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.

 

Top 5 Ways to be Healthier as a Busy Parent

Type ‘weight loss’, ‘diet’ or ‘healthy lifestyle’ into a search engine and you’re going to get a lot of Bloggers, Vloggers and Instagrammers promoting their own ideas of how to be healthier. I have read abIMG_1486out countless different eating and exercise plans. Aside from some of them being actually very unhealthy (Paleo diet, I’m looking at you), they all seem to share one pretty big flaw.

They’re almost impossible to follow if you’re a busy parent.

I’m using the term ‘busy parent’ because I want to encompass a range of people in that. I, for example, have one child plus I have two jobs, one a part time retail job and the other my self employed work. I would say that I am, a lot of the time, busy. But I’m well aware that there are parents with multiple children and full time jobs who are even busier than me.

I would say that I am currently leading a pretty healthy lifestyle and losing weight at what is considered a healthy rate (about 2lb per week). So I thought I’d come up with some healthy living tips of my own that are actually achievable:

1. Make healthy choices. You don’t need to change absolutely everything you eat. You also don’t need to buy expensive trendy ingredients. I have personally never eaten a chia seed, nor do I envision doing so anytime soon. You also don’t need to faff about with separating eggs – just eat the whole damn thing, it’s all good for you! The only reason you should be separating eggs is if you’re making a bloody meringue! Instead, just tweak things a bit. Go for lower fat options (be careful though, the fat might have been replaced with sugar!). If you order a pizza, choose a small thin crust with lots of veggies on top. I know a lot of people cut down on the sugar in tea or coffee but I have found that impossible (I have a serious sweet tooth) so instead I massively cut down on how much tea I drink.

2. Portion control. As someone who cooks for myself and two other people every night, it would take up an awful lot of my time if I prepared separate meals for myself. Instead, I cook ordinary family dinners then give myself a mini portion. For example, if I cook a cottage pie (a favourite in my house) then I’ll still have a small amount of it, probably with a big portion of veggies or salad on the side.

3. Count calories. I know it’s boring but its an effective way of making sure you’re not eating too much (or too little!). It can also be made really easy by using an app like MyFitnessPal, which is free in it’s simplest form. I use it fullsizeoutput_383and I’ve never found a need to upgrade to the premium account. You can use it to easily keep track of your calories, nutrients and macros as well as your weight loss, if that’s your goal. It’s database has information on loads of different products from all the major supermarkets and brands. You can also store recipes on it so you can quickly and easily add in dishes that you eat regularly. If you don’t like this app, there are plenty of others available to try out.

4. Find an exercise that can be done at home in 30 minutes or less. Finding time to hit the gym or even go for a run can be difficult when you’ve got a busy schedule or little people to take care of. For me, using online exercise videos has really helped. There are tons available and most of them are less than 30 mins long. This means that I can fit them in even when I haven’t got lots of time. However, I would say that a daily workout is not really necessary – the NHS recommends 150 minutes of aerobic and two strength training sessions per week. Also remember that a walk in the park with the kids counts as aerobic exercise!

IMG_15135. Prepare food in advance. I’ve only just started doing this and I’m already seeing the benefits. I’m much more likely to pick a healthy snack if it’s readily available. Also, cooking a larger batch of food takes not much longer than a single portion. Currently, I’ve got two servings of black bean chilli in the fridge and I love knowing that my lunch is sorted for the next two days!

 

 

 

I hope you find my tips helpful. Do share any of your own ways to stay healthy as a busy parent!

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)

It’s all good…

The title of this post might seem odd to a lot of people. There’s a lot of anxiety in Britain right now after the EU referendum and with the political parties picking new leaders. I was getting pretty stressed over this stuff so I’m writing this post to focus on the good things that are happening in my life right now…

After six years of study, I have finally been awarded my degree! 

It’s not something I really thought I’d manage, after dropping out of sixth form and having to support myself living alone at a fairly young age. But with lots of encouragement and support from my Husband (thank you!) and some very useful funding, I’ve done it! I really feel proud of myself, which is quite a rare thing for me. I feel like I’ve overcome the difficulties I had from my tricky childhood and I guess this is a real sign of how far I’ve come.

 

I had a night out with my Husband! 

This may sounds very mundane but fellow parents will know how rare this is. Even if we hire a babysitter, we can’t really relax. But this time, my lovely brother-in-law came to visit and looked after Pip while we went out. We had such a great time and it really reminded me of how we were before becoming parents. Of course I was suffering a bit the next day but it was worth it!

