Hello darling, I just wanted to check in on you and find out how you’re really doing.
If you’re like me then you probably feel like you’re running out of time to do all the important things you need to do and the list keeps growing and growing... You’re managing your own business while juggling kids, cooking multiple times a day, trying to keep in touch with family and simply trying to keep your head above water. Find comfort in knowing that during these times it’s completely normal for your mental health to take a bit of a dip. What is important is to identify the difference between ‘I’m having an off day’ and ‘I feel like I’m stuck in an endless pit with no way out’.
This blog is simply a gentle reminder that your feelings are valid and to give you a few positive ‘distractions’ to help you get through this time. So, get comfy, make your favourite cuppa and let's heal together.
Before we get into all the ways to help you cope with your mental health, it’s important to find out what each condition/disorder means. I’ve listed the top 5 when it comes to mental health and what it all means! Each definition has a link to find out more about each disorder and their symptoms.
Mental Health Definitions
Anxiety - Intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
Depression - Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
Obsessive Compulsive Order - A psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions.
Bipolar - Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania.
Trauma Related Disorders - PTSD can develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety.
It's also very important to not diagnose yourself. There's a difference between researching possible symptoms that you may show but a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist will need to officially diagnose you so that you have a clear idea of where to go from there.
Mental Health at Home
Mental health is something that is simply not brought up enough, especially in coloured and black families. It simply is something that is NOT discussed. As a young girl my parents raised me to be the strongest person I could be because the world will look for any chance it gets to screw you. Harsh but true…
I struggled with mental health for years without it being addressed even though I exhibited clear signs of severe anxiety, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Order) and other mental issues that were lurking under the service. I felt that even though I brought my feelings to my family, it was constantly dismissed and I was often told that mental health is a ‘white person thing’. Hearing this from my supportive system at the time was one of the most difficult things to hear because I had no way of dealing with it at the time and I felt so alone, wait, scratch that, I felt like I was going crazy because I had no idea why my brain and body felt the way it did and I had no one to educate me, so I was forced to educated myself.
Today I struggle and have been diagnosed with severe anxiety, OCD, Bipolar II and sprinkled with depression. Not my cocktail of choice if I'm being honest...
Many people experience anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. The difference is to know the severity of it. Being anxious before a big meeting is a little different from feeling crippled from it to the point where you’re constantly restless, agitated and can even experience panic attacks, whether mild or severe. Unfortunately the more severe the feelings won’t disappear overnight but there are a few quick fixes that can help you deal with anxiety and depression within your home, especially when your support system cannot understand what you’re going through.
TIPS TO ALLEVIATE ANXIETY & DEPRESSION AT HOME
Is something I started using when my anxiety and Bipolar was at it's peak (thank you lock-down). This app is perfect for anyone who feels alone or like they can't express themselves. WoeBot is a quirky little robot man who checks in on you everyday helps you practice self-care and helps you rationalise some of your darkest thoughts. *This app is helpful for everyone who is struggling to cope and also if they've not been diagnosed or been treated for their disorder.
Ugh, I know... I really didn't want to be that
woman who spreads the gospel of yoga and meditation but ever since I started doing basic morning yoga and meditation (and I do mean basic, imagine a tense, tight little human trying to struggle her way out of the Camel Pose). It's really eased me into my normal morning routine which has really become non-existent these days. The most difficult is just getting the hell up!
You don't even need a ton of space and these beginner friendly poses can be done in your room, away from any toxicity or distractions. Click here to start your yoga journey.
*Yoga and meditation helps you practice mindfulness. Don't be afraid to let your body feel all the things. All the emotions. All the energy.
Mental Health in the Creative Industry
IT’S NOT A CREATIVE BLOCK. I’ve had so many people tell me that I’m just going through a rough patch of creative block which is stopping me from being creative. That is not true. Especially in my case… I often wake up early, super motivated, ready to start my day and be the boss lady I’ve been building myself up to be and then I open my laptop, ready to conceptualise and bring my ideas to life and then the dissociation starts... and then next thing I know, hours have gone past and I’ve done nothing.
It has nothing to do with you not being driven, or passionate or a self-starter. I am all of those things and yet lately I can't even get myself to do my basic skincare routine, let alone work on anything creative. Can you relate? My head is constantly filled with new ideas, new thoughts are constantly racing through my head, so many that my brain almost short circuits because I simply cannot focus enough to see one clear idea, so what do I do? I automatically categorize myself as a failure and someone who doesn't have the mental capacity to see things through. Again, this is not the case.
