Whether you are currently coping with a mental health disorder, have loved one who are, or just noticed that you need to gain some inner strength and balance, we are all touched by mental health. And this is one of the most beautiful months of the year because it helps all of us to embrace that mental health disorders are not our fault, they are actual disorders, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
This is a very very personal subject to me, for many reasons, and although this may not be my time to share everything quite yet, I do want to share a few of the things that help me regain inner balance and calm. From magazines, to writing, to movement and to breathing, I will share a few of my "must haves" for my mind and soul.
May we all unite, not just this month, but every month, everyday, to help ourselves and to help our loved ones. To accept that illnesses are not just the ones you see, they are the ones you do not see, and that those can be even harder. May we love ourselves enough to fight for our health, love our loved one enough to fight for them, and may we always show love to all because we do not know what battle they may be facing. Here's to May.
1) Journalling- I have been journalling since long before it became "trendy". I began journalling at 9/10 years old, and have continued to do so down to this very day. In my own way that I didn't realize being that young, I was coping with life and all my inner struggles and thoughts by what felt most natural to me. Writing. As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone, whether it was playing alone or just plain, thinking alone. And writing was a way of "speaking" out loud, in the most quiet way. Writing is a way to say every scary, sad, or challenging thing you are going through. It is truly self expression. But journalling can also be a way to help yourself speak positively to yourself, and strengthen yourself through your own words. For myself, as I've grown older, journalling has truly become more of strengthening myself, and encouraging myself, than dwelling in my own tragedy or struggles. I truly find such a release mentally and emotionally when I take the time to journal. I recommend if you are now to journalling, purchase a beautiful journal, one that you'll want to open and write in, and a great pen. When I see a blank page each day, it's as if I have another opportunity to cry, to laugh, to decide, and to sing to myself. If you do nothing else, please, please, try journalling. It can be your own secret strengthening aid that no-one else needs to know.
2) FLOW Magazine - About 6 months ago I stumbled into an Indigo after my therapy session, and came face to face with a magazine called Flow. By the title itself I was intrigued as to what this was about. Right under the title it read "Mindfulness Workbook", and I was sold. 162 pages full of hand drawn pictures, stories of women who found their mental strength, colouring pages, stickers, encouraging poetry, and fill in the blank journalling pages. It is quite literally the magazine I wish was created years and years ago. It is a piece of art in itself, and as I spent time reading article after article, or filling in the blank sections with my own words, I find myself not feeling so alone anymore, and encouraged to know that I too can find strength and my own kind of mindfulness. This magazine can also be purchased in London Drugs (if you live in Canada), and ordered online. It is truly beautiful, and a gift from talented, beautiful and strong women.
3) Calm App - As someone who struggles with panic and anxiety attacks on the regular, it has truly become a new way of life, but it isn't easy. Not even in the slightest. Though not very much helps, one thing I have found that has been truly a life saver, is the Calm app. You can purchase it on any smart phone from the App store. It has 5 different sound "scenes" from rain, to ocean waves, burning fire, and birds at a lake. When I'm unable to breathe properly or in the middle of an attack, I throw my headphones on, turn on this app and in less than a minute, just by HEARING different calming sounds, I am able to regulate my heart again. If your like me, and can be calmed by sounds, this app is priceless. It also has a "meditate" program with several different topics ranging from "7 Days of Calm", to "7 Days of Happiness", all with a recorded message to help you breathe and focus on what is being said to help you return to a calm state. I would never endorse anything I do not actually benefit from, and this truly is one of the only apps I would never delete.
4) My Own Kind of Balance - At 28 years old, I truly am having to get to know myself all over again. Life, and health truly can change your life as you once knew it. What I once could handle, I no longer can. It has taken me so much effort, and still is, to accept that what I can handle is different from other people, and thats okay. I'm not there yet, but I'm slowly getting there one day at a time. Some people are recharged and energized by others, social engagements and plans reinvigorate them to happiness. For myself it truly is, the complete opposite effect. I physically, and emotionally, cannot handle tons of social interactions. It drains me, leaves me terribly exhausted, and more times than I'd like to admit, leaves me actually sick. What you need may be different from your friends, but that's okay. I am coming to believe that true strength is coming from knowing who you are, what you believe in, and holding strong to that no matter what others think. I need regular silence. I need regular time in nature. I need the outdoors. I do not need to meet new people every weekend. I do not need to party. I need to say No sometimes. I need to tell my husband what I can and cannot handle, and that, is my strength. Balance is truly knowing to stay true to what your beautiful, and imperfect body and mind can handle and LISTENING to it. To be in tune with your body doesn't mean sitting cross legged humming into outer space, it means listening to when you feel your muscles tighten and ache, when you feel like crying for "no reason", or being increasingly tired. Perhaps this is your body's way of telling you to please pause, and to listen to your inner voice. It is still my struggle, I am still on this journey and will continue to be for probably my entire life, but I will promise myself to keep fighting to embrace my own kind of balance. May you too find your own. And own it.