Tag Archives: mental illness

How To Deal With Anxious Thoughts Around Christmas

For many people, Christmas is a time for happiness and being together, but for others, it can be so terrifying it can cause an increase in symptoms. The anxiety around money, the thought of having to go to family gatherings or parties, the pressure to be happy, the thought of being alone, having people tell you ‘pull yourself together, it’s Christmas!’ can be very unhelpful and make symptoms worse.

I used to hate Christmas and everything to do with it. I would avoid even thinking about Christmas but when it’s everywhere you look it can be hard to do that. The pressure of knowing I had to see people when all I wanted to do was hide, knowing I had to seem happy and put together was almost too much to bear at times. But unfortunately, Mental illness doesn’t take days off – no matter what time of year it is, and having the right tools to get you through is so important. Below are some of my top tips to make things more bearable.


Be honest about your feelings.

This one can be hard if you have people who don’t understand or who are not supportive of your struggles, but if you do have family who understands then be honest. If something feels too difficult or scary, let people know, they might surprise you and you might be able to come up with something that feels easier so you don’t miss out.


Have a plan.

If you have to attend Christmas gatherings or parties, have a plan. Decide what time you’re leaving so you have something to aim towards. For example – ‘I can get through this, there are only x amounts of hours left and it’ll be over’. If you’re responsible for hosting parties or cooking Christmas dinner, have a step by step list or plan so you know exactly what you have to do, so you’ll less likely to become overwhelmed.


Make time for yourself.

Self-care is important – especially if you find this time of year more difficult. It’s important to make time for yourself and your needs, away from anything that stresses you out. It can be something as simple having a bath, feeding yourself and drinking water – anything that doesn’t feel like a chore to do.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

There’s already enough pressure from society and other people, so there’s no good piling on more. It’s ok if you can’t do something, it’s ok if you have to leave early or not go somewhere at all, no good comes from putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to say no if you can’t manage something. I know one of the hardest things for me is saying no, but it’s important to have healthy boundaries and realistic expectations for yourself.


Distraction, distraction, distraction.

With Christmas everywhere, it’s hard to escape. However, whilst you always have some degree of control, in the comfort of your own space, you are in the most control. If watching Christmas films or adverts makes your anxious thoughts worse, turn Netflix on and watch something not related to Christmas, listen to music, read books, anything not related to Christmas. It can help to have that space where you can pretend it isn’t Christmas and just relax.


Know where to turn for support.

Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare or try out different ways to cope, you can become overwhelmed. Below, I have listed various organizations you can contact if you need extra support:

UK support.

  • Samaritans (Call 116 123, open 24 hours, 365 days a year, Email, jo@samaritans.org, response time within 24 hours a day). For more information visit their website here.
  • Shout (Text Shout to 85258, open 24/7). For more information visit their website here.
  • SANEline (Call 0300 304 7000, 4.30pm to 10.30pm every day). For more information visit their website here.

International support.


Other posts you might find helpful.


Do you have any more tips on dealing with anxiety at Christmas?

charleigh signature

Ultimate Mental Health Gift Guide For Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner. If you’re looking for that perfect, special gift for a loved one having a tough time you’ve come to the right place. The gifts included in this guide are perfect for anyone struggling with their mental health – whether they have a mental illness or not. Anyone can be having a tough time and it can be hard to find ways to help them through it. You don’t have to wait for Christmas, but if you’re loved one doesn’t like being made a fuss of or you don’t want to seem overbearing, Christmas is the ideal time to show someone you care.


Self care items.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Some ideas include bath bombs, shower gels, body lotions, candles, face masks. Basically anything that makes someone feel good or taken care of. It’s important to take time out for yourself, look after you mental health and feel good in yourself.


Weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets have many benefits, and people suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses have found them useful. They can improve sleep, help with stress, and help someone feel safe when everything is crumbling around them.


Positive quote necklaces.

I recently purchased one of these for my best friend and she loved it. She even said it helps get her through in times of heightened anxiety or stress. It can give someone something to focus on, a quote to help them through or remind them of how far they’re come. I brought this one from PennyBlackDesigns on Etsy. They are beautifully made and also very affordable.


Positivity items.

One of the hardest things to do when you’re struggling is staying positive. It can be helpful for some people to receive little things to keep them going in times of need. There are so many places that sell positivity quote items in many forms – badges, fridge magnets, original artwork and so much more. One of my favourite places to shop for this kind of thing is Art Is My Therapy – it’s run by my friend Liv, who makes handmade items and sells her original artwork. She also sells pick me up boxes with a range of items to help someone through a tough time. I highly recommend her shop – you won’t be disappointed.


Make them a crisis box.