There was so much pressure for me to post new content (especially during lockdown) and I lost a ton of followers. The creative industry is so cut throat and fast-paced that there really is no time to take a minute and reflect because you're constantly wondering what your competition is doing and how you can do it differently, if not better. That's something that I personally am still struggling with. It's frikken difficult but the less I compare myself to my competition, the lighter the load feels.
*Repeat after me, SELF CARE IS BEING PRODUCTIVE! You cannot give attention to anything else unless you ground yourself first and more importantly, look after yourself.
TIPS TO ALLEVIATE MENTAL DISORDERS WHEN YOU SIMPLY CAN'T BE CREATIVE
1. Watch a movie that reignites your passion for your art. I’m personally obsessed with the incredible., oil painted animation, Loving Vincent. Not only is this an incredible story of artists who struggle with serious mental health, it’s also one of the most beautiful, creative animations I’ve ever seen. If you’re a creative and you haven’t watched it then please give it a go. It’s beautiful and sad, but it’s real and anyone will appreciate the art and effort put into the film.
3. Creative Boost is the perfect playlist to get your creative juices flowing again.
4. The Creativ & Kin Podcast This podcast is perfect for all women entrepreneurs who keeps you connected and feeling creative.
Mental Health at Work
Let’s face it. It’s a little difficult to text your boss first thing in the morning and say ‘Listen, I’m burnt out and I just can’t anymore’. Most managers won’t get it because how could they possibly understand, right? This is often because of ignorance on their side or because they are not educated enough about mental health and don't offer safe spaces for those who suffer with mental disorders to take minute or talk to someone to ground them. Mental illness is something we don’t often talk about, especially within our community so it’s not something you just bring up, and NOT at work. It all comes in waves and when it hits it can become crippling. That being said, you don’t always have the luxury of taking a personal day, especially if it’s something that’s recurring.
I happen to work with an unbelievably, understanding, compassionate local brand. Jinae from Matsidiso Shoes and I have such an open relationship and I often confide in her when I simply can't push anymore and she’s been nothing but understanding and empathetic.
OBVIOUSLY that is not the case in most work environments which is an absolute shame but if you do have those days where a wave of unexplained emotion or feeling hits you, here are a few tips to alleviate your anxiety or irritability. (Sorry, slapping a coworker isn't one of them)
Mel Robins - She has become one one favourite motivational speakers because she’s so genuine and addresses that aren’t normally addressed. Listening to her talks have helped me ease into starting my own business. She talks about real experiences and gets personal about her failures as well. I often find comfort in what she says.
Focus on one thing at a time - If the workload and deadlines are getting too much for you to the point where you feel overwhelmed, break your tasks up into sections and try to focus on one task at a time. You’ll only feel more anxious if you constantly worry about what’s to come.
Make a friend - I know not all co-workers are friend material and there will always be people who won’t understand. The goal is to find and ally in the office. Someone who can ground you and calm you down when you feel a manic or depressive episode is about to happen.
Create a work friendly playlist - It can be anything from smoothe jazz to heavy metal. I’ve personally found that spa or elevator music often irritates me even more but hey, to each their own. If you’re not in the space to create a playlist, I have a few work-friendly playlists for you.
Playlist 1 - This playlist combines both upbeat songs mixed in with a few possible tear jerkers. Don’t be afraid to feel all the things. Don’t deny or suppress your feelings. I know it can be exhausting to keep up the nice talks and smiles but believe me, a good playlist can take you away from all of the negativity in your head or in your life...Even if it’s only for a while.
Playlist 2 - Come on, who here doesn't love a good instrumental, relaxation-promoting playlist?
Playlist 3 - Lindsay Lesage’s ‘Gratitude Attitude' podcast is another one of my favourites as it reminds me to be grateful for the little things because it can be difficult to see past your own sadness sometimes. She’s a qualified meditation teacher, as well as a trained psychotherapist and she’s here to help!
A gentle note for everyone who has not being diagnosed or who cannot get treatment, please know there are people who care and who want to help. Keep in mind there are no real quick fixes and what works for you may not work for another. The goal is to be patient and to be willing to try. It'll be a long, roller-coaster journey, but your mental health is worth it.
Below are a few helpline numbers you can call if you're have a manic episode, panic attack or just need someone to calm you down.
Please be gentle with yourselves.
Andrea and The Matsidiso Team
Written by: @andrea__ruth