Mental Health Monday: Holding the Hope – Part Three

Hello and welcome! In my last Mental Health Monday post, I finished by saying how I think the knowledge and skills I’ve gained over the last year have made me stronger, more resilient and less vulnerable to mental illness, and I said that in this post, I’d pick that apart a bit and talk in more concrete terms about how this knowledge and these skills manifest in my day-to-day life. So that’s what I’m going to do!

My daily life goes something like this:

  • wake up no later than 07:30
  • 07:30 eat breakfast, drink coffee, take medication
  • 08:00 pray and meditate in bed in my jim-jams.
  • 08:30 shower and dress
  • 09:00 do something: work, coffee with friends, shopping, chores, go for a walk etc
  • 12:00 eat lunch and watch a bit of TV
  • 12:30 do something: work, coffee with friends, shopping, chores, go for a walk etc
  • 14:30/15:00 greet kids and chat about their day for a bit
  • 15:30 do something: work, coffee with friends, shopping, chores etc
  • 17:30 cook dinner
  • 18:30 eat dinner with family
  • 19:00 do something: planning, journaling, watching TV, chores, go for a walk etc
  • 21:00 start winding down
  • 21:30 take medication and have night time chats with kids
  • 22:00 get into bed, meditate, pray, use lavender essential oil, do relaxation exercises, sleep

During the school holidays and on weekends, some of these things move about a bit, but I always take my meds, I always wake up no later than 07:30, I always pray and meditate, I always use lavender and do relaxation exercises and I always make sure I’m in bed by 23:00, preferably 22:00. These routines and habits are a big part of what keeps me well and have been developed over the course of the last year.

It goes without saying that it’s important to take my medication every day even though it makes me tired and hungry. I know it is bolstering all the hard work I have done. Getting a decent night’s sleep is crucial to my mental health too. One of my early warning signs for depression is a disturbed sleep pattern. If I don’t get enough sleep, my resilience to stress decreases and my sleep gets even worse, and thus begins a vicious cycle. To help avoid getting into that cycle, I don’t nap in the day unless I am totally exhausted, and I keep my evenings quiet and relaxed. Using lavender as my soothing scent and doing progressive muscle relation exercises at bedtime, sends signals to my brain and body that it is time for sleep, and I’m usually out by the time I’ve snuggled under the duvet! I generally sleep well at the moment, but I have crazy vivid dreams and often wake up in the night in a cold sweat, but I seem to be able to drift off again afterward. Knowing that a good night’s sleep is fundamental to my recovery means that if my sleep goes downhill, I’ll be banging on my doctor’s door for early intervention!

After sleeping well, comes starting the day right. I keep it slow. I know I’m lucky to be able to do so, and I’m very grateful for that. I eat breakfast with the kids and see them off to school before going back to bed for half an hour of prayer, meditation and reflection. To help me with this, I use two apps: Headspace and Pray as You Go. Headspace has been instrumental in training my brain to let go of thoughts, and Pray as You Go is a beautiful daily podcast based on a passage from the Bible and includes music and gentle reflection. Recently, I’ve added Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach to my meditation time. It was a gift from my lovely friend Helen, and is giving me a framework for thinking about gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, joy and abundance. This half-an-hour is the time when I am still with God. I don’t pray for things or about things, I just show up, open up and listen for that still, small voice of calm.

Other useful habits that have emerged over the last year include: taking vitamin supplements and Omega-3 oils everyday, making sure I drink at least five drinks a day (otherwise I get extra-tired and headachey), taking breaks from my work (I have an alarm set on my phone so that I remember to eat lunch.), being creative everyday and going for a short walk everyday (Truth be told, I don’t always manage this!). All these practical things contribute to my wellness and resilience and make me stronger.

As well as all this, every month I review the Nine Pillars of a Balanced Life to make sure my life is balanced and not skew-whiff. I look at my level of contribution, the way I spend my leisure, the exercise I take (or don’t take), the things I do and time I spend with family, friends and especially my husband. I look at how much time I spend working, how much ‘me time’ I have and what I do with it. I look at what I’m doing to grow as a person, what new things I’m learning. And if something is under or over-represented, I try to redress the balance to reduce potential stress and resentment.

A big and positive change for me this year has been starting my own business making and selling cards and being chosen to serve of two design teams. Before falling ill, I was a bit rudderless and I’m sure this contributed to my mental fragility. The kids are older now and were starting not to need me to be so hands on, so I didn’t feel I had much of a purpose, but now I have my business (which is still very small, but who knows where it will go?) and regularly sharing the story of my recovery journey, I now feel a sense of purpose and passion again, and this is what gets me out of bed in the morning, especially on the days when I wake up feeling as if I’m made of lead.

Well, this has turned into another long post, so I will leave it there for today. Next week, I’ll talk in more detail about the benefits I’ve experienced from practicing mindfulness and meditation. And I want to talk about the areas of my life that still need plenty of work!

Thanks for reading! Bye for now. xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.

(Image Source: Pixabay)

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2 Responses to Mental Health Monday: Holding the Hope – Part Three

  1. That’s a really useful post and your alarm system (or reminders?) are excellent! So glad you’re finding ways to help yourself, it’s a big part of recovery I think.

  2. Judith Deeks says:

    Oh Natalie, you are so honest and I am sure your words will be of so much help to many people.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love
    Judith
    xxx

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