Why Self-love Is A Long, Difficult Journey

The truth is, learning to love yourself isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. If self-love was as simple as declaring, “Hey, I woke up this morning and decided to love myself,” then the world would be a much happier place. But it’s not that easy and unfortunately, some of us never learn to fully embrace who we are.

I was recently speaking to a friend who preaches a lot about the importance of self-love. The way she tries to spread this positive message is inspiring, so I asked her how she started to love herself. She said that for a long time she wasn’t happy with who she was. This self-hatred was formed through years of bullying and abuse. She thought that she would never reach a point where she could honestly say that she loved herself, but here she is, trying to motivate others to do the same.

So, how did she get to where she is now? It started with self-care. It’s so easy to overlook the importance of self-care, but trust me, it’s a lot more than a bubble bath and a glass of wine. It’s about taking care of your mind and body. Like I mentioned before, this isn’t something that happens over night, which is why you should celebrate every small victory.

I’ve found that rewarding yourself for completing tasks or challenges is a good way to practice self-love. It also gives you the motivation that you need. Knowing that there’s something good just around the corner makes it all seem worth it.

However, I’ve read a ton of articles on the topic of self-love and I have to disagree with the message that some of them try to communicate. One phrase that I’ve heard far too many times is, “if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love someone else.” Let me tell you, it’s not true. Since when does not loving yourself stop you from loving others? It doesn’t. I can love and appreciate and accept other people a lot easier than I would myself. And I know that’s the same for many people. We find so many faults and flaws in ourselves but we’re willing to overlook them in someone we love. Maybe it’s because we set too high expectations of ourselves; we feel a pressure to act and look a certain way.

We are our biggest critics and that’s why self-love is a difficult journey. We compare our lives to other people who seem happier, richer, luckier, without knowing their hidden struggles. We find things to dislike about ourselves because it’s easier than accepting who we are. But we shouldn’t use this as a source of negativity – we should use this as motivation to be the best version of ourselves.

So how do you love yourself? Well, maybe you should start with liking yourself first. Make a list of goals. Start a new hobby. Get off social media. Plan a holiday. Treat yourself to something you’ve wanted for ages. Don’t question why you’re doing it – it if makes you happy, do it.

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When Life Feels Overwhelming

I can only describe it like this: You haven’t learned how to swim yet but suddenly you find yourself in the deepest part of the ocean with no life jacket and no one to call for help.

It’s overwhelming.

I think in some ways we’ve all been there. We feel like there are not enough hours in the day. We want time to slow down but we also want it to stop. But time doesn’t stop, which makes it feel like we’re racing through life with no clue what we’re doing and where we’re going.

It comes down to the concept that we’re running out of time. We trick ourselves into believing that everything should be happening RIGHT NOW. And when life doesn’t work out the way it should it makes us feel like failures – that’s when the feeling of overwhelmingness hits us.

It’s a feeling that I experience more than I should. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient, or maybe it just seems like everyone else is always two steps ahead. Either way, there’s always something occupying my mind. I worry about work and meeting deadlines, I worry about my weight, I worry about the future, I worry about making plans, and most of all I worry about things that I have no control over.

I want to hide away from everything and lie on my bed staring up at the ceiling and think about nothing at all.

I’ve found that whenever I feel overwhelmed it’s because I’ve been neglecting my own needs. And believe me, it’s so easy to forget about the little things but those little things make me the happiest. Discovering and reading new books is something that makes me so happy, and it helps to take my mind off my problems. Unfortunately, I can’t read all day every day (if that was my job, you’d never hear me complain) but if I can set aside even half an hour it makes all the difference. Another thing that always helps me is to write. It sounds counter-intuitive as sometimes writing is the reason I feel stressed, but other times writing is healing. It puts things into perspective. It’s easier to understand why you’re feeling so overwhelmed when you have the reasons staring back at you.

Sometimes, abandoning whatever you’re supposed to be doing is the best solution. It’s not giving up, it’s making some much-needed time for yourself. A few days ago I started writing a piece on managing anxiety but I couldn’t finish it. At the time I felt so overwhelmed with life that I couldn’t write anything positive and anything I did write felt forced. I know that if I’m not in the right mindset, I’m not going to be happy with anything I write. So I went for a walk and I didn’t think about work, deadlines, or anything that was making me feel stressed; I focussed on the good things. I thought about plans that I have coming up that I’m looking forward to. After about an hour, I was back working and getting things done.

Life is fast. Life is urgent. But life is meant to be enjoyed. Let go of what you have no control over and embrace what comes naturally.

Mental Health: Bad days (#1)

Side note: I created a poll on Twitter and asked people what they would like to read more of, and Mental Health got the most votes. I think the reasoning behind this is that Mental Health is a subject a lot of people like to avoid. That’s a shame, because the more people talk about it, the better it will be for all of us. Everyone needs some guidance, some encouragement, and some words of wisdom from time to time. I decided I would create a Mental Health blog series (is that already a thing? I’m claiming it as my own anyway) with the intention of reaching out to people who are struggling with Mental Health issues. It might not make any difference, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Isn’t it incredible how one, simple thing can impact our mood? A change in weather. An argument with a friend. A few words can flip everything upside down in a matter of seconds. It’s difficult to turn a bad day around. In your mind, you’ve concluded that the day is ruined, so instead of trying to pick yourself back up you admit defeat.

Of course, there are also days when you don’t choose to feel the way you do. You wake up feeling like a dark cloud is hovering over you, just waiting. And suddenly any courage or strength gets sapped from the body entirely and every part of you longs to stay in bed for the entire day, tied up in your own depressing thoughts.

