down your reaction time. So how can you eat well, especially if you are a vegetarian like me? Well at the very least, you should try to have 5 fruits and vegetables a day, with your base meal centered around healthy starchy foods like sweet potatoes, rice or even bread (in moderation). You also need protein like pulses, lentils and meat subsitutes, and should cut down on saturated fats, and sugary foods. I try and limit how many meat substitutes I eat, as they are processed, and will do at least 3 days that are ‘vegan meat free’, focusing on fresh, vegetarian protein sources instead. This could be an Ethopian stew, with spiced red lentils, spinach, potatoes, and chickpeas, served with tumeric rice, a lentil dhaal with chickpeas and spinach, or even a vegetable broth soup, with brown seeded bread, and some cheese.
Practice Breathing Techniques To Get In The Right Headspace
It might sound silly, but breathing is by far the most challenging thing that I struggle with. You might be confused, after all breathing is a basic neccessity, but it isn’t easy for me. When I am extremely anxious, I breathe badly, often hyperventilating, taking big gulps of air, and letting my anxiety get the better of me. I have lost count of the amount of times I have woken up in the middle of the night, and have been gasping for air, unable to go back to sleep, because I am so anxious. My anxiety attempts to take over my life, and when its really bad, I am often pacing my house, alternating between frantically trying to work, walking around the house, or sticking my head out of the window, in an attempt to calm myself down. I feel the tension not just emotionally, but physically too, with soreness in my back, shoulders, spine, and neck.
Unintentionally, I have become a shallow breather, and mindlessly inhale through the mouth, holding my breath, and taking in less air. It’s not because I want to breathe this way, but it has been my body’s flight or fight response for so long, that it is so hard to overcome it. Just like my body immediately tenses up when I get anxious (felt in my stomach, chest, back and shoulders), breathing too is affected when I am nervous. Because of this, long-term shallow breathing keeps me in a continous cycle of stress, affecting everything from my mental and physical health, to even getting more sick. After all, we know that being overly stressed makes you more suceptible to illnesses. But i’m working on it, and it is one of the reasons why I love yoga so much. Not only does it allow me to find my inner zen, get my body moving, and improve my form, but the positions that I do, helps relieve the anxiety, tension, and stress out of my body. 9 times out of 10, I see a difference in the way that I breathe, and react to anxiety, when I do yoga and meditate.
In fact, when we carry out deep breathing excercises, we encourage positive thought processes, and improve our cognitive function. This helps us feel more centered, grounding our minds, as we become more focused in a nourishing way. It allows us to get into the right headspace, and set the tone for the rest of the day/ evening/ week/ month. When we practice mindful breathing techniques, it not only helps us become more logical, but it also improves the way we react to stress, and reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. Although it’s hard to ‘breathe well’ all the time, when we are aware of it, we should spend a few moments per day, being conscious of our breathing habits. The way we breathe is ingrained over a lifetime, so practice makes perfect. Find a quiet room, or a tranquil environment, that makes you feel like you can breathe better, and disconnect. You are able to create space for growth, and reset your habits, to have healthier, happier, and more holistic habits that boost your mental health.
So how do we breathe well? I am no expert, but from personal experience I find that an upright position, where you maintain good posture, and your back is straight, helps you to overcome anxiety faster. This is because we have a habit of slumping over, slouching and having bad form, making it easier to go back into the no-no shallow breathing zone. As a beginner to mindful breathing, I like to use guided meditation to set my intentions for the day, and to also show me how to ‘breathe well’. It tells me what types of breath I should be doing, where I should be breathing from, and also for how many counts, which is extremely helpful.
I also do ‘box breathing’, when I am very stressed and burnt out, which involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 4. I then wait at the very end of the exhale for a count of 4, and repeat the excercise again. I have been reccomended to try box breathing, because it is a deep breathing excercise that has been shown to calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system. Although I am new to mindful breathing excercises, I can honestly say that it is really helping me intentionally breathe better, and be more aware of why I ‘shallow breathe’, as a response to anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. When we take stock of how we breathe, we have more self-awareness of our triggers, how we can remove ourselves from stressful situations, and even how to improve the way that we react.
Mindfully Excercise To Feel Mentally And Physically Fit
Both me and my partner, now excercise 3-4 times a week together, in order to keep mentally and physically fit. Not only does it help us feel closer, as my boyfriend teaches me ‘to work out’ and have good form, but it also boosts our mental health. Whether we are doing a 10K run, abs, cardio, or a Zumba workout, when we excercise, we feel and look good. When I run, I feel clearer, more focused, and more energized. It increases my productivity, helps me sleep better, and above all is a mindful activity that allows me to tap into my most centered self. I feel grounded, I feel alive, and love the thrill of beating fitness targets. While I don’t excercise to lose weight, (I work out to feel mentally and physically connected), I love that excercise keeps my heart, lungs, and body in a healthier form. Now, I lead a healthier lifestyle where I recognize its important to excercise because it genuinely makes me happier. When I run outside I am connected to nature, feeling my lungs expand as it takes in the fresh air, it feels clean.
