The Power of Talking; breaking mental health stigma

(I’m living life on the edge right now trying to type this out before my laptop restarts for yet another Windows update).

I met up with a friend today, spontaneously, but messaging her and asking if she wanted to meet up was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. I think I wrote in this post, about how I haven’t been feeling at my best for some time and of how I started isolating myself from people, being trapped in my mind and quite honestly driving myself mad from overthinking. I made a promise to myself to get out of that phase, to interact more with my friends, to be more open and honest about my feelings, but since half term started, I’ve become more and more isolated and lonely and have just generally been feeling awful.

However today I decided to reach out to my friend, who I haven’t seen in quite a while, but for a moment I stopped overthinking that I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s time and sent her a message. When we met up, I didn’t want to pressure myself to talk about how I was feeling – even thought that’s why I wanted to see her, just to be able to talk to someone who has been by my side for a long time and who I trust – so I just said to myself that whatever happens, I must be honest. And I was. I almost had a breakdown in the middle of a park but we had some really deep conversations about overthinking and anxiety and social pressure, and I’m proud of myself for actually giving an honest answer when she asked how I was, instead of the usual “good, thanks”.

Through talking to each other, we discovered that we’d been going through similar things and we understood eachother, which really meant a lot. As I’m used to bottling up my emotions, the world can sometimes seem a little mad because I overthink so much that nothing makes sense in my head and eventually nothing makes sense in real life either. But talking, casually, about mental health whilst walking in the fresh air – and eventually over a box of chicken nuggets – made it seem normal and okay.

Some of the advice my friend was giving me really made me think. She can be very philosophical in her outlook on life, and although it probably won’t have as much as an impact once translated into my words, I want to try to share some of her insights in life here, so maybe it can help others too.

One thing we were talking about was the pressure of social media, because I explained how social media is becoming a huge source of overthinking for me. It’s the pressure of being constantly social, and active and talking to other people. This need to be constantly in touch with the virtual world can make us presume that if someone hasn’t replied to a message then they automatically don’t like us, don’t want be friends with us and don’t care about us anymore. This is becoming a big problem for me, because I almost constantly pick apart all my friendships based on people’s activity on social media – it’s a downward spiral, a trap. Sometimes if a friend doesn’t reply to a message, but I can see they have been active on social media, I will think that’s it, the friendship’s over, they don’t care about me anymore, I’m not worthy of anyone’s time, there’s no point contacting other friends stop because they won’t want to talk to me either, I’m just being annoying, none of my friends really like me and so on. It’s ridiculous that social media controls my emotions in such a destructive way, and that my friend – and probably many of you – could relate. Although it’s hard to avoid social media and the pressures that come with it in the world we are living in, I need to find a balance between real life and the virtual world to be free from this pressure. I do want to have social media in my life, because I have met some amazing people as a result of it, but I also want to live in the present and for social media to be a positive addition to my life, not a negative obstacle that holds me back.

I admitted that some of the problems social media was causing me were due to the fact that I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere, because I don’t really have a set friendship group anymore and I’ve been feeling a bit lost. But I know now that that’s okay, because people come and go through our lives and I understand now that, to borrow my friend’s analogy, even if you keep watering a dead flower, it won’t come back to life. That is to say, you can keep trying to hold onto friendships that are falling apart and friends that are drifting away, but there comes a point where you need to let the flower die – for both individual’s sake – because this makes room for new flowers – or friends – to come into your life and blossom. I may feel like I’ve lost a lot of friends, but I still have a few “flowers” who I can always count on, and that’s what matters. I will meet new people and make new friends, just as the people who have slipped out of my life will or already have.

We also talked about anxiety and the stigma surrounding mental health. I explained how I’d been suffering with anxious feelings for the past month or so, probably the result of stress and pressure from college combined with social pressures, all of which has contributed to this constant overthinking and worrying about what other people think. It’s tiring – draining – to feel this way; it’s been a long time since I felt like I could do something with ease, in a relaxed way without my mind constantly racing with all sorts of irrational scenarios and thoughts. It was comforting that my friend understood and we could talk about it freely, it really showed to me that it was okay to talk about mental health, because we all have mental health and the sooner we break down the stigma around discussing it, the better it’ll be for everyone. No one should have to face mental health alone – we are so much stronger if we tackle it together.

Now I feel so much lighter after discussing all this with someone I admire and respect a lot, and I think it helped her too. Although I don’t see many of my friends often, I am now a little bit more reassured that they still do care and the friendship is still there. I can’t express enough how much today has changed my perspective on life. Although my thoughts aren’t coherent and I’ve still got a long way to go, I took a risk in reaching out to a friend for help, and it paid off. Life’s all about taking risks, we don’t always know which ones will be worth taking until we’ve taken them, but we always learn in the process.

Here’s to more opening up about mental health, on my part and yours.

 

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//8 ways to have a positive new attitude!//

Hello! Feels like it’s been a long time since I last wrote on here, but that’s because I’ve had such a jam-packed few days with deadlines flying at me from every direction but such is life. Anyway, today I wanted to share with you some tips for how you can have a positive new attitude.

I think it’s safe to say since starting Year 13, I’ve sort of been in a rutt when it comes to mental health, and I think a lot of you will relate when I say sometimes when we’ve got piles of work to do and hundreds of obligations and to-do lists, taking care of our mental health is not a top priority. But, over the past few weeks I’ve realised that mental health absolutely should be a bigger priority in my life. So, I’ve taken the decision to make some changes to my life and mindset, to hopefully take better care of myself and make sure I’m as happy as I can be.

