How To Look After Yourself During Autumn/Winter

This is my absolute favourite time of the year. The dark nights and colder weather makes everyone just want to huddle up, drink hot drinks and spend a lot of time indoors and considering this is how I like to spend all of my time, there is no surprise that autumn /winter is when I’m in my element.

Having said that, this time of year is also often the worse for my mental state. It’s taken me quite a while to recognise the patterns, but it turns out that the things I love the most about this season are also the things that cause the most issues within myself.

The dark nights, although perfect for huddling indoors and getting an early night, make the days feel shorter meaning I feel like I have less time to just be. Not to mention a lack of Vitamin D and fresh air – who wants to go outside when it’s cold, dark and damp? – there’s no wonder that my mental health takes a kicking.

I love autumn/winter because it allows and encourages me to fall into the habits that make me comfortable – like staying at home, drinking too much caffeine and basically staying still for days on end – but I’m beginning to accept that it can also be problematic and I need to start taking better care of myself.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. Online it seems like everyone and their mothers has a love affair with this season, so we’re constantly only ever seeing the good things. And although this is fun and a nice pick-me-up, there are times when we need to get real and make self-care a priority.

So as much as I am willing to throw myself into the festivities that are happening all around us right now, I am also going to start taking some time out to look after myself. Here’s what I’ll be trying:

GETTING OUTSIDE MORE + EXERCISE

It can be so hard to get outside during this season, especially if you live in a cold environment. The damp weather and dark skies are such a deterrent to trying to enjoy the outside world. Like most people our age, I have an obsession with social media and everything online which often leads to me spending the majority of my time indoors attached to a screen. And as much fun as I have doing this, I know how beneficial taking a break and being outdoors can be.

For me, the beach is my happy place. I love nothing more than going for a walk along the coast and just being by the waves. And funnily enough, the colder climates are often my favourite time to be by the sea as it creates some dramatic scenery.

Yet I still put myself off going because it’s too cold, or I’m too tired and so on, which then results in me falling into a rut. I think we could all do with making some serious effort to get outside more in our free time. Take a walk in your local park or if you’re close enough go to the beach. Just make sure you get a few hours outside, with nature and fresh air. You’ll be so surprised with how much of a difference it actually makes.

EAT SOME VEGGIES

One of the main reasons behind my love for autumn/winter is the food. Honestly, I am such a foodie and this season, with it’s various holidays and festivities, is the best time for all that. It suddenly becomes totally acceptable to each chocolate 24/7 and now that summer’s over it seems like all that horrible shaming diet talk disappears a little.

Now believe me when I say I go to town with all that. And as much fun as that is, after days or weeks without eating some decent food or drinking enough water, both my mental and physical health takes a kicking.

The way you eat and what you choose to eat is none of my business, but I’m just putting it out there as a little reminder for us all to try to include some decent (as in vegetables) food into our meals as often as we can. It can make such a difference to how we feel and I often forget that.

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SOCIALISING (WITHOUT ALCOHOL)

With Christmas coming up, this season is often full of social gatherings and opportunities to meet up with loved ones. Unfortunately a lot of these gatherings, if you’re in circles like I am, often revolve around alcohol.

Now I’ve never discussed alcohol on this blog before, but I know that it can be a massive detriment to my mental health and I know I’m not alone in that. It can be hard this season to spend time with friends or family, without a cheeky bottle of bubbly popping up. Of course people are in the celebrating mood but if you feel overwhelmed, make an effort to meet up with friends in ways that don’t involved a drink.

Go to the cinema, see a panto or even have a really nice meal. Of course drink may be involved in some way here, but make sure that it isn’t the main attraction. Take the time to actually have conversations and catch up; ask them how they think this year’s gone for them and get all reflective. Drinking can be fun, but if you’re wanting take extra care of yourself try to avoid it.

BEING HONEST

Alongside meeting up with friends to have genuine conversations, take time this season to be honest. If you’re like me, then you hate to admit when you’re struggling or just having a bad day. I like to think I can take care of myself and I don’t need help from anyone. Which may be the case, sometimes. But I also need support sometimes too.

As we often spend more time with our friends and families this season, like I said at social gatherings or even just as we all huddle indoors for warmth, we might as well make the effort to be honest with them. Let them know how you’re feeling, ask them how they’re doing. Create a safe and open environment where you can discuss serious topics. If we’re all spending a lot of time together then we might as well be honest, right?

