On the podcast this week I’m talking about mental wellness and how we can take a more proactive approach to our mental health. I don’t feel like this subject gets enough air time, for many of us the term ‘mental health’ conjures up images of people at crisis point, but the thing is – we all have mental health, and we can all take steps to help ourselves before we reach that point.
I’m not saying that being proactive will stop a mental health dip from happening, but it might help you navigate dips as they come and help them have less of an impact. Of course this will depend on the individual, but I hope these points are helpful nonetheless.
I do discuss my own mental health journey in this episode (touching briefly on topics like eating disorders, self-harm and anxiety) so if you don’t feel in a good place to hear about that or mental health in general, please feel free to give this episode a miss.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here.
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- My eating disorder story
- Anxiety – what I didn’t know
- How to make a self-care first-aid kit
- How to navigate a doctors appointment for mental health
- Find a counsellor near you
- Mental health charities and helpline support
- How to talk to someone about your mental health
- Wellness Action Plans (WAP)
- How to set healthy boundaries
- Mental health first aid training
In this week’s episode, we’re going to be talking about mental wellness. And specifically how we can be more proactive when it comes to looking after our own mental health. To give a little bit of context, I’m going to be sharing some of my own mental health journey, so just a little warning here that I will be mentioning subjects like eating disorders, self harm, and anxiety. So if you’re not feeling in the best headspace right now to hear that kind of thing, please feel free to skip this episode.
But after that, I’m going to be sharing some ways we can all get proactive about our mental health. Alright, let’s get into it!
Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well – and ‘well’ is the key word here because we’re going to be talking about mental wellness today. And the reason I want to dedicate an episode to this is because I feel like when you hear the term mental health, a lot of us immediately go to that crisis point – the point when you need to get counsellors and doctors involved to get support. I don’t think there’s enough of an emphasis on the way that we can look after and manage our own mental health proactively before we hit that crisis point. So I want to share some ways we can do that in today’s episode and also reiterate that you really don’t have to wait until you get to that crisis point before reaching out for support.
So, before I share those points, I want to go over my own mental health journey a little bit, just to give you some context as to where I’m coming from with all this. So I did cover some of this in my introductory episode, so feel free to head back to episode one and listen to that, if you haven’t already, but I’ll give you a brief recap here.
My mental health journey really started when I was quite a young kid. I would get a lot of chest pain, palpitations, and headaches as a kid and I was, I guess I was wrongly diagnosed. Doctors always thought it was to do with puberty and just growing up, when I kind of knew, deep down, it wasn’t, but I kind of brushed it off. And then, into my teenage years, kind of between the ages of 13 and 17, I developed an eating disorder. And from that, I had depression and self harm as well.
I was really lucky that I was able to get seen by a counsellor very quickly and I managed to recover within a couple of years of that. And I did have a brief relapse at university in first year, but I managed to get through that with a lot of the self management techniques I had learnt. In the second year of uni, I got chest pain again, but again, I still didn’t realise it was anxiety at the time and I thought – I didn’t know what it was. I remember Googling frantically and thinking it was all kinds of different things.
But it passed and then I was on a pretty even keel up until 2017. At this point, I got really severe physical anxiety symptoms – really bad chest pain, dizziness, palpitations. But this time, I knew a lot more about mental health. I knew a lot more about anxiety, so I knew immediately what it was. And I went and got myself cognitive behavioural therapy. I learned a huge amount of techniques and tools that really helped me since then manage my anxiety.
And I would say that’s pretty much where I am today. The anxiety’s definitely stuck with me. I’ll get flare ups now and then, but I feel like I’ve developed a lot of self care tools and techniques that really help me manage it. And I have a good support system in place. And also, I feel really able to reach out for extra support when I need it.
Okay, so let’s move onto some of the proactive things you can do to manage your mental health a little bit better.
Now, the first thing I’m going to recommend is really getting to know what your triggers are and what your red flags are when it comes to your mental health. So knowing these really helps you identify when you’re gonna have a dip in mental health and it means that you can start to put a bit of an action plan in place and start to maybe prioritise self care and do the things you need to, to try and not necessarily avoid the dip, because sometimes it’s unavoidable, but maybe navigate it a little bit better and make it a little bit less impactful.
So, for me, when it comes to triggers, there are certain things that I know really affect my anxiety. Things like not having enough sleep, knowing I’m coming close to my period, my hormones make a huge difference in my anxiety, change is another big one for me – if some plans get changed, if something in my routine gets changed up, that really is a massive trigger for me – also feeling like I don’t have enough time to rest. I guess that goes hand in hand with not – with change and not having control of a situation. Fellow control freaks, please raise your hand! But yeah, feeling like I don’t have the time that I need to rest really triggers my anxiety.
And in terms of red flags, these are the little signs and symptoms that tell you something’s not right with your mental health. And these can be important to know because sometimes mental health dips kind of come out of nowhere. So knowing these symptoms can be a real help.
For me, red flags include feeling really irritable, getting more headaches than usual, feeling the first physical symptoms of anxiety for me, which is like chest pain and then tight throat. As soon as those start, I know that, right, I need to start putting my action plan in place. I know that I need to really up my self care game.
And that brings me nicely onto the next point, which is getting to know what really makes you feel better when your mental health is starting to take a dip.
So this will look different for everybody and it’s really helpful for you to maybe make a list of a few things that you know make you feel better. It could be getting outside, going out in nature for a walk. It could be journaling and writing your thoughts out. It could be texting a friend and meeting up for a coffee to chat about what you’re going through. Whatever it is, try and keep a note of it. I have actually written a blog post about making your own self care – no, sorry, your mental health first aid kit, and this is what’s included in that, it’s having this list ready and available to know what can help you feel better. So I’ll definitely make sure I add a link to that in the shownotes.