Although running isn’t my favourite excercise, it does teach me mindful self-care. It forces to me to go outside, and leave my home on days where I feel unmotivated. Most of all, it is something that me and my partner can do together albeit for different reasons. For him, running helps him reach his fitness goals, as he trains for an upcoming marathon, clears his head, and makes him feel relaxed (during and after). Once he gets into the swing of his run, he says that a bad day, can immediately feel better, because he is focused on nothing else, but the run, which allows him to change perspective and shift his mindset. For me a run is challenging, but motivating, helping me get my body moving, even when my mind is telling me to give it all up. It shows me that I am resilient, strong, and teaches me good form.
My favourite form of excercise though is dance, as I danced growing up. A musical theatre kid, I loved making up dances to my favourite songs, as I felt the elation course through my body. Dance gave me confidence, and boosted my self-esteem while keeping me fit. Whether it was freestyle, salsa, or hip-hop, I loved how dance had no fast- and hard rules. It was down to interpretation, and the way that the music made you feel. I was able to blast on my favourite songs, and instantly see my mood change. It boosted my stamina physically, but mentally it showed me the power of endurance. To never give up, and have unwavering faith. These days though, Yoga is also a main staple in our self-care workout routine, a mindful excercise that teaches us both a lot. From increasing our flexibility, to releasing tension, stress, and pressure, our bodies feel more relaxed, and at ease. For me, my anxiety has physical, as well as emotional implications, and I get painful knots in my back, shoulders, lower spine, and neck, which Yoga relieves.
No matter what excercise you try, just make sure you are mindful about it. We usually do an hour, or an hour and a half of excercise at least 3 days a week, because we are trying to be consistient in our approach to mindful self-care. When we are inconsistient, it makes us harder to get into the habit of excercising regularly. After all, if you spend 12 hours in front of a computer screen, and then carve out an hour for excercise, that is not really good either. Breaks are important, so moving every 20 minutes when you are working is needed, as it will help when you excercise for longer later on. After all, the more sedentary you are, the more likely you are to feel unmotivated, and in a slump. When we move, our body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
Be Kind To Yourself And Surround Yourself With Uplifting People
Being kind to myself, was one of the hardest mindful self-care acts I had to master. My inner demon was always telling me that I would never get anywhere, be successful, and would never have people around me that would care about me as much as I did. I was convinced that I invested more of myself into others, and got very little in return, which hurt. I thought, what is the point of being this person that everyone wants you to be, when you don’t get that same kindness in return. But then I realized, that I wasn’t surrounding myself with the right people, and because I was so forgiving, I let myself get mistreated, over and over again. I stuck with toxic friends, because I thought that quality, mattered more than quantity. When push came to the shove, I realized that there were many people who I thought ‘were my friends’ but were just there for the jollies, conveniently slinking into the shadows when things would get rough. You’d spend time, listening to them, and hearing their stories, but that interest was never given in return.
There were the friends who would bring you down, going out of their way to insult you, give you backhanded compliments, or make you feel bad in yourself. You would stick with them, because you thought that this was normal, that this was the way you deserved to be treated, but that was not the case. Little by little you realized your self-worth, recognizing that part of a positive mindful self-care routine, involves curating friends and family around you, that make you feel good, even when you are down. It’s about realizing that strength in friendships, is not about the number of people that you are friends with, but about how these people show you their love. It seems like obvious advice, but as I get older, I realize that the true friends are the ones who go out of their way to encourage you, to support you, and above all champion everything that you stand for.
When we have good friends, they increase our happiness, reduce our stress, and improve our self-confidence and self-worth. They are the friends who will drop everything to make sure you are OK, and be there for you even when you try and push them away. They are the friends who are fiercely loyal, dependant, and a shoulder to cry on, when the world has turned upside down. Through deaths, and loss, triumphs and successes, they are the people who are with you through thick and thin. No matter what, they don’t judge, and are not scared off when they see you at your most vunerable. They will wipe away your snot, and tears, and try and cheer you up, even if laughing is the last thing you feel like doing. In other words, our friendships help protect our mental health.
There is nothing more comforting than being supported by a friend. We feel secure knowing that we don’t need to hide our true selves, or be afraid of being at our messiest in front of them. Because a true friend won’t care, they will love and look after you, like you are their own family member. Knowing that we have a support system helps to protect against stress, while sharing our difficulties with our friend, can help us feel un-burdened and free. After all, it’s like the old saying goes, a problem shared, is a problem halved. They will be able to have a fresh perspective on your issues, that can help you emotionally heal in a healthier, more cathartic way. Instead of letting our issues eat us up inside, we feel lighter, as we honestly and openly communicate about what is bothering us. That’s why for me, I love to express the way I feel to others through writing.
