10 Ways to Combat Depression

If you’re regular reader of this blog or if you know me in real life, you might already know that I suffer with PTSD, with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

I first realised I had depression when I was about 21. I was diagnosed with PTSD a little while after that then took anti depressants for two years and had some counselling. These things helped me reach the point of accepting exactly what I’m dealing with, that it’s not my fault or some kind of weakness and that I will probably have to cope with it for the rest of my life.

Actually learning how to cope with it has taken me years and it’s by no means something I’ve perfected. I still have bad days, weeks and months and I know I probably always will. But at least I’ve worked out some things that help (and some things that make it much worse!). I’d like to share these things with you. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, do try them out. However, I’m totally aware that mental illness is different from person to person so I cannot make any kind of guarantee that any of this will work for anyone other than myself. I’m also not a medical professional and I have no training or qualifications in this field. I’ve just done a lot of research and have my personal experience to go on.

If you use any other techniques, please share them. I’m always open to any ideas that could help me or anyone else coping with depression or anxiety.

So here’s my list of ten ways to combat depression:

  1. Healthy eating. Notice, I did not say dieting. My struggle with weight loss is really tangled up in my mental illness but dieting, for me, isn’t the answer. When I diet, I do it obsessively and not healthily. Instead, I’ve learnt that making healthy choices and making sure I’m eating lots of fresh, nutritious foods really helps me. Feeling guilty and shameful about treating myself to an ice cream or a pizza does not help me and I doubt it’ll help you either.
  2. Exercise. This does not have to involve going to the gym or taking part in any activities that you really hate (unless literally expending energy is something you hate, I suppose). Exercise could be walking, jogging, running, swimming, yoga, pilates, cardio, group classes, gym, cycling….really the list is endless. Just find something active that you can do that makes you feel good. Personally, I love long walks outdoors, somewhere peaceful and full of nature. I also enjoy cardio & pilates but only in the privacy of my own home!
  3. Get outdoors. As I said, long walks outdoors can make me happy. But just being outdoors, preferably somewhere natural, makes me feel so much better. It could be in the woods, by the seaside or a lake, or even in my local park. Just being out of your house can make you feel better, although I’m all too aware of how challenging doing that can feel some days.
  4. Read a book. This one feels very personal to me but from what I’ve read, it’s true of a lot of people. It probably feels personal because it’s a personal experience. I love to read generally anyway but if I’m having a bad day, there are a few books I can dip into for an hour or so and feel so much calmer and even a bit happier. Harry Potter is top of that list for me. If you’re stuck on what to read and you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, try reading ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. Reading that book helped to pull me out of a really bad depressive phase and I know it’s done the same for many others. In fact, the other two books I’ve read by Matt Haig (‘How to Stop Time’ and ‘The Humans’) both really helped my mood. Watching films can have a similar effect, I find, though not as consistently. Oh and ignore book snobs. If a book makes you feel good, read it, whatever some critic said.
  5. Treat yourself. This does not have to involve spending money. Given that for many people, money is something they’re often anxious about (myself included), it’s good to have a few ideas of things you can do that feel like a treat but are actually low cost or free. Having a bath, could be one example, or taking a walk (when you’ve been super busy with work or being a parent or whatever else, taking a walk on your own somewhere peaceful can feel like such a treat).
  6. Spend time with friends and/or family. I know that sometimes socialising can feel so draining and so anxiety-inducing but if you feel like you can face it then do. It doesn’t have to be meeting new people or being in a crowd or going somewhere loud. It could be a coffee with an old friend or relative. It could be sharing a special dinner with your partner or playing a game with your children.
  7. Spend time alone. Yes, I know this appears to contradict no. 6 but this isn’t a list of things to do all at once. Sometimes I really need to be with other people but sometimes I really need to be on my own. Just some peace and quiet without any expectations or obligations.
  8. Writing. Okay, so writing is something I love. But I’m not saying everyone needs to take up blogging or writing fiction. Writing in a diary could be really helpful, especially when you’re trying to work out triggers. It could just be a space to express your totally honest thoughts and feelings without worrying about the judgement of anyone else. I occasionally write letters to people I feel angry with. They’re never sent, obviously, but it genuinely makes me feel better.
  9. Practice calming techniques. This could be yoga, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, meditation. There are loads to try and I recommend giving a few a go. That way, when you’re having a bad day or feel really panicked, you’ll have a few ideas of ways you can quickly calm down, even temporarily.
  10. Take care of yourself. This is something important that I forget quite a lot: I am worth taking care of. And so are you. You are worth having a shower and putting on fresh clothes. You are worth eating proper meals. You are worth having some time to yourself for what you want to do. Yes, sometimes other things have to take priority, like work and childcare. Yes, some days just getting out of bed feels like such a challenge. But you’ll feel better if you’re clean and healthy. You’re not doing it for anyone else’s benefit, you’re doing it for yourself.