 

I’m actually managing to successfully diet! 

I have started diets too many times to count and they never go very well or last very long. But with my weight hitting an all time high, I’ve been really determined to do something about it. I’m now in my fifth week and I’ve lost just over a stone, just through eating healthily and exercising, mainly videos from Blogilates , a site full of free pilates and cardio videos, plus lots of healthy recipes and other tips. I’m starting to feel and see the difference in my body. I feel so much healthier and stronger than I did five weeks ago.

 

My work life is improving! 

Firstly, I’ve been moved departments at work. This wasn’t exactly my choice but it’s meant I have more working hours and therefore a bit more of a wage, which is always nice. Plus, being trained at something new is always good. I’m also looking for full time work and I’ve had a couple of interviews recently which I’m really hopeful will lead somewhere good.

 

It’s nearly the summer holidays! 

I’m lucky enough to have some time off with Pip and even a little bit with Husband too. I’m busy planning tons of fun stuff to do. It’s going to be an awesome six weeks!

 

So there! Plenty of great things are happening right now. I think it’s really important to remember that when things get tough.

What good things are happening in your life right now?

Going healthy for a very good cause

I have started dieting again. Yes, I’ve done this over and over again and it I always lose a bit then give up.

This time, I have a better reason. It’s not about fitting into a little dress or getting to a certain weight. It’s about my daughter.

Just over a week ago, my daughter offered me a piece of chocolate and I refused (I had already decided to lose some weight). I explained that I was trying to be healthier because I weighed too much. She looked outraged and insisted that I looked ‘perfect’. At first I thought she was just being sweet but as we spoke more, it became clear that she believed it. She really thought that I’m what a healthy adult looks like. I realised that I have been setting her a terrible example. I make sure she eats plenty of fruit and veggies and refuse too many unhealthy snacks. I’ve taught her about what foods are healthy and unhealthy. But then I sit there munching through crisps, chocolate, pizza, sugary drinks and endless amounts of other crap with very little good in between. I’ve basically sent her the message that she needs to be healthy now but as soon as she’s an adult, being like me is normal and fine. I’m not going to shy away from this – I felt awful.

So, that was the kick up the backside that I’ve needed for a while now. I bought some bathroom scales and weighed myself. That was something of a shock, let me tell you. I knew I was overweight but I didn’t realise how far I’d let myself go. I was obese. I weighed just about 14st and at 5ft 7, that is not good. That gave me my second wake up call. I was going to lead myself into all kinds of health problems if I didn’t change now.

For the last week and a bit, I’ve been much healthier. I’m not on a crazy diet, I’m just making healthy choices. I’ve lost half a stone so far. That’s a lot for one week but I know that’s just because it’s the first week – it’s bound to slow down. I’m aiming for 2lb per week, the healthy amount to lose according to health professionals. More than just shedding weight, I’m already feeling a bit stronger and more energetic. I’m doing a mixture of brisk walking, jogging and pilates.

I’m also joining in with Pip’s tennis lessons on Saturdays and I hope that’s something we can carry on together. She loves running too so I think we might try having a run in the park together. We’ve also been trying out new healthy recipes and snacks. I really want to show her what being healthy as an adult looks like.

I have no aspirations of being skinny or super toned, I just want to be within the healthy weight range and reasonably fit. Rather than my usual rush to get there as soon as possible, I’m taking it a bit slower and giving myself a full year to get there.

I’m really hoping I can maintain it this time around. With the motivation of knowing I’m doing this for my little girl as well as myself, I’m feeling positive.

Wish me luck!

Review: JoggBox

I think I recently mentioned that I have started occasionally going for a run. I know I need to be healthier and do more exercise and running is a free and easy way of doing this, although it had become more tricky now that the evenings are darker and the weather isn’t as dry or warm. So I need a bit of extra motivation. Luckily, there’s a subscription box just for runners!

P1020862

Yesterday I received the JoggBox. It’s a nicely presented green box and inside are all kinds of goodies.

P1020864There’s a booklet containing some running tips, a healthy recipe idea and a list of the other items in the box.

The Flipbelt. An innovative running belt with easily secured pouches. I think this will be really useful, especially as I love listening to music when I run.

joggbox collageBeet It Pro-Elite Beetroot & Oat Flapjack. Designed to provide the energy and nutrients you need for running. I’m hoping this will be quite tasty.