This is the perfect gift if you’re stuck for ideas. It’s great for letting someone know you care and it’s something they can use all year round. I did a full post on how to create your own here, if you need some ideas and inspiration.


Sensory items.

Sensory items are great because they give someone a way to ground themselves if they are suffering from dissociation/flashbacks, or to help anxiety when they are in stressful situations. Sensory items include but are not limited to squishies, candles, body/room sprays, slime or tangles.


What other things come to mind when you think of mental health gifts?

How To Make A Self Care/Crisis Box (Ideal Christmas Gift)

If you’re struggling to find a meaningful gift for your loved one this Christmas why not make them their own self care or crisis box? It’s the perfect gift for a loved one suffering from a mental illness, going through a rough time or anyone who might need a pick me up. Everyone needs self care to get through life, in whatever form that may be. You can even make this box for yourself, and it’s great for birthdays too.

A self care box is exactly like the title says – a box full of items to inspire looking after yourself. Self care tends to be seperated into 6 types; physical, emotional, practical, mental, social, and spiritual. When creating your box it’s ideal to look at the 6 types and try to find items that fit into them. However, many forms of self care are not item based (for example – taking a walk, seeing a therapist, or seeing a friend) so an idea might be to write lists (or find them on Pinterest and print them out) to put into your box so they’re ideal to refer to when you’re in need.

A crisis box is a collection of items to be used when someone is in a state of distress. This might be if someone has self harm urges, suicidal thoughts, or needs grounding from dissociation or flashbacks etc. Something to keep in mind when creating a crisis box is to make sure you don’t put anything in that could potentially be used to hurt yourself/your loved one with, for example – candles, sharp items etc.

Although, a self care and crisis box are quite similar they can be quite different. Self care tends to be to keep yourself well, for example – if you’re feeling deflated or low and need a pick me up. Crisis boxes are for use at crisis point, when trying to prevent yourself getting to a point where you do something to harm yourself.

This is by no means an exclusive list and is designed to give you ideas and get you started. You can add things or take things away. It’s a great gift and allows you to personalise it to what you/your loved one finds helpful or enjoys.


Nurturing.

These are general items used to look after and appreciate yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in life and forget to look after yourself. Small things can make all the difference.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Hot chocolate/coffee sachets.
  • Tissues (it’s ok if you need to cry!)
  • Chocolate or your favourite snacks.
  • A card/letter to show them you’re thinking about them (if you gifting it to someone else) or one you’ve recieved in the past that makes you smile to look at (if its for yourself)
  • Mug
  • Face masks
  • Body lotions
  • A soft toy

Distraction.

Distraction items are great for both boxes. Whether you need distracting from urges, thoughts or memories, or want to do something you enjoy, it’s a great tool to busy your brain and focus on something positive.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

 

  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Colouring books
  • Craft sets
  • Knitting/crocheting (wool etc)
  • Notebooks
  • Art supplies
  • Planner supplies
  • Puzzle books (dot to dot, wordsearches, suduko, crosswords etc)

Grounding.

Grounding is useful for many different reasons – it’s mainly used during flashbacks and/or dissociation, and aims to ‘ground’ you back to the present moment. Often it uses the 5 senses – sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, (‘What can you see? What can you hear? etc).

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Vapour rub (for smell and touch)
  • Freeze spray/gel (for the cold on skin)
  • Squishies (touch)
  • Tangles (touch)
  • Sour sweets (taste)
  • Slime (touch)
  • Pictures of happy memories (sight)
  • Instrument (touch and hearing)
  • Favourite CD (do people even have CD’s anymore?!)/calming music (hearing)

Useful books/items.

There are a variety of useful things you could pop in the box such as books on mindfulness, happy/gratitude journals and books containing bright positive or inspirational quotes. You can also get bands that have quotes on them such as ‘you matter’ or ‘keep fighting’ etc which can be useful to wear on your wrist to remind the person of how far they’ve come/that they’re ok etc.

The three wristbands in the picture are from Stickman Communications, they’re useful to wear either as a visual reminder for yourself that you’re struggling (and so to be extra kind to yourself), or doing good. Or to let other people know how you feel (such as people you see regularly or live with) so they’re aware of how you’re feeling without you having to explain it – we all know how difficult that can be.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Mindfulness books
  • Happy/gratitude journals
  • Books with colourful positive/inspirational quotes
  • Wrists bands with meaningful quotes on
  • Notebooks/pens

Remember this isn’t an exclusive list and things can be added or took away, it’s really up to you! Just have fun putting it together for yourself or someone else. 