Invest In Online Self-Care Resources That Bring Joy
This World Mental Health Day, if there is one mindful self-care habit you should adopt, it’s investing in what finds you joy. But when you are battling with mental health issues, and find self-care overwhelming, you might not know where to start. That’s why finding the right online resources, can help you lead a more intentional fufilled life. For me, that is The Anti Burnout Club, which is helping me lead a more balance lifestyle without the overwhelm. As someone who has mental health issues, and a not so great reaction to stress, even small issues, can be a huge trigger for me and set me back days. With The Anti-Burnout however, I have been able to recognize the bad habits I have, and how it halts my personal development progress.
For example, I am an avid subscriber of the ‘hustler club’ which has positive and negative consequences. I am very driven, ambitious, helpful, detail orientated, research led, and extremely hard-working. However, the downside of this is that I am a perfectionist, who over-works, beats myself up if things don’t go the way I planned, and am obsessive about everything I do, whether that is personally, professionally or socially. It is exhausting, and even if I didn’t have anxiety and depression, I would still be burnt out, because I never give myself enough time to ‘relax and chill out’. When we buy into hustle culture, we are setting ourselves up for emotional distress. Especially as time has made me realize that you don’t need to ‘hustle’ to be successful and reach your goals. Instead, the Anti Burnout Club teaches you to have a more compassionate approach to self-care, with wellbeing courses, recipes, live events, sessions, and even wellness festivals to help you be the happiest version of you.
That’s why they are offering all my followers FREE ACCESS to The Anti-Burnout Club in October, in conjunction with World Mental Health, which is INCREDIBLE! Although I have only been using it for a short amount of time, the self-care resources, have genuinely brought me joy. So what’s in it for you? Well, you get access to experts on demand, with 100’s of classes in nutrition, yoga, pilates, breathwork, meditation, mindset and even therapeutic practices. For me personally, I have really loved how varied their resources are. If you want to improve your breathing, and reframe your mindset, I would 100% reccomend ‘Learn the basics of breathwork’, taught by Charlie, which teaches you how to breathe better. From breathing for energy, to opening up the heart and cleansing the mind, body and soul, it is amazing.
Another course that I found extremely helpful was on nutrition, AKA the ‘Bloating Series with Anna’. As someone who has a stomach condition, I get alot of acid in my stomach, and oespahgus, so Anna has shown me about what triggers that acid, and what I can do to alleviate my bloating, while cleansing my gut. And it’s not just courses either, there are fantastic vegan and vegetarian recipes, ranging from dinners, to smoothies, and even snacks, to nourish your mental and physical health. From a tropical carrot smoothie, to Asian scrambled eggs, goats cheese frittata, and baked lentil falafels, these recipes put your health and wellbeing first. If like me, you also want to upgrade your workout routine, they have classes that will make you dance, relax, meditate, and tap into your most centered self. Dancers will love the Strutology- Bad *ss Woman class, a sassy dance workout that instantly boosts self-confidence, and esteem, while Yogi’s will feel at peace during Toma’s ‘Creative Flow and Guided Meditation’, a 45 minute yoga clarity session.
As if this wasn’t enough, The Anti Burnout Club also has an online shop, with self-care goodies for your physical and mental health. From aromotherapy candles, natural oils, bath salts, and workbooks, to mindfulness cards for building positive habits, you can see why I am a huge fan. While there are other platforms out there, that can boost your mental health, it’s hard to see one that has everything all in one place. There are courses, classes, recipes, and a community of wellness mavens who connect with other each, in order to overcome a life of overwhelm. They even have a Facebook Group which often has live wellness sessions, and I really love how supportive and kind everyone is, especially Bex. Even if your version of self-care is giving back to others, this is a beautiful reminder to tell your loved ones to invest in their me-time.
Other useful mental health resources can be found below:
- Hinter: a community focused on nature, travel, architecture and wellbeing.
- SilverCloud Health: accessible, scalable, digital behavioural healthcare.
- Mind: advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
- Calm: an app that aims to approve mental health, fitness, sleep and relaxation.
What Are Your Mindful Self-Care Tips For World Mental Health Day?
Please note this is a collaborative post but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by gifted services. This is a collaboration with The Anti Burnout Club, for World Mental Health Day, who have kindly gifted me a three month subscription to their platform, as well as a self-care goodies box, which is amazing! I would love to know what your tips are for mindful self-care, and what your personal mental health stories are. Let me know in the comments below.