Don’t Neglect the Small Stuff

I should take my own advice more often and maybe re-read 10 Simple Ways to Start Taking Care of Yourself every few days. Self-care is important for all health, including mentsl health. It’s easier to cope when you are  eating healthily, exercising, sleeping well, etc. so it makes sense to do all you can to work towards achieving consistent healthy habits. Doing this takes a lot of effort. It’s easy to take your eye off the ball and realise that bad habits have crept back into your lifestyle — which is what has happened to me.

I was so focused on reaching my CampNaNoWriMo word target that I ignored almost everything else. Things had been going well for a few months, so I thought I could let the basics take care of themselves. I was wrong. It would be a small problem if I noticed straightaway and took action, but the habits eroded gradually and I didn’t consider the situation as a big deal; I thought I’d get around to sorting out my diet and sleep patterns sometime in the future. After all, I was busy catching up on the stuff I had neglected during CampNaNoWriMo (including this blog) and needed to focus on my career, my finances, my friendships…

But my motivation  was low and I was feeling more lethargic than I had been for ages. I started to notice more symptoms of depression slipping back into my life. Call me crazy, but I didn’t make the link straightaway. I blamed my low mood on being in debt, not progressing fast enough in my career and the buzz of CampNaNoWriMo ebbing away. It’s only in the past two days that I have realised the biggest contributors to my present state of mind are staying awake too late and stuffing myself with junk food.

I’m rectifying the situation, but I wish I had realised sooner. I suppose that’s a key characteristic of depression: you blame yourself for things beyond your control and don’t think that small stuff can help you feel a lot better. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it; at least I’m aware of what was wrong and can start tackling the real problems. I also noticed sooner than I might have done, so why be hard on myself for taking a month to address the issue when it might have taken several months?

My first course of action is to go to bed at a sensible time (and certainly before midnight) and eat a healthy breakfast. It doesn’t matter if I can’t fall asleep straight away or if I eat too many biscuits throughout the day, as long as I follow those simple steps. Once those become easier, I will add more steps — choosing healthier snacks, going to bed even earlier, building a sleep routine, cutting down on processed food, doing more exercise, etc. The key is to start, not to try to do everything at once.

I decided to share all of this in the hope that it will help other people. Recovering from mental illness — or learning to cope better with mental health conditions — is challenging. You can fly along for a while improving at a rapid speed, then sink into one of your worst episodes. You can make big improvements with tiny changes and tiny improvements with big changes. The important thing is to do whatever you can right now, even if it’s just opening the window to let in some fresh air.

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