EMBRACING THE SEASON

And finally, although it has it’s issues, this still is a wonderful time of the year. Sometimes, no matter what’s going on, you just need to throw yourself into the festivities and embrace what’s going on in the moment. Use the joy and happiness of the upcoming holidays to distract yourself. Or simply use it as an excuse to take some time out to wrap yourself up in a blanket burrito and watch Netflix.

Of course, everything in moderation so ensure that you do get outside and talk to people but sometimes you just need an evening to yourself and now is the perfect time for it.


Do you have any self-care tips? Also, what’s your favourite season?

Speak soon,

Rachael.

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Dealing With A Bad Mental Health Day At Work

For the past few months my mental health hasn’t been in the best of places. With dealing with my graduation and impending ‘adult life’; starting a new job and some illnesses and issues within my family, things have gotten on top of me a bit and it’s been evident to everyone around me. Including my new colleagues.

I’m usually the kind of person who tries to keep everything under control and under wraps, but lately I just haven’t been able to hide whatever’s going on. So imagine my shock and embarrassment as I went into work yesterday (which was a better day) and was greeted with sarky comments on my improved attitude.

“Oh, so you’ve decided to talk to us today have you?” 

Now I know my colleagues weren’t commenting from a place of hatred or being deliberately mean. They were simply making a comment. And I guess I’m glad that I’m now in the kind of work environment where people notice what’s going on and will take time to ask how you’re feeling.

But that didn’t stop me feeling a bit embarrassed about my obvious bad attitude over the past few weeks and got me thinking about how I should handle it in the future.

Now I’ve spoken about self-care a few times on this blog, and I love that it is a popular topic elsewhere online. But even though it’s a topic I talk about a lot, I still struggle with it – especially when I’m going to work a lot and have to deal with my issues while still being present for my employer.

Following this conversation yesterday, and in an attempt to pick myself back up again, I’ve come up with a couple of ways to deal with a bad mental health day when you’re at work and can’t just huddle in bed like you’d want to.

FORGIVE YOURSELF 

Whatever happens today, when you’re at work, you need to forgive yourself for it. Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend or a loved one. If they came to you and said that they were having a bad mental health day and subsequently had a bad day at work, what would you do?

You certainly wouldn’t shame them or make them feel any worse. You’d (hopefully!) be kind and compassionate. So why shouldn’t you treat yourself the same way?

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USE YOUR BREAKS

Although there isn’t much you can do at work to try to make yourself feel better, as you’re too busy doing your actual job, most workplaces are entitled to a break of sorts.

It is absolutely vital on a bad mental health day that you make the most of your break. In fact I’d say it’s vital everyday, but I know how things can be. However when you’re feeling low, make sure you use your lunch break to maybe get out of your work environment – even if it’s just for a walk around the block. Use this time to have a calming cup of tea and eat something nutritious and yummy.

If you don’t get official breaks at work, ask a manager if you can take 10 or so minutes uninterrupted away from the shop floor. Bloody hell, even just take yourself to the loos and sit in there for five minutes! Just allow yourself some quiet time.

BE HONEST 

If you’re really struggling to handle work today, pull aside a trusted colleague or, better yet, speak to someone higher up and be honest with them about how you’re feeling and express what’s going on.

I understand how hard this may be, but if you’re really having a bad day letting those around you know is incredibly useful. This will help them understand why you may not be performing at your best which in turn may give you some peace of mind. Mental health is still something of a ‘new’ topic for workplaces, especially those I have experienced, but by being honest and expressing what you need together we can change attitudes and the way things are handled.

HOME TIME = TIME FOR SELF CARE

Regardless of how many breaks you manage to get throughout the day, it’s likely that you’ve not really had any time for some serious self care. Once you’re home, make sure you take looking after yourself as a priority.

If you have plans for after work and don’t feel up to them, cancel. Although there still maybe things you need to get done in the evening just take it slow. Start your self-care routine the minute you get home. Things to include could be:

  • A long hot bath
  • Several cups of tea (decaff if you’re feeling anxious!)
  • Watching your favourite TV show/Youtuber for a few hours
  • Cooking yourself a decent meal. This can be whatever you feel like you need, but if you’ve been low for a while try include some greens (note to self). If you need comfort, carbs are you’re best friend!
  • Have an early night

Check out my Emergency Self Care Checklist for more ideas

START AFRESH  

And finally, despite everything that may have happened today, tomorrow is a new one. Take this evening to look after yourself, seek some motivation and inspiration so you’re ready to tackle tomorrow.

