My mental health isn't something I've talked about a lot on my blog, aside from covering being an introvert and social anxiety here and addressing and somewhat dealing with my travel anxiety here, but it's definitely something I want to talk about more as mental health impacts us all. I've introduced some positive habits into my every day routine, so thought I'd share them in the hopes that it may help some of you.
In terms of my overall mental health, I don't have any anxiety disorders to the point that I feel I need medication or therapy, but I would say my social anxiety has me saying 'no' more than 'yes' which I'm trying really hard to work on. I find if I don't stick to certain routines, I can find myself slipping into a somewhat depressive state. I would say it's only mild, so I certainly wouldn't categorise myself as having depression, but I would say it's definitely touched my life in the past. I have been striving to improve in all aspects over the last few years, so I'm much better than I was, but I do find these habits (especially during this weird lockdown time) have helped me.
They may seem fairly obvious to a lot of you, but I don't think there's any harm in writing everything down and sharing!
5 habits I've introduced to help my mental health
No Social Media Before Work
The world is a heavy place and while I think we can all do our part to stay informed and help where possible, it can also feel overwhelming and like everything is too much when you're reading bad thing after bad thing - often before even getting out of bed. So, I've banned myself from looking at Instagram on a morning and I will not open it until my work for the day is completed. I was finding I was spending up to an hour first thing endlessly scrolling and it would make me feel numb and slow. I was absorbing someone else's day and life before even starting mine and that's not right.
I also deleted Twitter from my phone over a year ago now and, to be perfectly honest, I do not miss it one little bit. It was such a drain on my life and is the most negative social media out there in my opinion. Everyone has drama and everything is an issue, and it was finding myself getting knee-deep (even just from a non-commenting perspective) in things that I really had no business being involved in. I work with a lot of very big bloggers in my day job and they all say the same. I also haven't checked Facebook in about 4 years but, like, who misses Facebook? No one.
30 Minutes of Exercise Per Day
I started doing this at the very start of my day around 7 weeks ago, and it has honestly changed my life. I haven't been very consistent with exercise and, with a lot of the studios and classes being closed due to lockdown, I knew I had to do something at home. We used to go on 10k step walks pretty much every day, but the local parks got so busy with everyone being at home and being bored, that we stopped going out as much as we were sick of dodging people.
So, I set myself a task of doing a workout video for 30 minutes every day. This includes some more chilled workouts such as yoga, to more intense pilates classes, to kettlebells and some HIIT or circuit work. I don't have a specific routine or any plan as such, I just aim to do a few lower body workouts, some full body and some abs.
30 minutes, to me, is a really achievable goal and it's not so much that I would have terrible DOMS and be dying the next day and it's not so little that I don't feel like I've done anything. I'll share the videos I've been using in another post, but I'm just so pleased that I started doing this. It's created such a perfect routine for me, I'm sleeping better and really sets me up for the day - I love it!
Intermittent Fasting and Really Good Lunches
Now, this sounds a bit weird and may not be suitable for everyone so please do your own research, but I've found intermittent fasting to be extremely valuable for my mental health. I basically stop eating at 8pm and start eating at midday the next day. I do a fasted workout which suits me perfectly and it makes me really look forward to my meals. It seems to have helped with levelling out my blood sugar and I'm less up and down, which in turn has definitely helped how I feel on a daily basis. It's also helped with mindless snacking on an evening, as I used to be notorious for grabbing sugary food at 9-10pm.
Following on from this, I've started planning really good lunches! I'm obsessed with making something delicious, so instead of reaching for a chocolate bar for lunch which I used to often do, I'm tucking into delicious butternut squash rice salads or homemade tomato pasta sauce with tagliatelle and parmesan, or mushroom risotto with peas and goats cheese. A lot of these are leftovers from the evening before (which suits me fine - zero cooking!), or I cook extra to have for lunch, or I'll roast a whole butternut squash or lots of sweet potato wedges at the start of the week which means I always have something super delicious in the fridge. So, I have a coffee at around 10-11am, my (good sized portion) lunch at 12-1pm, our evening meal at 5-6pm, then either something sweet or another snack at 7-8pm. I'm not depriving myself of any food and I feel full all day too.
When it's been sunny, we've been sitting outside for lunch too and it's just been so lovely!
Having One Thing to Focus On
We can get quite overwhelmed with the amount of things we, as adults, have to do on a daily basis. I can imagine this is compounded if you have kids or people that depend on you, but I've found if I focus on one task at a time, I get more things done rather than running around like an idiot.
This extends to my hobbies too, so I have one game (currently Horizon Zero Dawn, it's good!) and one book on the go and I set myself time for both. I don't play on my games past 10pm as I find it disturbs my sleep if I do, and I'm trying very hard to read for an hour per day. Blocking everything else out - including mindlessly scrolling Instagram - and saying 'I am doing this for the next x amount of time' can be so beneficial.
There's a time to be inflexible and this is it for me. Telling the people you live with also helps too, as they can understand and support the fact that your focus will be on something and it may not involve them.
Creating A Nice Space
My mum was right - tidy space, tidy mind. When my house is a mess, I feel like I can't focus on anything and, as a result, am more likely to not get dressed properly and slob it on the sofa rather than sit at my desk. I literally walked into the kitchen the other day - after my bf insisted that 'we'll tidy it in the morning' - and had to walk back out until he had cleaned it. 9/10 times I refuse to go to bed unless the kitchen is clean, as it has such a negative impact on my mental health if it's not, especially in this lockdown life where we're spending a lot more time at home.
This extends to our outside space too, as I've found having plants and flowers to look after every day is so rewarding. It's honestly brought me so much joy! We tidied up the back yard, I spent hours (a solid 6hrs) scrubbing the stairs and the floor with a brush ans soda crystals (wish I had a power washer!) to get all of the moss off and finished painting the wall white so it's so bright and clean looking. We got some little chairs and a table and it's such a suntrap, so I will be spending afternoons there with a book in the Summer.
The above habits, or things I've implemented, have had a massive impact on my mental health and I definitely feel more in control of everything on a daily basis. Living in a Lockdown has pushed a lot of us into a strange mental state, but learning to manage how you feel and how to act on it is very important. I'm always of the opinion that 'your mental health is not your fault, but it is your responsibility'.