And with this point in mind, I’ll move onto the next one, which is knowing where to get support. So again, this’ll be different for everyone – you might have some friends or some family members that you know are always there for you when you need a chat. It may be that you need to go to the doctors and talk to them about your mental health and see what the next steps are. If you already are in counselling, it might be upping the frequency of your sessions. If you don’t have a counsellor already and you think that might be helpful for you, it could be looking into that. And again, I’ll include some links in the shownotes that can help you with both of these things.
Another area of support that I think can often get forgotten is charities. There are so many great charities out there with helplines, with online forums, that all can provide so much support. So I’ll try and add a few links to some helpful ones again in the shownotes.
And with this idea of getting support in mind, the next point I want to suggest is, if you can, try and be open with people about your mental health. And the reason I think this is so important is because, when you are open with people, when they know what it is you can struggle with from time to time, they’re just in a better position to support you when you need them.
So I know it can be scary to reach out to someone and let them know about your mental health struggles. And again, this is something that I have actually covered in a blog post about how to broach this subject, so I’ll make sure I include a link to that in the shownotes. And the place that I’ve found this most helpful is actually at work. Because obviously I work in a mental health industry, a lot of us in the office are very open about our own mental health struggles, and I do know this isn’t the same for everywhere. I’m just incredibly lucky that we all chat pretty openly about what we’re going through. And because of this, it means that I’m able to tell people if I’m starting to feel a bit anxious, if I’m having a flare up of my anxiety, if I’m struggling a little bit. And it just means they’re more aware of what’s going on. Maybe they’ll check in with me a little bit more, or maybe they’ll just suggest we go for a walk and a talk. They know how they can support me, and that’s really important.
There are also some wellness action plans you can put into place. Again, I’ll pop a link to this in the shownotes. But this is a whole kind of, as it says, it’s an action plan, which helps your manager and your team know how best to support you when you are struggling with your mental health. And I think this is something everyone should have.
The next thing I want to recommend is setting up some really firm boundaries. And this can be really helpful ,especially when it comes to boundary-ing? Is that a thing? No, you can’t boundary something. When it comes to setting boundaries up around your time.
So for me, getting enough rest is really, really important for my mental health and having enough kind of alone time. I’m definitely an introvert and I need that alone time to recharge and feel on top of my game. So for me, this looks like maybe saying ‘no’ to the odd social invitation, which again can be tough, but I know that it’s for the benefit of my mental health and if I don’t say no, I’m gonna suffer in the long run and knowing this really helps me be a bit more firm when it comes to saying ‘no.’
But for you, these boundaries again might be different. So have a little think about it, and maybe again write it out. Write some notes down about what boundaries you want to put in place that will support your mental health.
And now the last thing I wanna recommend is learning as much as you can. Not only about your own mental health, but about mental health in general. I think the more understanding we have of different conditions that people are living with, the more we understand how mental health can affect us and how it can affect those around us. And we can just be better prepared to support ourselves and support other people.
So relatively recently, I actually got training in mental health first aid and I must admit, I walked into it thinking, ‘I know quite a lot about mental health.’ So part of my day job is to write about mental health, so I’ve done a lot of research in my time. I’ve covered a lot of different conditions and topics and I feel like I’m in the industry, so I feel like I know a lot. So, as I said, I was walking into the session thinking, ‘oh, I kind of know a lot of this, I feel like this might be not that helpful,’ but I learned so, so much. I learned the different things that I can do to help someone if they are in crisis point. So if someone’s having a panic attack, if they’re having a psychotic episode, there are so many different things that can happen to people around us and, when we have that training, it can just help us feel a little more able to support them.
And now Happiful actually do offer mental health first aid training, so I will again pop a link to that in the shownotes in case it’s something you’re interested in. But even if mental health first aid isn’t something you’re interested in, generally learning more about mental health can, I think, really support yourself and those around you.
So let me recap those points again, really quickly, because I feel like I whizzed through them.
So the first one was to get to know your triggers and your red flags. The second point was to get to know what makes you feel better and I suggested making a list of these things that you can turn to whenever you start to feel your mental health dip. The next thing was to know where you can get support. Again, this might be friends, it might be professionals. Just having a clear idea of where you can go to get support can be really helpful. The next step was to be open with people about your mental health, if possible, and let them know when you’re starting to feel not so good. Then we moved onto setting firmer boundaries, especially when it comes to your time and anything that you know will support your mental health. And, finally, we discussed learning about mental health in general, just so that you can better understand yourself and what you’re going through, and also those around you.
And there we have it! Those are all the points I wanted to share with you today. I really hope they’ve been useful. Please know that of course, as always, we’re all different and we’ll all have different experiences, but I think these are some points that we can all do to try and manage our mental health a little bit more proactively. And I said at the beginning, these points won’t necessarily stop you from struggling with your mental health, but hopefully they’ll help you take better care of it and be able to negotiate those dips a little bit better.
And if you are having a dip right now, please know that you’re not alone. There’s always someone out there you can speak to and you can get support, I promise you. Please take a look at the shownotes for this episode as well, as there’ll be lots of helpful links. And you’ll find the shownotes at bluejayofhappiness.com. Head over to the podcast page and you’ll find all the different shownotes there.
Thank you so much for listening! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you have any other things that you think would be really helpful to share, let me know. Check me on Instagram @katbluejay and use the hashtag – what’s my hashtag? #SeedlingPodcast, that’s the one, and yeah, I’d love to have a conversation with you guys about this. Mental health is something, as I’m sure you all know already, I’m very passionate about and I want more of us to be talking about it, so yeah. Right, I’ll see you guys – no I won’t! I will talk to you guys next week. Hope you have a good one.