I’m aware mental health issues don’t just go away, but I know how much of an impact your overall attitude can have on your day regardless. By taking some time out this evening to support yourself, you will hopefully feel in a better mindset to deal with tomorrow.


How do you cope with a bad day at work? I’d really like to hear your advice!

Speak soon,

Rachael.

Here’s What No One Tells You About Finishing University

The time has finally come: I have finished my three year degree. I am no longer a student; I will no longer be attending university.

Life has been pretty crazy for the past few months (read: past year) and I always imagined that as soon as university was over, my life would get back on track and everything would be exactly how I wanted it. Oh bless past, naive me!

Don’t get me wrong, I am constantly flooded with relief now that everything is finished and handed in, but I didn’t account for the continuing stress, worry and general sense of unsure that’s still there. And that’s the thing- no one seems to tell you what it’s like finishing university. Sure, we’ve all heard the success stories and probably witnessed the glorious pride that third year students have when they’ve finished, but there’s loads of other things that I’m experiencing right now that I did not expect.

So allow me today to be the person to heed a word of warning. Finishing university is an amazing achievement and this is a time of totally celebration and relaxation, but there’s also a lot of weird stuff that goes on too.

THE MOURNING PERIOD

The past three years have passed by in what feels like a blur. Everything has been going at like a hundred miles an hour since I clicked that ‘accept offer’ button on UCAS three years ago. I actually can’t believe that I have finished my degree and will (hopefully!) be graduating next month! All of those years of hard work, stress and tears have come to a close and will hopefully all be worth it in the end.

As everything has just flown by, I can’t seem to reflect properly on my experience over these past three years and that’s making it hard for me to accept that it’s over. One minute I was working my arse off and living on my own and now I’m back in my family home with literally nothing to do. It’s a very strange situation and I know I should be taking full advantage of this chill time, but I can’t help but feel a little unsettled.

All of the routines I created for myself through my life at university have suddenly dissolved and no longer exist; I am trying to settle into living at home with my parents, after having my own freedom and independence for so long and although I know I have nothing to do, I can’t shake the feeling that I should be doing something productive instead of binging on daytime TV.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that I actually need a little time to kind of mourn the fact that I am no longer a student; that this part of my life, that has been such a major part of it for so long, is no longer there. I will no longer have that kind of lifestyle that you grow so used to over the course of your degree and that is a hard thing to accept and then try to change.

BURSTING THE BUBBLE

One major thing I have realised since moving home and being surrounded by people who actually have normal lives (read: have jobs/careers/families to care for, etc) is that university is such a bubble. The life you live when you’re at university is so far away from what ‘real life’ actually is.

Of course, moving out and living on your own can teach you some important lessons that will be valuable when you enter ‘real life’, but at university you’re surrounded by people of a similar age and everyone is in the same boat. When everyone behaves and acts the same, or in a very similar manner, it is very hard to see that this isn’t actually the norm. That’s what university is. It’s a total bubble and I for one got so caught up in it for three years that I almost couldn’t imagine life outside of it.

So when I left, the bubble burst pretty hard and it’s hit me that the life I’ve made for myself over the course of my degree isn’t really fit for purpose, or something I can continue now I’m no longer in that space.

I now need to build new routines and new attitudes and basically have to construct the structure of my life once again, from scratch. I’m finding this pretty difficult at the moment, if I’m being totally honest, as I get very rooted in my routines and find them very hard to break. But I’m hoping that now I’ve addressed the issue (mourning my past life as a student and learning that what I experienced in this time wasn’t ‘real life’) I can start to move forward and get back on track.

IT CONTINUES

Even though I no longer have any deadlines or commitments, I can’t seem to shake the horrible feeling that I have something to do that’s constantly hanging over my head. Of course I have hobbies and little projects (like this blog!) that I want to get on with, but those are things I want to do for fun for now and have no real deadline or consequence.

The feeling of having something to do is something that all students will recognise and is something that we’ve had over us for years and years. No wonder I’m having a difficult time adjusting to the fact I literally have nothing to do anymore! But I just wish that it wasn’t getting in the way of things right now.