Have you got any other ideas of what someone can put into a self care or crisis box?

charleigh signature

How To Avoid Stigmatising Mental Health In Your Novel

Hi guys and welcome back to my blog. In today’s post I’m going to be talking about how to avoid stigmatising mental health in your novel. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness (and in my opinion made worse by social media) and people seem to be determined to see mental illness in a certain way. Every single person suffering from an illness is completely different, and everyone’s experiences are individual. The portrayal of mental illnesses in popular fiction (books, TV, film etc), if done incorrectly, can make the stigma worse and is damaging to those of us who suffer. Below, I’m going to share some tips to help you portray mental illness in the best way you can..


Although not everyone will feel comfortable sharing their experiences, as long as you are respectful and remain non judgemental some sufferers will be perfectly happy to give you some insight. Talking to actual sufferers of mental illness can be enlightening and give you valuable first hand accounts on what it’s like to live with a condition. This information can enable you to to craft a realistic portrayal of a character suffering from a mental illness.

Side note – remember never use information that enables anyone to be identified. Remove all identifying features, change their histories and/or life experiences so your character is a new person. Lots of writers use bits and pieces from all different kinds of people to create characters, because basing a character too similar to someone in real life can open you up to problems.


Use proper, respected sites to gather your information about the mental illness you are including in your novel. Remember that there are many different symptoms related to mental illnesses and you don’t always have to just use the typical, well known ones in your novel.

Some greats sites include Mind | Childline | Rethink | Beat.


Don’t scrimp on research, and make it a priority to check and double check before the final manuscript is released. Also, take your time when you are developing characters to make sure that every aspect is weaved into the story. Make sure you have accounted for things like possible causes, a detailed history and how it affects their everyday life.


It can be easy to observe mental illness in films/books/tv shows and automatically assume the portrayal is correct or that’s the only way someone with a mental illness presents. Sadly, many fictional portrayals (especially films) can be highly stigmatised and often show sufferers to be dangerous. Also, don’t use information from tabloid newspapers. These articles can be harmful for stigma and often contain incorrect information.


This irritates me because recovery is not something that happens overnight and it’s unlikely to happen without treatment of some sort. These things take time and hard work. Acting like miraculous recovery is the norm may make people believe that that’s how it happens in real life, or that all you have to do is think positive and boom, you’re cured.


Have you written a fiction book including mental illness? Do you have any tips for writers on this topic?

6 Helpful iPhone Apps For Managing Your Mental Health

Hey everyone and welcome back to my blog. Today, I’m going to be sharing 6 apps that are great for managing your mental health. I have personally tried out all of the following apps and I have seen the potential they have in making it easier to manage your illness. I hope these apps are useful and you find something new to help you along…

(All app titles link to the App Store).


Think Ups.

Price – Free.

This is a lovely little app I discovered by accident. It contains 6 mini activities – happy taps, habit maker, mindset, positivity, breather and illuminator. All of them are based around positive thinking, good habits and mindfulness. My favourite game is positivity, which is a word search game. You are given words revolved around positivity and you have to find them in the grid.


Three Good Things.

Price – Free.

What I love about this app is how simple it is. Everyday you receive a notification to input 3 good things that happened to you that day. It’s a great way to try and pick out the positives of the day, even if it’s been a particularly tough day.


Cove.

Price – Free.

This is one of most unique apps I’ve ever come across. Cove allows you to express how you’re feeling through music. You pick an emotion and it then allows you to add a base, melody and percussion to create a song. It’s great if you’re struggling to express how you’re feeling or you can’t find words to describe it. This app is also working with NHS (you can read more about this here).


Stigma.

Price – Free with a pro option.

Stigma is an app that allows you to track your mood and add journal entries. It also has a pen pal option – where you can connect with other people in similar situations to yourself. I haven’t tried out the pen pal aspect but I can imagine how helpful that could be to someone’s support system. One of my favourite aspects of the mood tracker is you can add a visual representation of how you’re feeling, which you can track over a certain period of time (daily, weekly, monthly).


Quit That.

Price – free.

I’ve added some examples to show you how it works

This is a very simple app that allows you to track habits you want to quit. It isn’t necessarily a mental health app, however, it’s great if there are bad habits, possibly related to your illness, you’d like to stop doing. It also allows you to input if the habit costs anything per day, and it will then show you how much you’ve saved since you’ve quit, which I think is a great motivator.


Clementine.

Price – free.

This is an app that uses hypnotherapy to help you deal with the struggles you may be facing. It includes several audios to listen to in the categories sleep, confidence and de-stress. It also allows you to add mantras (or choose the surprise me option) and the app will send you reminders throughout the day to remind you of them, which is think is a lovely touch.


What apps do you find helpful in managing your mental health?