1. Communication is KEY

As a naturally shy person, I’ve also been lacking on the communication front. But recently I’ve decided that I don’t want to be the person who sits there silently, holding back their opinions for fear of judgement as I have important opinions to share and you do too. If you’re sat their thinking, no one cares what you think then you’re wrong because you don’t know how people are going to react to what you have to say unless you take the leap and say it. I’m not saying you should be in polite and say anything on your mind, but you should definitely be scared to voice your opinion in class discussions, to ask the teacher for help, to talk to those people who you’re like sort-of-friends-with-but-do-they-really-lile-me-because-we’ve-only-talked-like-once because trust me, the worst thing that can happen is that someone decides not to reply to you which is their loss. Honestly, for the last few weeks I’ve made every effort to communicate with people around me as much as possible. I’ve joked around with my friends, I approached my teachers, I talked to people I don’t usually talk to, I met new people simply because I was engaged in conversation with my friends and other people decided to come and join in too, without knowing us. It was great. I felt so included and so, so much more confident as I kept reminding myself that it’s just talking and I talk to people every day so I don’t need to make a big deal out of it. Finding the confidence to be less shy and quiet is hard though, so if you need a little bit of help with this like I do, when you’re in class or in big groups of people, just try to focus on talking to one person at a time and pretend the others and their and that they don’t think twice about what you’re saying – or the fact you’re talking – because 9 times out of 10 they don’t.

2. Smiling makes you happy. FACT.

Okay I don’t know all the ~science-y~ stuff behind it, but I do know that we associate smiling with feeling happy and positive emotions. Therefore, I try to smile as much as possible to help me get into a better mindset. It probably sounds really cheesy, but honestly starting of each morning my smiling at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself you’re going to have a good day is a great way to start off the day. I don’t know about you butI often feel like my natural face is quite glum-looking and often I think this makes me less approachable as apposed to someone who smiles a lot, so I try to be as smile-y as possible at college to make me feel happier but also make myself appear happier so I feel more confident in myself and socialising.

3. Music makes the soul sing.

My sister has this quote on her bedroom door, and it’s so true. Sometimes I can get so caught up in work, I realise I haven’t listened to the radio or music on my phone for weeks, which is not good! When I listen to music, I genuinely feel a lot happier, relaxed and at ease. It’s something to take your mind off life, and you can let go a bit and sing along.to your favourite tunes. I’m not saying you should listen to music all the time because it might lose it’s effectiveness, but maybe next time your feeling a bit low, stick the radio on or trawl through Spotify, or even have music playing in the background when your studying.

4. Take life one day at a time.

I’ve always found this advice cliché and brushed it off as one of those things people say that doesn’t actually work, but really I’ve found it to be quite useful. By sort of compartmentalising days, it helps me to make sure each day is a little more positive than the previous. For example, if you have a bad day, that’s okay, but try to wake up with the mindset that tomorrow is a new day and you can live it out as if yesterday hadn’t happened, if that makes sense. Basically don’t let bad days blur into bad weeks or months.

5. Write out your thoughts.

When I was younger I used to use diaries to decode my thoughts and emotions, and find a way forward, but somewhere in my teenage years I decided to stop doing this and try to bottle things up, which is not good. I recently started bullet journalling, and I’ve found it to be a really helpful tool to get me to open up and write about my feelings, which I totally wasn’t expecting. Having a space where I can physically write things down allows me to declutter my mind, and I feel like my thoughts have somewhere to belong as my bullet journal is sort of documenting my journey through life. Obviously writing stuff down doesn’t have the same effect as talking to people about issues, but sometimes you don’t want to share everything that’s bothering you, and doing exercises like this can help to remind you that you are strong and have control over your emotions without having to rely on others for help.

6. Positive reminders are underrated.

Somehow through trawling through the internet last week, I discovered Shine Text, which is basically a “bot” that sends you positive reminds and strategies to meet a goal (which you set e.g. building confidence) every morning via message. You can either subscribe via text or Facebook messenger, and honestly it has made such a difference to my mental health already. I’ve learnt so much about how to better look after myself, and so many coping strategies, it’s great! Aside from that, it’s really nice to have little positive reminders each morning, as sometimes you’re too tired or stress to remind yourself to think positively. I’d highly recommend!

7. Give yourself something to look forward to each week.

Since starting year 13 I’ve been really working hard at making sure I have something planned each week that I can look forward to. That way, it’s easier to focus on something nice that will be happening that  week and give yourself something to look forward to, and puts you in the mindset of rewarding yourself as you start to think “if I do this homework and that revision etc, I can do treat myself”. A few things I’ve done so far have been going shopping with friends, going to galleries and even just grabbing a coffee. This is also a really good tip as it makes sure you schedule in a time each week to relax and take your mind of things.

8. Celebrate your achievements, however small!

It’s so easy to overlook our successes, especially in school when your main focus is getting grades so everything else feels irrelevant,but the more you start to take notice and be proud of the little things you’ve overcome, the better you will feel. Sometimes it can be challenging to feel positive all the time but you should definitely make an effort to think about and recognise little positive things you do each day to give them value. 
Well that’s all I can think of for now, but if you have any tips to share, please do so below! I’ll hopefully be posting more frequently now I’ve adjusted to my new timetable and the year 13 workload, so until the next time, goodbye!