Over the last couple of years, I’ve realised that unfortunately for those who suffer from anxiety or anxiety disorders, there is no quick fix or ‘cure’ and it’s not something that will simply go away on its own. My anxiety disorder is a daily struggle and just as I mentioned in this very personal post, this year I’m working on trying to understand it all and learn how to manage it a bit better rather than sweeping it under the carpet, keeping it secret or making it my number one enemy.
When you are living with a mental health disorder (or stresses of any kind really) it can be easy to get stuck in a rut of trying to ‘fix’ ourselves, only to find that it doesn’t work. It’s not about throwing away the tablets and starting again. There are lots of simple little things that you can do to make life happier and make your anxiety just that little bit easier to live with. Along with my meds, over the last few months, I’ve been trying lots of different methods for improving my mental health and identifying certain triggers. Some have worked, some haven’t and I’m happy to share anything that has helped me manage it. Now, I’m not where I want to be with my mental health just yet but I’m already so far from where I used to be and I’m proud of that. So, if you too are ready to make some positive changes to ease an anxious mind, these are my 10 simple little tips for minding your mental health…
1. Patience and Time
Give yourself patience and time. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done but once I really accepted that my anxiety disorder is something I have to live with I learned to be a little more patient, and kinder to myself. Instead of fighting it, I now treat it like any other illness. I also now know that it’s not going to go away overnight and that I will have a better quality of life if I learn to accept it, manage it and look after it. The first step is accepting it and only then with a bit of patience and time can you manage anxiety to a point where you are living the life you want and having the happiness you deserve.
2. Talk About It
This one sounds so simple but can be often one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow when it comes to mental health. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness and you should never feel embarrassed about sharing them. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical advice or a listening ear. Confiding in your partner, mum, dad, sibling or someone you trust when you are feeling low or have something on your mind that is bothering is one of the best things you can do. My mum always says “A problem shared is a problem halved” and it’s so true. The best advice I can give to those who are anxiety sufferers is to be open and honest with the ones you love so they can understand you better. If you aren’t ready to share with a loved one you can always try a trained counsellor or therapist.
3. Make Your Diary or Planner Your Best Friend
Even if you have an amazing memory and you don’t think you’ll forget, writing down important appointments, meeting, interviews, something you have to do, or setting up a reminders on your phone is a great way to prevent potentially a huge amount of stress and anxiety that would come from missing an important date. Prepare everything you need the night before by selecting your clothes and putting items that need to go to work/gym/appointment next to the door.
4. Be Aware of your Monthly Cycle
This one is specifically for the ladies. While it might seem obvious, keep track of your periods. Even at the best of times, Mother Nature’s monthly cycle can send us into a flurry of emotions! I’ve often been a hysterical mess, convince myself I’m going crazy and then a few days later get my period and it all makes sense. Pop it on your calendar or use an app to keep track and be aware of your monthly mood.
5. Self-Help Books
There are lots of self-help books and CDs available to help people who experience anxiety. I have been reading some great books that I’ll be sharing on the blog soon. In the meantime, check out fellow Irish gal and author Caroline Foran’s fantastic bullsh*t free perspective about living with anxiety in her book Owning It.
6. Caring for Others
When we do something good for others such as helping out or lending an ear it makes us feel needed and valued and that boosts our self-esteem. Sufferers of anxiety tend to be very intuitive toward other people’s feelings and can be quite empathetic and supportive.
Caring for a pet can improve your happiness too. I honestly think getting a cat has greatly improved my mental health. Looking after Betty brings more structure to my day and knowing that she needs me for food, love and cuddles is a lovely feeling. Nothing beats her morning purrs!
7. Make a List and Check it Twice
This can be a tricky one. I know when my anxiety is pretty bad or I’m having a particularly off day, even the simplest things I need to do can seem like mammoth tasks. However, I also know that nothing is more satisfying than ticking something off a to-do list. By introducing certain steps to be more organised you will give you that structure and relief knowing what you have planned or what you are planning to do.
I’m a massive to-do list (this point also ties in with tip 3) person but this year I’ve upped my game even more. I keep a small little notebook in my handbag which I scribble down things I need to do when they pop into my mind and I can help eliminate any worries I have about forgetting to do something. Then, when I’m at my desk I flick through what needs to be done and then input them into my main planner, usually on a Sunday. It helps me add structure to my week looking at what needs to be done. I also have various notebooks and lists for different things such as blogging or weekly shopping and I like to keep them all together in what I call my mini-command station, a handy little desk organiser (just like this one) where I keep all my lists, notebooks, planners and pens. I like that it’s moveable and I can keep it in the kitchen, office or wherever I’m working.
If you fee; overwhelmed looking at the list think about the positive impacts of dealing with your tasks and issues when they’re done. This brings you back into a positive mindset and can help you focus on getting the task done. Remember, aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. Always keep in mind that looking after yourself is most important and that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice it to finish your tasks.
8. Take a Break
In our modern, fast-paced world we are constantly rushing around, wanting to be able to ‘do it all’. But sometimes a slower pace is exactly what you need for your mental health. A simple few minutes can often be enough to de-stress you. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning the house, a half-hour tea break to yourself, a break from social media for a day or a weekend with no plans. It’s so important to give yourself some ‘me time’. Self-care has become a big buzz word of late and there’s a reason why. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.
9. Social Media Doesn’t Help
This one is an extension of the last tip but one that I feel is so important. While there are some truly inspiring people out there and a million inspirational quotes on Pinterest, social media lets that old thief comparison sneak in. If social media is part of your life whether it’s your job, whether you blog for a hobby or simply can’t quit scrolling be mindful of how much time you are spending on it or the accounts you follow.
10. Better Sleep = Better Health
A good nights sleep has some seriously good health benefits not just your mental health but for your overall well being. After all, it’s a lot harder to manage stress and anxiety when you’re not sleeping well. I must admit I often struggle with insomnia (mostly due to medication) but this year I’m making it my business to really try to get into a good night routine.
Creating a nighttime routine and taking your time to wind down each night is essential to help break with a bad sleep pattern. If you too are struggling to catch some zzz’s or have been dealing with insomnia here is my go-to routine for a good nights sleep.
- No tea or coffee after 6 pm or, try a herbal tea if you like a cuppa before bed
- Take a long, warm bath – Add some lavender salts, essential oils or a lavender bubble bath if you can.
- No phones, tablet or laptop in bed. If you need to have your phone beside your bed for an alarm or emergencies, use the do not disturb mode to silence all texts, calls, and notifications at night (You can add a setting to allow calls from just your favourites in case of an emergency).
- Read for 30 minutes. If you can, aim to read with no distractions from technology for half an hour before bed.
- Use a sleep spray on your pillow. I like the deep sleep pillow spray from This Works.
*A little disclaimer and friendly reminder that I’m not a doctor or health professional. These are simply little tips for minding your mind that I try to stick to or when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.
There are so many other great ways to help minimise the symptoms of anxiety such as such as therapy, yoga, pilates, reflexology, exercise or specialised diets. I’m still learning and hoping to try out lots of different options this year. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Pop them in a comment below.