It seems that all of the stress, anxiety and just general worry that I’ve gotten so used to experiencing is still present, even though my lifestyle has totally changed! It’s kind of annoying, more than anything, as now is is the first time in what feels like forever that I can actually just chill out and take some time for myself, but I still feel guilty for doing so.

I know that, as with everything, it’s an adjustment period and things won’t always be like this. I just need to be patient and allow myself some time to get through it. I feel bad for being so unproductive, but I need to stop being so hard on myself. Major changes take time to adjust to and so I need to allow myself some time to do just that.

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So this was kind of a little update on where I’m at right now. Hopefully it may help some of you who are also in the same boat, or maybe it’ll allow you to prepare yourself for when the time comes for you. I am hoping to take some more time for blogging now that I’m free, but as always bare with me a little bit.

If you have any experience with finishing university (or any kind of education) and have some tips for me, please let me know! I’d love to hear your input. If you’re currently still studying, I wish you all luck with everything!

Speak soon,

Rachael.


Materials: (Relevant/University Posts)

What Is Self Care Anyway?

Following Mental Health Day this week (Monday 10th October, FYI) I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole ‘self-care’ thing.

It’s become somewhat of a trend on social media and we’re often surrounded by images of Lush products and bubble baths. Which of course is a part of it, but it isn’t always pretty and so Instagramable.

We all have a metal health just as we have a physical health. It just looks different for everyone.

THE BASICS

self-care 

noun: care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.

It’s pretty self explanatory but it does what it says on the tin. Although seeking help and support from other people is brilliant (in fact the Mental Health Foundation claim that talking to other people is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. You can read that here) you can also take control and look after yourself too.

You can do this in various different ways, which I will discuss in a minute. But the main thing to remember is you have control. When you’re struggling with mental health issues, whether that be a diagnosed problem or not, it can sometimes feel like you have no control over yourself.

But this idea of self-care puts the control back in your hands and reminds you that no matter how bad it gets, there is always something you can do for yourself that can help you along your journey.

(If you are struggling I will put some useful links at the end of this post to help)

HOW TO HELP YOURSELF

Self-care isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it takes more than pampering yourself or working out. A lot of the time self-care covers things like getting yourself out of bed, ensuring you’ve washed your face and brushed your teeth. It’s the effort a lot of people have to put into doing the daily things that most of us don’t even have to think about.

Self-care can also be the bigger things in our lives that may be harder to deal with but have a great impact on our mental wellness.

If things haven’t been feeling to great for a while, Mind, the mental health charity, recommends:

  • Assess your current situation
  • Look at the relationships you currently have
  • Ask for help
  • Take note of what make you happy or sad
  • Spot the warning signs

(You can read more about these here)

These are normally the ‘bigger’ things that have an impact on our mental health. With these it may take a little longer to notice a positive effect. But trust me (and Mind) they’re so effective.

You first need to evaluate what you already have going on in your life and see how these could be effecting your mental well being. Once you recognise the issues, you should talk action to either remove them or change them. Hence why this can take a little time.

THE ‘SMALLER’ THINGS

I don’t really like to downplay mental health or any kind of health issues really. It’s such a personal thing that no one can really judge (or at least try not to anyway.)

However, alongside those bigger, slower steps outlined above there are some simpler actions you can take to improve your mental well being on a day-to-day basis.

The following are things to do when you’re having an ‘off’ day:

  • Pamper night
  • Go for a walk
  • Read a book
  • Play or listen to music (a personal favourite)
  • Chat with friends/family
  • Eat well or cook
  • Do something good for someone else (ie. make them a meal)
  • Watch a movie or TV show

You can check out some of these in more detail in a post I did a few weeks ago.

Also see Mind‘s and the Mental Health Foundation‘s tips.

The key is to try to distract yourself. Take your mind of what is currently happening, even just for a little while.

If you are struggling please seek help either from friends or family or one of the professional services linked below.

Remember that you are not alone and everyone is going through struggles of their own. You can do this.

Speak soon,

Rachael.

USEFUL LINKS

Mind Contact: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/ 

The Samaritans: 116 123 (it’s free)

BEAT (Eating Disorders): Helpline: 0345 634 1414 Youthline: 0345 634 7650

Childline: 0800 1111

Other useful details: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help