Rude Health Drinking Oats. A box of oats that are stirred into cold drinks. Full of slow release energy. I’m really not sure how nice the texture is going to be but I’ll certainly give it a try!

Battle Oats Cranberry & Blueberry Fusion. The booklet does say I’m supposed to have a dark choc chip flavour bar but given that I’m not keen on dark chocolate, I don’t mind the mistake at all! This is a high protein oat flapjack that is wheat and gluten free.

High5 EnergyGel sachets. Apple flavoured gel that you simply open and swallow after 30 minutes of exercise for an energy boost. This will easily fit into my lovely Flipbelt and might help keep me running for a little longer!

High5 Zero electrolyte tablets. Dissolve in water, designed to keep you hydrated and energised for longer. I don’t actually take a drink out on a run with me usually but maybe having this before and after a run will keep me running foP1020868r longer periods and stop me collapsing on the sofa when I get home!

Halo Non Bio Sport Detergent. A specialised washing detergent specifically for washing the sweat and odour from sportswear. I must say, I’ve never had a problem getting sweat or odour out of my clothes with my ordinary detergent but I’ll give this a try.

I’m quite impressed with the variety of items in the box and I think many of them will be quite useful and hopefully enjoyable. I’ll post more about each item as I try using them.

Please note: I received one JoggBox free of charge for the purposes of an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

Becoming fitter & healthier: My progress

I’ve always been something of a yo-yo dieter. During my early teens, my weight rocketed to 12 stone before quickly plummeting to just over 8. For a few years, between the ages of 16 and 19, I found a balance at nine and a half stone, where I felt comfortable and healthy and actually fairly good about my appearance. I wasn’t super skinny but I just don’t have a body type that suits that.

I will entirely admit that after having a baby, I put on a lot of weight. Being at home and going through periods of depression really took their toll and I found myself not really caring about my health or well being at all.

Since moving to Cardiff, where I felt happier and more comfortable, I’ve tried dieting a few times. It always goes well until the weight loss starts to plateau, a common problem with losing weight I’ve heard, and my motivation just crumbles away.

At the beginning of this year, one of my goals was to not bother with dieting but to try and make a real effort to be healthier. I’ve failed this goal, I’m afraid, as I’m actually now trying out the 5:2 diet. I don’t feel too guilty about this though, since I’m actually finding it so easy to follow, it doesn’t feel like any of the other diets I’ve tried in the past at all. For most of the week, I can almost forget entirely that I’m even on a diet and for the two fast days, if I keep busy I find I don’t really feel too hungry either.

But the main way I’m now trying to become healthier is through exercise. Running around the park with Pip tires me out far too quickly and, to be honest, I’m scared of becoming one of those mums that can’t actually engage in any active play with their children at all. So rather than focusing on reaching a certain weight goal or dress size as I have done in the past, my goal in exercising is to increase my stamina and agility so that I can keep up with my energetic four year old, no matter what we’re doing.

I’ve been doing two forms of exercise. Running, which I’ve been doing three times a week for the last three weeks, and pilates, which I’ve done twice now and plan to keep doing twice a week.

Since I’m a complete beginner to running, I’ve been using a series of podcasts designed by the NHS Change 4 Life initiative called ‘Couch to 5k’. Each podcast is around half an hour long and guides you through your run, telling you when to run and when to slow down to walking for a minute or two. As the weeks go on, you slowly progress to more running and less walking. On week 1, you only run for sixty seconds at a time. Now on week three, I’m running for 3 minutes at a time and that’ll increase to 5 minutes next week. By the end of week 9, I should be running for thirty minutes without any walking breaks. Because it’s such gentle progress, I really feel like I can keep this up. I’m even finding that I enjoy my run, especially as I’m now with Pip all day long since she finished at nursery. That little bit of time to myself three evenings a week are really refreshing and peaceful. Also, because the amount of running increases gradually, I don’t feel daunted by the extra running time at the beginning of each week. I find I’m actually looking forward to getting to five minutes next week. I know it doesn’t sound like much but it feels like an achievement to me and a step towards being fitter and healthier.

For pilates, where I’m also a complete beginner, I’ve been using a 30 minute beginners workout that I found on Youtube. My belly, legs and arms ache afterwards but I found my second session a teeny bit easier to cope with than my first. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to progress to more advanced videos before too long!

All in all, I really feel like I’m taking some good steps towards improving my health and fitness. I’m going to keep trying to focus on feeling more energetic and healthy rather than on weight loss or dropping dress sizes but of course, it would be a nice bonus!