 

So there’s my list. Do comment with any of these that work for you or share other things that work for you!

If you’re having a bad day or week or month, I hope tomorrow is a better day for you. Even if it’s just a tiny bit better.

Thanks for reading.

 

Weeks Eats {7.5.17}

So my diet went completely out of the window for the early part of this week.

I did start with good intentions. I made some really tasty and healthy banana flapjacks. I love this recipe because while so many healthy flapjacks I’ve made are dry and bland, these are moist and delicious!

Banana Flapjacks

Ingredients

90g low fat butter spread

2tbsp honey

2 bananas

60g sultanas

240g oats

1tsp cinnamon

Method

Grease a square cake tin, around 20cmx20cm. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Melt the butter spread and honey together in a saucepan.

Mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork. Add the oats, cinnamon and sultanas & mix.

Add the melted honey & butter spread. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin. Gently push into the corners and flatten so that the mixture fills the tin evenly.

Bake for around 25 minutes, until golden. They will still be a bit squidgy but they’ll firm up as they cool so don’t panic!

Leave to cool a bit for around 15-20 minutes. Then slice into 12 flapjacks and carefully remove from the tin.

These are delicious warm but they can be kept in an airtight container for about 3 days.

flapjacks

Then it was Bank Holiday Monday. We had a family day out, starting with breakfast at McDonalds (shock horror) then seeing Boss Baby at the cinema (obviously involving a large bucket of popcorn) then a nice walk around town. On getting home, knackered, we quickly decided on ordering Chinese takeaway for dinner. Oh dear!

On Tuesday Husband and I had a day off together to celebrate our wedding anniversary. So we went for brunch at Ed’s Easy Diner then another cinema trip to see Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. I might have skipped on movie snacks but that brunch was epic and packed with calories – I don’t even want to think about how many. Although as it was our anniversary, I’m not going to feel guilty about treating myself!

breakfast

I’ve managed to rein things in a little later in the week. Yesterday I made a cous cous and chickpea salad that will last me 3 lunches. Meal prepping definitely helps keep me on track when dieting as there’s healthy food all ready and waiting in the fridge so I’m less likely to be tempted by unhealthy stuff.

Chickpea & Cous Cous Salad

Ingredients

150g cous cous (uncooked)

40g raisins

300ml chicken or vegetable stock

2tbsp vegetable or olive oil

2tbsp lemon juice

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

1/2tsp ground ginger

1 carrot, grated

1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed

Method

Put the cous cous and raisins in a bowl. Heat the stock (or use while still hot after making it), then pour it over the cous cous and raisins. Leave for around 8 mins or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to mix up the cous cous.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and ginger. Add this and, the chickpeas and the grated carrot to the cous cous mixture.

And that’s it! This will make 2 whole lunches or 4 lunches if you add some veggies (I had mine with steamed broccoli).

IMG_1743

What do you eat to treat yourself? How do you stick to healthy eating?

 

 

The Weeks Eats {14.4.17}

So we’re now on Easter Holidays! Is it just me or is this year going by really quickly?

With Pip at home and as we had family visiting earlier this week, we’ve been doing lots of Easter baking! To an extent, my diet has fallen by the wayside a little, although I am trying to keep with working and making sure that even if I’m having a few treats, my main meals are still healthy and low calorie. I have accepted that I’m simply not going to lose as much weight over the next couple of weeks.

But you’ve got to treat yourself, especially at special times of the year! So here are our two favourite Easter baking recipes:

Cornflake Nests

A staple recipe when cooking with children, we’ve been making these every year since Pip was about two. Only this year, now at 7 years old, has Pip been allowed to stir the melting chocolate in the saucepan (obviously with close supervision!).

IMG_1638

Ingredients: 

150g cornflakes

150g milk chocolate

75g butter

4 tbsp golden syrup

Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (optional)

Method:

Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to a small saucepan, along with the butter and golden syrup. Over a low to medium heat, stir until everything has melted. Leave for a few minutes to cool a bit (maybe while you weigh out your cornflakes).

Put the cornflakes in a large mixing bowl then pour the melted ingredients over them. Stir thoroughly to coat all the cornflakes but be careful not to crush them!

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases. Top with a couple of mini eggs, if using. Put them in the fridge for about an hour to set. Then tuck in!