Not everyone will understand it. You’ll try talking to your friends and they’ll offer you that familiar, pitying expression which you know so well and maybe a few words of comfort. Sometimes it helps, but mostly it doesn’t. You don’t want to hear that it will get better. You want to know that you’re not the only one to feel this way. You want someone to look you straight in the eye and tell you that you’re not alone. Or maybe what you really need is a distraction; a way to escape from the battle inside your own head.

Just as quickly as a good day can transform into a bad day, the scale can tilt the other way. There will be a time when you’ll feel okay, if not happy, and you’ll wonder if the bad days were really that bad after all. But you shouldn’t doubt yourself. What you felt in the moment was raw emotion and most importantly the realest thing you will ever experience.

It’s OK to admit that you’re not sure what direction you are walking in. It’s OK to tell someone that you’ve not been yourself lately. It’s OK to feel frustration, sadness and loneliness all at the same time. So forceful and unexpected that it confines you to the comfort of your own bed. It’s OK.

It won’t always be like this. When you’re having another bad day and you’re at the worst you have ever felt, wondering how you will go on, just think about those good days. Familiarise yourself with the feelings you experienced. If you felt happy once, even for a brief moment, it means you are capable of feeling that way again. Maybe that’s the encouragement you need.

Mental Movement would appreciate your votes in the UK Blog Awards 2017. They truly deserve it for all of their hard work! 

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/mentalmovement

15 Ways To Manage Anxiety

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Living with anxiety can be challenging at times – what appears to be simple tasks become almost impossible to do.

Some people may choose to take medication, while others are hesitant about this. Does it work? What if I become addicted? Talking with your doctor is a great way to find a solution that suits your circumstances.

Fortunately there are alternatives for managing anxiety for those who don’t take medication, and with many strategies to choose from you will likely find something which can help make a difference to your day-to-day life.

1. Acknowledging your anxiety

This is an important step which you cannot avoid. Right now you have to admit that you are struggling with your anxiety, and know that it is OK – your mental illness does not define you. Say things like “I’m just feeling anxious” and “I’ve got through this before”. Accept it for what it is.

2. Avoid anxiety-triggering foods

From here on caffeine is your enemy and it must be avoided. Helpful changes to your diet include reducing your intake of coffee, alcohol and fast food. Instead try consuming food high in Tryptophan, as this is known for having a positive effect on the mind and body. This would include consuming more oats, bananas and nuts.

3. Take a break from social media

Sometimes it picks us up. Other times it puts us down. Social media can be a trigger for anxiety so a detox from time to time may be beneficial. Prove to yourself that you can do it.

4. Listen to music

Music has the ability to make us not feel so alone even when our mind and body is telling us otherwise. There are many videos on YouTube, like this one for example, which are designed to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

5. Write it all down

Whenever your anxiety is at its highest, write down what you think could be triggering this in just a few words. Also, write down the things that make you feel calm. Then go back to it and read what you have written – use it for guidance.

6. Talk to someone you know well

Talking to someone who understands what you are going through, whether it’s over the phone or person, will keep you calm and focused. Just talking in general can make it feel like a weight has been lifted.

7. Exercise

Studies suggest that regular exercise may help relieve you of your anxiety symptoms, whether it’s a 20 minute walk or a 5 minute workout. It all makes a difference.

8. Rearrange your room

It’s a good idea to keep things organised as this creates some kind of structure in your life, and structure is associated with a calm body and mind.

9. Pet an animal

Dog, cat, micro pig – it doesn’t really matter. Studies show that your pet can be the key to reducing tension and improving your mood. This is the ideal therapy for any animal lover.

10. Read a book

A good book has the ability to heal us, and it’s the perfect escape from reality. In fact, even reading for just 5 minutes daily can decrease levels of anxiety.

11. Relax in the bath

Soaking in the bath reduces tension in our muscles and helps us to relax both physically and mentally.

12. Baking

The process of baking can be both soothing and uplifting.

13. Be creative

Anything that requires you to focus your attention on something other than your anxiety such as drawing, making a bracelet or solving a puzzle is the best distraction and it will give you a sense of accomplishment.

14. Singing

Singing is a way to express ourselves and sometimes it’s good to let it all out.

15. Reward yourself

It’s important to give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ whenever you make progress towards managing your anxiety. This is the encouragement that you need in order to tackle your anxiety for good.

Lastly, I recommend this book for anyone suffering from anxiety and/or depression.

Understanding mental health

Many people will probably experience anxiety, depression and overwhelming feelings of stress and sadness at some point in their lives. In fact, in the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem. Yet the main issue here is that these statistics often go ignored – mental health is not addressed how it should be. Most people suffering with their mental health do not feel encouraged to talk about it, which only worsens their condition because they are bottling up their feelings, which leads to further isolation. Even though it is difficult, I encourage people to talk to someone, anyone who can help in some way. Even just telling someone how you feel while they listen, can benefit you in so many ways. First of all, you won’t feel so alone. You’re not. There are so many people who feel exactly the same, and it’s important to remember that. Secondly, a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are having suicidal thoughts, talking about these feelings is the first step to recovery. Confide in someone who you can trust, someone who will help you get through this dark period in your life. There’s always someone who will listen to what you have to say. Lastly, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you don’t see it, it is there. Keep searching. Keep going.

If you know anyone suffering with a mental health issue, try talking to them about it. It can make a world of difference.