Exercise and sleep. Two really important components for my mental health. There are other variables at play of course, but if I am working out consistently and getting around 7-8 hours sleep per night, anxiety and stress can’t make my mind, body and soul their home.
I advocate for making mental health something that we can talk about, acknowledging the journey whilst learning and practising strategies to take care of ourselves.
I really see that when I’m not in a good place mentally, it manifests in all faucets of my life. From the way I interact with other people, to the way I speak to myself. From the ideas that I have, my productivity and energy levels and the decisions I make about food, both in terms of my stomach and what I feed my brain. It’s not pretty. I don’t like being in that place. So, looking after my mental health is something that I really do prioritise. That’s not to say that I have perfect mental health. No one does. But I advocate for making it something that we can talk about, acknowledging the journey and learning and practising strategies to take care of ourselves. And you should too. How? Like so many others, a large proportion of my time is spent dedicated to others. I love being of service but I also need to be alone. Even just by acknowledging my desire for solitude, irrespective of if it’s something that I can honour at the time is me taking care of my mental health. Guilt free feelings. Easier said than done. Remember that feelings are not good or bad, nor are they right or wrong. They are simply feelings which are fleeting. They may come, they may go. Breathe. I literally feel myself relaxing as I write this.
Feelings are not good or bad, nor are they right or wrong. They are simply feelings which are fleeting.
At the moment I’m winning with the exercise. I’ve been working out 6 days a week for the last month. Funny how things work out; when we moved here (to Nairobi from London), I shipped a whole container of our stuff over. Logistical issues on so many levels meant that it was almost a year before our boxes were here and by that time we were settled into an apartment on site at school and I was working as a boarding mentor as part of the accommodation deal. Boxes went into storage.
A few months ago, I went for a rummage to see what goodies I could find in our long lost possessions and among other things, brought all my workout dvds, weights and mat. I pondered to myself why I even chose these items, considering I have access to a fully equipped gym on site at school which I was using. But it felt like the right thing to do so I brought them home. And didn’t use them at all.
Currently, I can still access the gym here as it’s pretty much empty and cleaned regularly, but it still feels like a risk. Having those workout dvds, weights and kettlebells has been the biggest blessing. On they go, somewhat familiar routines that I used to do years ago but still challenging and fresh from gym gym gym. I’m even getting the kids kickboxing with me three time’s a week. Well kind of. We haven’t actually managed to achieve all three of them reaching the finish line yet…
Anxiety is not a stranger to me. Like any feeling, I’ve gone through peaks and troughs from full on panic attacks to months of calm and contentment. Learning how to recognise the triggers as well as the physical symptoms have really been a life changer. In my adult years, one of the worst periods of anxiety, stress and torment for me was when my marriage broke down. I look back at that period of my life as a really dark place for my mental health. Three children aged between 8 months – 4 years, moved countries, no means of financial security, confusion beyond belief, guilt, insecurity, anger, sadness; my whole world seemed like it was crashing down around me. Years later, I can honestly say that that period of time was actually the most strengthening and character building experience of my entire life. I wouldn’t wish those feelings on anyone, but I am so thankful I went through it.
Gratitude is EVERYTHING
I know that by ensuring that I am in a good place that everyone around me benefits, most notably my kids who I want to be a strong role model for. And the only way I can do that is by being true to myself, by knowing who I am and what I stand for.
What do you stand for? How do you take care of yourself? Your mental and physical health? Are you plagued with feelings of guilt for taking the time and effort to fulfil your own wants and desires? Let those negative feelings go. Now more than ever is a chance to really grasp the opportunity to do something for yourself. Be intentional and reflect on what you need to be more you. And then do the work to remember who you are before the world told you who you had to be.