Carrot Cupcakes

I wouldn’t call these healthy exactly but they are a little better than a standard cupcake. I don’t often use oil in cakes but that plus the carrots make these super moist – delicious!

carrot cupcakes

Ingredients: 

200g carrot, grated

200g self raising flour

175g light brown sugar

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2tsp mixed spice

zest 1 orange

2 eggs

150ml vegetable or sunflower oil

225g icing sugar

3-4 tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Decorations (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (160 degrees fan, gas mark 4). Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Add to a large mixing bowl the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest. Mix well.

In another bowl or jug, add the oil and eggs and whisk together thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with the carrot. Mix everything until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared paper cases.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Then allow to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, put the icing sugar in a mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract then gradually add the boiling water, mixing as you go. You should end up with a fairly thick icing but not a paste.

Use a spoon to pour icing over the cakes (who cares if it dribbles a bit, right?), then use the back of the spoon to spread the icing to cover each cake completely.

Add decorations, if using (I found these cute little carrots for mine but you could use sprinkles or anything else that takes your fancy!). Allow fifteen minutes or so for the icing to set.

 

This week I also tried out another meal prep idea. If you read the last The Weeks Eats, you’ll have seen my black bean and veg stew that lasted me a few days. This time, I’ve gone for turkey mince. I sautéed it in a little oil with a minced clove of garlic. Once it was cooked, I mixed half of it with chopped tomatoes and mixed herbs and the other half I mixed with chopped spring onions, soy sauce, honey and ginger. I shared each mixture between two food containers then added some steamed vegetables. Once they were cool, I popped them in the fridge. Four days of lovely lunches ready to go!

PicMonkey Collage-2

Plenty of other bloggers have been posting their own Easter treats too! The following are a few of my favourites. Alice from NewYoungMum made these awesome looking Speckled Easter Cake – I love the alternating sponges inside. These Easter Egg Sprinkle Cookies from Sarah’s Little Kitchen are so cute! As a big peanut butter fan, I’d love to try these Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs from Invisible No More – so beautifully decorated too!

So that’s my second The Weeks Eats done! I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping for some nice weather next week so I might be posting some of our favourite picnic ideas and recipes!

Thanks for reading.

Pop Pilates: My exercise of choice

A few years ago, I was once again in a state of temporary desperation to be fitter and healthier. I’d read or heard that pilates was supposed to be a great way to tone up so I thought it would be something to do alongside the jogging I’d started doing. I went on YouTube and searched for ‘Beginners Pilates’. What I found was this video.

For a couple of weeks, I followed this workout every other day, jogging in my local park on the other days. I started feeling stronger and healthier.

I can’t remember what derailed that particular attempt at shedding some of my excess pounds and becoming a healthier person. Maybe it was school holidays or Easter or Christmas or something. To be honest, it could have been a big takeaway curry. My willpower is my greatest enemy.

Anyway, last summer, I found myself eager to try exercise and healthy eating again. Without much consideration, I turned straight back to that video. It was, for exercise, reasonably enjoyable and it was only 30 minutes long so I could fit it into small spaces of spare time. But this time, I actually looked into the person who made and stars in the video: Cassey Ho. She’s a super perky exercise instructor, plus she’s that little bit more realistic than some instructors I’ve used the videos of. It turns out, Pop Pilates is her own form of pilates, designed to be more fun and energetic than the traditional classes. I went on the Blogilates website and found the Beginner’s Workout Calendar. I followed it diligently for four weeks and then continued for a couple of months after that, using the videos I really enjoyed (yes, actually enjoyed) and I found were working best for me.

I lost 1.5 stone in those few months. I felt so much more energetic, healthy and strong. I know I probably sound like a cheesy advert right now but it’s true!

Now three months of regular exercise and healthy eating is pretty amazing for me. But inevitably, it all ended when we went on holiday at the end of summer. I told myself I’ll forget the exercise for a few days and try to be careful with eating. Well, a few days spent at Husband’s grandmother’s house and a day trip to a theme park (ice cream and burgers galore!) and I had gone totally off plan. Then it was back to work and school routine and I completely lost my motivation. I’ve now gained back half a stone.

Now January has rolled around and, despite a slight lack of real motivation (if you read my last post, you’ll know what I mean), I know I need to give a healthy lifestyle another try. The way I see it, if I can lose a stone each year overall, I’ll be my ideal weight by the time I’m 30!