How To Deal With The Anxiety of a New Year

The thought of a new year when you have anxiety can be an overwhelming and terrifying thought. The bone crushing fear of another year full of promise, and the overwhelming expectations can end up in another year full of so much anxiety and failure that it can overwhelm you. The fear of failure is unrational, the fear of not being good enough is unrational and for the most part we know that – but that overwhelming fear is a reality for many of us who suffer with anxiety.

I for one was adamant that 2018 was ‘going to be my year’ – just like all the other years before that. Instead it ending up being another in a long line of bad health and stressful situations. There were amazing things that happened this year – including finally moving into a wheelchair accessible bungalow, starting up my blog and finally starting to write my first draft of my book. I don’t have all the answers neither am I living proof that the following things are guaranteed to work but hopefully the following advice can somehow make 2019 less of a burden for you…


Make goals.

And I don’t mean massive stuff like lose weight or learning to drive or starting a new job. I mean small, actionable goals, things you can easily cross off so you don’t feel like you’re useless and can’t do anything. For example – say you want to learn to drive, you could break that bigger goal down into actionable steps like ‘decide on learning manual or automatic’, ‘research driving instructors’, ‘contact driving instructors’ and so on and so forth until you achieve the big goal.


Surround yourself with positive people.

Unfortunately there are people in life who can become toxic and affect your mental health. Cut ties with the people who make you feel negative and bring you down instead of building you up. As hard as it may be you have to do what is best for you and if that means cutting ties with people who make you feel bad about yourself then it’s what you have to do.


Don’t expect too much from yourself.

There’s no use in pushing and pushing until you explode because that’s not going to get you anywhere. Start small and work your way up. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do things you aren’t ready for and focus on the things you are better able to do at a given moment.


Try to be proud of the little things.

Sometimes it’s easy to become fixated on all the things you can’t do. You forget that it’s the little things that get you through – getting out of bed, taking a shower or cooking a meal. To a lot of people these things may be the easiest thing in the world but for those of us with anxiety they are massive. Be proud of these small accomplishments as well as the bigger ones.


 

Do you have any advice to someone who is feeling anxious about a new year?

7 Common Misconceptions You Should Stop Believing About Eating Disorders

Like all mental illness – eating disorders carry stigma leading many people developing misconceptions. This can be extremely harmful to sufferers and can lead to them being treated in a way that is detrimental to their recovery. Here I’m going to talk some about some of those misconceptions and the truth behind them..


There are many different types of eating disorders, and so someone suffering from an eating disorder may not always be underweight. One of the biggest misconceptions is that if someone isn’t underweight then they aren’t suffering or their illness isn’t doing any harm to their body. This is far from the truth. The sufferer can be doing huge amounts of damage to their body regardless of what weight they are.


Yes, there are sufferers who fast for long periods of time but that isn’t the case for everyone. Even someone with anorexia might eat at times – that is why it’s called restrictive eating. One of the most annoying things I experienced at my worst was I would get judgemental comments about my lack of eating. Eating in public or around other people was a no go and there were times I’d fast for days. However, on most days even though I wasn’t eating enough, I was still eating.


Contrary to popular belief the increase in skinny film star/model/singer media photographs is not the cause of eating disorders. These issues are deep rooted. They burrow down into someone’s self conscious and rip apart their self esteem. Suffering from an eating disorder does not mean someone wants to look like a supermodel. Most of the time it’s not even about being skinny – it’s more about the control, and/or emptiness and these things manifest in the rules and rituals around food.


Recovery is a process – just like with any illness or disorder. Sometimes that process can take years. Even after someone is weight restored or their eating habits are healthier, it doesn’t mean their eating disorder has gone away. Learning to eat again, putting weight on, balancing out eating habits is only half the battle. Battling the thoughts and the way you feel about yourself is a longer battle that no one but the sufferer can see.


Eating disorders can affect anyone – regardless of their gender or sex. They don’t pick and choose who they affect, just like any other illness.


If only this was the case then so many beautiful souls would never have been taken before their time. Eating disorders are complex and serious mental illnesses that have the potential to cause life threatening complications. Sufferers do not choose to behave the way they do.


Eating disorders do not develop as a way to get attention. Obviously the worry and concern over someone’s eating habits or low weight can lead to the sufferer receiving more attention, but that isn’t the reason why they develop. Eating disorder sufferers will in fact go to great lengths to hide their behaviour and will possibly be in denial they have a problem.

Eating disorders are also not dramatic. Most eating disorder sufferers don’t end up in hospital like you see in the movies. They are secretive and the worst battles occur in someone’s head.


What misconceptions about eating disorders do you wish people would stop believing?