My life has changed quite a lot over the past few years. Read back on this blog and you’ll find me zip-lining through Laotian rainforests, training in a Muay Thai gym in Bangkok and road tripping around the remote corners of Borneo.
Now, it’s a bit more of a calm and subdued affair. My mental health is dependant on maintaining a very careful balance in my life. Which is actually pretty great. I love a bit of excitement as much as the next person but when I was a constant whirlwind of travel and social engagements I wasn’t actually that mentally healthy.
It’s been a bit of a journey getting here and figuring out what works for me, but I’ve finally managed to get that balance by incorporating healthy habits into my everyday life, and prioritising them above all else. It’s these habits that keep me functioning like a normal human being. Without them you’ll likely find me curled up in a ball in bed, unshowered and staring at the ceiling (not even joking).
I’m constantly banging on about exercise these days. That’s because since I have started running regularly, I feel like an entirely different person.
Exercise is so incredibly effective at keeping my mental health in check. If I’ve had a bad day, I now go for a run instead of reaching for the nearest bottle of red wine. And I come back feeling as though the day is behind me and so much happier.
And its not just those immediate few hours after the run is over that I feel great. Regular exercise helps me feel calmer in general. It keeps my emotions in check and it keeps the bad days of depression at bay.
If you had told anyone who knew me a few years ago that I would be regularly cooking they would have almost died laughing. I used to be THE WORST cook. But during my struggle with depression, I discovered that I actually really love cooking. There’s some kind of meditative quality in it for me. It gives me time to zone out for a bit and just focus on the chopping and frying and let all the other bullshit just fall away.
That’s not to say that I’m always jumping for joy about cooking. If I’m having a bad day or if I’m feeling particularly knackered all I want to do is sit on the sofa and order a takeaway. But if I drag myself into the kitchen and just start doing it then pretty soon I already feel ten times better. And let’s not forget that eating delicious, nourishing food makes me feel good too.
I listen to so many podcasts these days. I am a total podcast addict. They’re now my go-to listening choice for a run, driving to work, whilst at work, whilst showering; basically whenever I have any free time.
I started out listening to predominantly true crime podcasts (perhaps not amazing for my mental health) but recently I’ve been listening to many more podcasts focused on depression, mental health and body positivity.
Podcasts that talk about things that I am suffering with such as self-esteem issues and depression make me feel a little less alone and very inspired.
My current faves are Fearne Cotton’s podcast ‘Happy Place’ and Christy Harrison’s podcast ‘Food Psych Podcast’
I’ve spoken in a previous post about how important sleep is to my mental health. Although I’m a total night owl at heart, if I don’t get to bed and get at least 8 hours sleep I get all out of sorts.
So I have to make sure that I am setting a sensible bedtime for myself every night so that I’m not waking up exhausted and emotional. Those are the days when I am very susceptible to having bad depression days. I try to switch of from technology by 10 o clock each night (not always successful) so that I get a good hour of chilling and reading in bed before getting off to sleep.
This is such a difficult one for me. Meditation genuinely helps me but I find it so tough because my thoughts are usually rushing around at a hundred miles an hour.
For now, I’ve downloaded the Headspace app and I’m doing 10 minutes of meditation at a time which is very doable. I definitely feel more relaxed and less stressed out after just taking those ten minutes for myself.
All this talk of exercise and meditation and getting enough sleep is great but it’s also so important to just have fun!
One of the reasons I ended up seriously depressed was the fact that I got so absorbed in my website design business that I gave up any semblance of a personal life. I completely burned out. I felt as though any time spent doing something that I actually enjoyed was wasted time that could be spent trying to get clients or trying to figure out the mysteries of the Instagram algorithm.
Unsurprisingly I became very ill very quickly. These days I know just how important it is to do the things that I love doing. Sometimes that’s meeting up with friends or going out for dinner and sometimes its simply curling up on the sofa with some chocolate and a great movie. Doing the things I enjoy is as important a daily habit as any of the above ones.
So there you have it. I’m sure there are tons more things that I do regularly that keep me on track, but these are the biggies. These are the things that I can’t function properly without doing regularly.
What about you? I’d love to hear what daily habits you use to manage your mental health in the comments below.