I’ll be going back to the Blogilates Beginners Calendar again. It worked before and I’m hoping it’ll work again. I genuinely recommend this exercise programme to anyone who’s been interested in trying pilates but is a little reluctant or unsure of where to begin.

Good luck to anyone else embarking on a January diet!

Thanks for reading.

(P.S I wasn’t asked to write this review of Blogilates. It’s entirely my own opinion)

Change is Good (and healthy)

I am not healthy. It’s something I realised just after Christmas. I know many of us put on a few pounds over the festive season, regretted as soon as January begins. But for me, this was a little more than that. I realised that I have gained some really unhealthy habits. It’s not even just weight gain. I don’t feel healthy. I know that’s a bit of an abstract thing to say but it’s just that feeling of unhealthiness. I’ve never been skinny and I’ve been a bit overweight since having Pip but I always felt ok. Now I actually don’t, which is quite worrying really.

I do walk for around two hours every weekday but that is all of the exercise I regularly do. I’ll occasionally do half an hour of pilates but nothing regular.

I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. The problem is, I also eat plenty of everything else. It’s always been a problem of mine. I am always hungry. Put food near me and I’m bound to eat it. It’s shameful really, having so little self control.

So, I need to make some changes. I am not going on a strict diet and exhausting exercise regime. I’ve been there and done that and it simply does not work for me. I do not have the self control. So it’s time for a different approach.

First of all,  I’m going to give the 5:2 diet a try. Supposedly it’s the diet for people who find it difficult to stick to diets. It’s also not very strict. You simply only eat 500 calories on two days of the week and try to eat reasonably for the other five days. No list of allowed foods or recipes. No disgusting shakes made from powder that never seems to quite dissolve. No special supplements.

Secondly, I’m going to make healthier food decisions. No, I’m not cutting out chocolate or banning takeaways. I’m simply going to choose healthier options. Instead of ice cream, I’ll choose frozen yoghurt. Instead of crisps, I’ll choose air popped popcorn. I’ll try to cut down on my portions a bit too. After she got a little used to eating treats over Christmas, I’ve imposed a ‘No treats on weekdays’ rule for Pip. Well, it seems a bit hypocritical if I say this to her then dive into the chocolates as soon as she’s in bed. So I’m going to try and stick to it as well. No chocolate or sweets on weekdays. That’s not denying myself them completely, it’s just putting a more healthy habit in place. Who knows, I might find myself enjoying these things a bit more if I have to wait for them.

Thirdly, I’m going to try and do some more regular exercise. I think twice a week to begin with then maybe push it up to three times. I really want to get back into jogging and I’ll stick with pilates too as my belly has been a mess for five years and it’s time I sorted it out!

I think the main thing is to remind myself that I actually enjoy lots of healthy foods. They don’t have to boring or taste bad. So I really want to look at a few recipes that are healthy, easy to make and taste yummy. Here are a few breakfast ones:

Honey & cinnamon porridge

Hot and comforting on a cold morning, this is also favourite of Pip’s. The honey and cinnamon honestly do make it taste just as good as porridge sweetened with sugar and much, much better than a fry up! Also, if you half the portion and use water instead of milk, it makes a great breakfast for fast days on the 5:2 diet.

40g porridge oats

270ml skimmed milk

2 tsp honey

a pinch of cinnamon

1. Add the oats and milk to a saucepan over a medium heat. Then add the honey and cinnamon.

2. Stir until the porridge is as thick as you prefer.

Banana Smoothie

Unlike lots of smoothie recipes, this has no expensive or strange ingredients and tastes wonderful. Also makes a quick and easy breakfast.

1 banana

250 ml skimmed milk

2 tsp honey

Put all ingredients into a blender, blend (obviously) and serve. So simple and so yummy.

Crumpets topped with yoghurt, berries and honey

I think this was one of the Hairy Biker’s diet recipes. I’ve only had it once or twice and, despite being healthy, it actually feels like a real treat! Fat free yoghurt is one of those ingredients that doesn’t cost any extra and I really don’t think tastes too different either.

2 crumpets

About 2 tbsp of fat free yoghurt

About 100g frozen berries (I like raspberries but you could use whichever you like best)

1 tsp honey

Put the frozen berries in a saucepan and heat to thaw and warm up. Creates lots of lovely juice too. Toast the crumpets and serve topped with the yoghurt, then the warm berries and some of their juice (if you use it all, you might find you get a soggy crumpet and nobody wants that…) and then drizzle the honey on top.

I’ll post some nice, healthy and simple lunch and dinner recipes at some point too.

I’m really hoping that with a few changes to my lifestyle, I’ll start to feel better again. Wish me luck!