Talking About It

Since starting my blog, I’ve always declared myself as a ‘mental health blogger.’ My aim has always been to write about mental wellbeing and ways to improve emotional health. I tend to refrain from talking about my own mental health as I don’t think this would be particularly helpful for readers or myself. As I make the move from student nurse to qualified mental health nurse in the next few weeks, I’ve made the tough decision to take my blog in a slightly different direction. This isn’t to say that I won’t still be sharing snippets of my life, but things are going to go back to the vision I had for my blog initially: to educate, to provoke thought and mostly, to help.

So welcome to No Space For Milk 2.0.

Even in the three short years that I’ve been blogging, things have changed immensely online regarding awareness of mental health. Most of this has been really positive. We’re talking about mental health a lot more, it’s getting easier to signpost people to help and things like taking anti-depressants are becoming much more normalised, rather than a taboo.

But sadly, we still have a really long way to go, particularly in the ways we talk about mental health online.

There appears to be much more understanding of both anxiety and depression online. People are beginning to talk more openly about the realities of these mental illnesses, the ways that they can manifest differently for different people and how we can help ourselves and each other. But at times it almost feels like we’ve gone backwards. It’s very clear from reading online that many people think all ‘millennials’ have anxiety or that depression is a form of laziness. Of course, we could all just give little thought to the people who believe these things, but that’s difficult when you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, especially for those who struggle to leave the house. If your world becomes social media, you might be seeing these opinions daily and it’s easy to allow those to infiltrate your brain, making you feel worse about yourself.

However, I do think that on the whole, that anxiety and depression are some of the more well understood illnesses.

Despite the fact that it’s becoming more and more okay to talk about anxiety and depression, unfortunately there’s still a huge amount of stigma around other mental illnesses. Schizophrenia, personality disorders and bipolar disorder continue to conjure images of psychiatric hospitals, axe-wielding maniacs and an assumption that people living with these illnesses cannot maintain a ‘normal’ life. This is completely untrue but perhaps more understandable when we see the way the media portray these mental illnesses. However, those who use social media have the power to change perceptions so when we talk about mental health, we should also be talking about the more complex illnesses.

Finally, there’s the ongoing debate of awareness vs action that I repeatedly see on Twitter. I’m a big believer that any small change is worthy and will contribute to bigger change. I also think that in regard to mental health, awareness is equally as important as action, however it seems that my opinion isn’t shared by everyone. While it would be amazing if there was something we could do to improve waiting times for therapies or find more inpatient beds for those in need, for many of us, the most we can do is help to build awareness of mental health conditions. And, social media is a fantastic platform for that, if we can continue to use it in a helpful way.

Do you think talking about mental health issues online is helpful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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New Chapter

At the beginning of this year I was getting married, in two week’s time in fact. The date is burned into my brain. It was going to be an anniversary date to remember for the rest of my life.

And now, I’m not.

The date is simply going to fade into the oblivion of the other 364 days in the year.

A hard part of this whole experience is juggling other people’s expectations and opinions. When they hear that I’m not getting married anymore, they assume a relationship breakdown and that isn’t the case. We’re together and happy. Obviously I’m not going to go into the ins and outs but we’re just not getting married.  But of course everyone will have their opinions so I’ve just got really good at smiling, nodding and acting like I’m taking things on board when I’m actually thinking about what to have for dinner.

I’ve really been umming and ahhing over publishing this post for a number of reasons. In spite of my blog, I’m a really private person and I just wasn’t sure about putting this on the internet.

But in the end, I’ve decided yes, because the part I’ve found so difficult is comparing my life to everyone else’s. Through the filters of Instagram and the highlights reels we portray online, it can seem like everyone is living in a fairytale of Starbucks and cocktails. But that’s not real life and sometimes it’s important to share the bad parts too.

I have multiple friends getting married this year, and while that’s difficult in some ways, I’m also really happy for them. Their relationship isn’t mine and their lives aren’t mine and we’re all just taking different paths. But man is it hard to not compare yourself to everybody who is seemingly ‘moving on with their lives.’ But in the last couple of months I’ve taken a step back and seen that things are moving just fine with my life. I was just struggling to see that in the greyer days.

We’re a few months on now and things are significantly better. Learning not to compare yourself to others is a challenge and one that needs to be worked on. It won’t come overnight but it’s a lesson for life.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Seeking Direction By Choosing A Direction

I’m just as unsure as you are about where I was going with today’s title. In the last few months of 2017, I was really unclear about the direction of my blog. I often felt like I was floundering, trying to come up with blog posts ideas that didn’t quite fit what I wanted to write because I felt it was what I should be writing. However, after a refresh over Christmas and a good long planning session, I’ve decided to make a few changes. Maybe I don’t know which direction I’m going in for sure just yet, but I’ll make a start on this one and hope for the best.

Content

I’ve always been intent on the idea that No Space For Milk is a mental health blog first and foremost. But as my blog has progressed, so has the direction I want to go in. As much as mental health is still something I’m going to talk about here, there’s going to be much more emphasis on self-improvement. I asked on Instagram what you like reading and it was clear that most people enjoyed my long form rambling thought pieces which is great because those are what I love writing. So there’s going to be loads more life rambles, reflections and personal development posts.

Books

I’ve spent the last year half-heartedly writing book reviews. I’ve toyed with full posts per book, monthly roundups and theme specific posts but my heart just isn’t in it. I love books more than I love most people but writing book reviews just isn’t for me. I want to read the book, feel the emotions that pour out of the page and let the stories live on in my head long after I’ve read them, but I just really don’t want to write about them. Heck, I barely even read book reviews (Shout out to Lauren EvieAlmost Amazing Grace and Adventure and Anxiety who always get it so right and make me want to buy every book under the sun!). I’ve been desperate to find a format that works for me and my blog just isn’t the place for it, which leads me onto my next point quite nicely…

Instagram

Oh Instagram, don’t we all love to hate you? I fell out of love with you long ago but this year the game is on. You’re going to see a lot more books on my Insta. I want snappy reviews, immediate reactions to what I’ve just read and pretty book covers, whether that’s through Instagram stories or on the grid. Listen to me using ‘on the grid,’ who do I think I am?

