How To Calm TF Down
Research has found that up to two-thirds of people experience a mental health problem in their lifetimes, with stress being a key contributing factor. Staying mindful of this, and creating healthy coping strategies, is vital to maintaining a well-balanced life.
Hey gang, it’s been a minute! But if I haven’t mentioned it before (like a gazillion times), I’ll mention it again: I’m launching a new publication that has taken up a lot of my life lately. POSTSCRIPT, a newspaper (of sorts), explores the complexities and lifestyles of women from different cultures placed in a modern setting.
So bossy right?
It has been a wonderful(ly challenging) experience, where I’ve learned a whole bunch and grown heaps and bounds. And excited as I am to release it, I can’t pretend like it was easy. I had the best time creating it but my goodness was it stressful. More often than not, I kept it together but with deadlines that had me working into the early hours of the morning, eating the quickest and easiest things to make in my fridge (or just saying YOLO and ordering take out one tooooooo many times), lack of sleep, conflicting work schedules, contributor dropouts, and so on and so forth…, it was very easy to let my physical and mental health slide.
I’ve struggled most significantly with anxiety over the last year, having been most affected by it when I made the jump into freelance life, for obvious reasons. It hasn’t really gone away since but I do feel like I, more or less, have a grip on it. And surprisingly, I didn’t have too many obvious meltdowns during the process of creating POSTSCRIPT. In the past, when faced with new challenges, it was commonplace for me to feel totally overwhelmed by the pressures of my environment, but not this time. This time I had my shit together and came prepared!
Or so I thought. While it might have initially seemed like I was coping, there were warning signs that I was undergoing a lot of stress:
- Stress Sign Number 1: I broke out in small rashes along my jawline (the part of your face heavily associated with stress and hormones).
- Stress Sign Number 2: I woke one Saturday, intending to get on with work but instead spent the whole day crying … for no real reason! I’d eat breakfast while watching TV and burst into tears at an advert for Premier Inn. Or I’d scroll through Instagram and sob at pictures of my friends. I didn’t feel sad, so it was a bit confusing. As a result, I had to nap it off for most of the afternoon.
- Stress Sign Number 3: A different day, I woke up with muscle pain… not from doing any exercise, just from life and older age ha!
- Stress Sign Number 4: Period issues. I’m usually as regular as the rain in this country, and yet over the last 2 months, I noticed some odd patterns in my usual cycle.
I was so obsessed with what I was doing and having fun doing it, regardless any perceived stress. However, my body was clearly telling me, Sis we need a break, a chill pill, a KitKat…anything!
These didn't happen all on one day, they were spread out over several weeks so it felt much more subtle. But I really was oblivious to all these issues because I was so obsessed with what I was doing and having fun doing it, regardless of any perceived stress. However, my body was clearly telling me, Sis we need a break, a chill pill, a KitKat…anything!
Last month, we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week, with a particular focus on stress. Research has found that up to two-thirds of people experience a mental health problem in their lifetimes, with stress being a key contributing factor. Staying mindful of this, and creating healthy coping strategies, is vital to maintaining a well-balanced life. So, in order ensure some semblance of sanity during the last few, rather intense months of self-publishing (in a time when magazine after magazine seems to be folding… eek!!), these smalls tips were my lifesavers:
1. Breathing Exercises: Sounds obvious and a little cliche perhaps, and yes you might feel silly doing them, but I promise they work. Deep inhalation is regarded as being an extremely useful activity for slowing down your heart rate and taking your mind off whatever is giving you undue stress. I start every morning with 10 deeps breaths to centre my mind and body, thinking to myself as I breathe “breathing in for one, breathing out for one, breathing in for two, breathing out for two” and so on. Then I do it throughout the day, whenever I feel overwhelmed or like my mind is running at a million miles an hour. Plus, it’s a great way to help you relax before sleep and drift off if you’re having any difficulty.
2. A Walk Outside: Again, might seem obvious but there is something so refreshing about stepping away from the damn computer and getting some fresh air. Even if it’s just a walk around the block or a walk to the post office, being outside can be the perfect source of rejuvenation and a chance to get some space and clear your head. Brownie points if you walk around a park and connect with nature a bit more.
3. Peppermint Oil: This was a tip from my best friend. Rubbing a drop of peppermint oil unto your temples or mixing it with some coconut oil and massaging it into your scalp creates a tingling sensation reminiscent of a spa treatment, as if all your worries are literally evaporating off your head. Chuck a sheet mask on, light some candles and you’ve got yourself the perfect ambience for chilling the fuck out.
4. Music: I think I’ve mentioned it before but when I’m feeling particularly anxious, I’ll listen to gospel music. You don’t have to be a believer for it to have a positive effect on you, because the melodies in gospel songs are generally very up-lifting. I’ll have it playing in the background as I’m getting ready for the day and feel a little more comforted. Generally, music of any kind has positive effects on managing anxiety or improving moods, so if Drake is more your jam… run with that flow.
5. Do Something You Love Often: Where would I be without my books??!!! I can’t tell you how much they have kept me going these last few months. It’s about the only ‘me’ activity I gave myself. I was pretty strict at allowing myself 20 - 30 mins every morning to read in bed. A small treat but it made the world of difference to dedicate a teeny proportion of the day to something I loved just for me. I also started to go to more galleries and exhibitions, again to get some distance from my work but also feel inspired by something completely different from my day-to-day.
6. Watch Your Language: I’ve always known about the effects of positive self-talk, but I’ve never really lived it myself. It’s incredible to see how much of a difference it can make to your mood and your general approach to life. If you’re constantly telling yourself you can’t do something, you suck, life is hard, etc… the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy will come into play (a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behaviour). The thing is, most of us don’t even realise how often we talk to ourselves negatively. Check that behaviour and try changing every “I can’t” to “I can” or every “sorry” to “thank you”. Little things, but they all add up.
7. Finally, Talk to Someone. A friend, your family, a helpline. Seriously, get your stresses out of your chest. Offload, release, have someone else share a different perspective on your situation and maybe you might be able to reset and rewire your brain.
It’s not always obvious the things that might be stressing us out and it’s also important to know the difference between good stress, bad stress and anxiety.
It’s not always obvious the things that may be stressing us out and it’s also important to know the difference between good stress, bad stress and anxiety. Good stress might be just enough pressure to kick you into work gear but bad stress breaks you down into a crying mess on your sofa for no reason at all (hello anxiety, old friend).
I've been quite lighthearted in this post because I'm lucky enough that my mental health issues aren't so overwhelming that I struggle to cope but it's imperative that we see mental health as a spectrum. Some people get bouts of blues, while others spend their lives struggling with their mental health. We all deal with stress differently but more often than not, in this day and age, we rarely just stop or give ourselves a break. Mental health is really a conversation we should all be having more often, but for now, I hope that this little reminder to check in with yourself regularly - even if you think you're doing fine - keeps us all as happy and healthy as we can be. Sending love always x