I’m also stuffing any kind of schedule. Look at us all running round trying to post at the right times to get maximum engagement. Jokes on you because the algorithm is still going to screw us all. Even if it tells you the best time to post is 7pm, would you even believe it? We all know Instagram is that girl who says she drank 10 vodka cokes but couldn’t even get through 2 without vomming behind the Chinese takeaway.

Twitter

Twitter has long been my favourite social media platform. I just love instant gratification, okay? But seriously, Twitter is the best place to make friends and find new blogs and this year I’m going to do that to the max.

Last year started off with the best intentions, I was going to schedule tweets and join in on Twitter chats but it kind of tailed off. However, this year I’m shaking off the failures of last year and starting again. I can’t wait to discover some amazing new accounts.

Writing

And one last thing, I’m writing an e-book, kind of, sort of. I say kind of because my crippling self doubt won’t allow me to say anything more concrete. At the moment, I’m going to keep schtum on the content matter, just in case things take a slightly different turn while I’m writing. But for now, I will just say it’s non-fiction and I’m excited about it.

Here’s to 2018!

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Why Is Looking After Your Mental Health Embarrassing?

My favourite section of any bookshop has long been the self-help section. I love reading books on wellness and mindfulness and anxiety, basically anything to do with improving your mental wellbeing. For a long time I was always a little nervous of heading into that quiet corner of the shop. What if someone saw the books I was looking at and wondered what was ‘wrong’ with me?

More recently I was sitting on the bus with a guided meditation app playing in my earphones when it suddenly occurred to me to make sure that the screen was off so that no one saw what app I was using. As someone who is quite happy to talk about their mental health, why do I feel so uncomfortable if people find out that I’m making a conscious effort to look after it?

We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad. Some people can take care of theirs without much effort, some need a little more help, whether that’s through therapy or medication or self help books. And whilst I know there’s nothing embarrassing about that, there’s still some social stigma around people knowing that it’s effort for you.

No one would bat an eyelid over you stretching your legs to make an injury feel better or popping antacids for some indigestion, so why do we feel embarrassed about looking after our mental health?

Maybe some people find having a positive outlook easy but for me, it’s definitely something that I have to work on. I frequently overwork myself or don’t give myself enough credit and as a result I often overlook the positive aspects of my life in favour of the negatives. Over the past couple of years I’ve made a real effort to do everything I can to make sure that my mental health is just as good as my physical health is. I exercise regularly, I aim to get enough sleep every day, I have a mood tracker, I do yoga, I practice meditation, I set myself goals, I don’t drink too much alcohol (most of the time).

Whilst I talk about lots of those things on my blog, I would rarely tell anyone in ‘real life’ that I meditate or that I fill in a mood tracker every day. For me, on some levels, it does feel a little embarrassing that I need to make the effort. Surely everyone else doesn’t have to go to the same lengths to keep their mental health in peak condition.

But on reflection, looking after my mental health doesn’t feel so much different to looking after my physical health. When I go to the gym and eat well, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud for taking matters into my own hands, for working hard and for seeing results when I look in the mirror. When I look after my mental health, I should feel the same. But at the moment there’s definitely a wall there for me.

I hope that 2018 is the year that I can proudly tell people that I meditate because it makes me feel calmer, that I track my mood so that I can see if certain days, or times of the month are good or bad for me and that looking after my mental health isn’t something that comes as easily to me as my physical health.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Looking After Your Mental Health in Winter

Whether it’s panicking about how you’re going to afford Christmas or you just feel miserable when the sun isn’t shining, Winter contributes to a dip in mood for lots of people. Grey skies, dark mornings and being cold ALL THE TIME are bad enough without all the extra stress on your mental health.

Here are a few ways to make things easier on yourself in the Winter months.

It’s okay not to be super excited about Christmas

When you’re not feeling 100%, the last thing you want is feeling like everyone else around you is having a holly jolly Christmas. Winter time and Christmas can be really hard for some people, whether it’s dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder or difficulties around spending Christmas with your family. It’s totally okay to take a step back from the festivities and make extra time for self-care.

Choose handmade

Christmas shouldn’t be a competition over who can spend more. It shouldn’t wrack you with fear searching for a Secret Santa present. You shouln’t feel panicked about getting THE BEST gift. Christmas isn’t about money, it’s about whatever you want it to be about, whether that’s spending time with family, friends, religion, whatever. You do you.

It can be really hard when everyone seems to be Christmas shopping from the start of November but instead why not give a handmade gift or something sentimental over something expensive. Getting into debt for Christmas is never worth it and who doesn’t love a handmade gift anyway?

Ignore the food guilt

We all reach for the carbs a little more in Winter than in the warmer months and maybe that means the scales go up a teeny bit, but what you’re not going to do is beat yourself up for it.

Try and get some exercise each day if you can and stay hydrated if you’re drinking alcohol.

Invest in a SAD lamp

If you struggle with getting up in a morning and feel like your mood is impossible to lift in Winter, maybe it’s time to invest in a sad lamp. I have the Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise and Sunset Features and it’s changed the Winter months for me so much.

I love that the light starts half an hour before I have to get up so sleepy little me can get used to it before I open my eyes and I also set it before I go to bed so that the light goes out gradually and I feel much more able to relax before bedtime.

What do you do to look after your mental health in winter? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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