How I Improved My Mental Health

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I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on mental health, and taking proactive steps towards self-improvement, and mindfulness. Today I’m sharing how I improved my mental health, what worked (and what didn’t), plus my goals at the moment.

This blog post was originally written in 2017, and was updated in July 2020. I am an Amazon Associate, meaning I earn commission from qualifying purchases. This blog post contains affiliate links.

My Current Goals:

  1. Get good grades at university.
  2. Improve my physical health.
  3. Improve my mental health.

The first two are quite self-explanatory – I’ve gotta study, eat better, and exercise… less sporadically. But how am I going to improve my mental health? It’s not like I can just switch off the anxiety and low moods, right?

Firstly, I think that by working towards my other two goals, like focusing on my university work, will help me feel more positive in general through a sense of achievement. Improving my physical health with exercise and better eating will definitely assist my mental wellbeing too. A lot of my stress is caused by university essays (I’m currently working on one, and clearly procrastinating by writing this blog post), but if I give myself more time to read and learn about the topics, I’m sure I won’t feel like the world is going to implode on deadline day.

How I Improved My Mental Health

Medication

In the past, I have been prescribed propranolol for panic disorder, which works by lowering my heart-rate and helping the physical symptoms of panic attacks.

I was first prescribed propranolol at the age of 17, after trying various contraceptive pills to help with my mental health issues and severely heavy, painful periods. Spoiler alert: the contraceptive pills did not help, and probably did more harm than good (for me).

I no longer feel the need to have propranolol, which shows just how far I’ve come in the last few years. My Dr advises to keep some just in case I need it, but I haven’t reached for it at any point in the past few months.

Diagnoses Can Be Wrong

I’ve had two courses of CBT therapy, many appointments with my GP, and seen a psychiatrist. Eventually, it became clear that generalised anxiety and depression, were not the correct diagnoses. At one point in my life, during my first year of university, I was told I have bipolar disorder, by an incredibly unprofessional psychiatrist (or psychologist? I’m not sure), on the first day I’d met them. I’m pretty sure they just saw ‘mood swings’ on my record and then assumed bipolar?!

Anyway, after years of therapy and trying out various medications, finally my wonderful GP connected all the dots and diagnosed me with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), and my therapist diagnosed C-PTSD (Complex PTSD).

Currently, I take an SSRI every morning (Sertraline, or Zoloft if you’re in the US). I take 50mg per day, and have been for nearly a year now. I completed another course of CBT, and I focus on reducing the stress in my life. Self-Care is the sh*t. Sertraline hasn’t been an entirely positive experience, I was unlucky enough to have some seizures during my first month or so of taking it, but now I’m doing so much better. I’ll make sure to write a blog post detailing my full experience with Sertraline in the future.

I still have issues with sleeping, due to nightmares and finding it very difficult to ‘switch off’ my mind, but that’s something else I’m trying to work on. I even tried CBD for sleeping, and wrote a blog post about it. At the moment I sometimes take a herbal remedy to help me settle down before sleeping, and spray my pillow with this calming spray from Feather and Down. I also use the Sleep Cycle app to monitor how well I’ve been sleeping.

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Mindfulness Meditation

When I discovered that I have aphantasia, which means I can’t visualise, I thought that meditation wasn’t for me. Many guided meditations focus on ‘visualising’ or creating images in your mind’s eye, and I literally cannot do that. I wrote all about aphantasia here if you’re interested!

A symptom of PTSD that I’ve struggled with is depersonalisation and derealisation. Mindfulness meditation helps with that a lot. Mindfulness makes you focus on the present, and I’ve been practicing it almost every day. I’m currently using the Calm app for guided meditations, and I love it.

How I Improved My Mental Health

Self-Care & Self-Help

At this point, you probably know that I’m a big supporter of Self-Care. It really did change my life. Make sure to get my free Self-Care printables, and have a look at my Self-Care checklist for 2020.

I also like to read books on positivity, psychology, mindfulness and general self-help books, because well… I’ve needed all the help I can get.

Many people roll their eyes at self-help books, but I find that they do help my mindset. I’ll be honest, some self-help books are absolute crap. You also have to remember that there’s not much point in reading them if you’re not going to implement the advice given. However, I like to learn about different approaches to personal development and mental health, so it has been useful to read various perspectives, methods, and discover new ideas within self-care and mindfulness.

Some Self-Help Books I have enjoyed and found helpful:

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear. I absolutely recommend this one above all others! It’s brilliant. James Clear teaches how to build, break, and stack habits.
  • How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh. The perfect little relaxation book, I often re-read this one. Written by a Zen Master, it introduces the concepts of mindfulness, and how to use it for wellbeing.
  • This is Not A Diet Book by Bee Wilson. This book helped me evaluate and improve my relationship with food. Bee Wilson is an award-winning food writer, and her book is ‘a collection of calm, practical tips and ideas on healthier, happier eating’.
  • The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi. I read this on my Kindle one day, and didn’t put it down until I’d finished. ‘Rich in wisdom, The Courage to Be Disliked will guide you through the concepts of self-forgiveness, self-care, and mind decluttering.’ I really enjoyed the format of this book, it’s written as a series of dialogues between a philosopher and a student.
  • Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight. Sometimes you just need a bit of tough love to help motivate you. This book certainly did that for me! This one also tackles the concept of mind decluttering, as well as the power of negative thinking.
  • The 20-something Guide to Getting It Together by Mary Traina. Ever heard of a ‘quarterlife crisis?’ This book was a gift from my Mum, to help me survive my twenties. It’s funny, and includes lots of useful advice.

Feel free to add me on Goodreads if you’re looking for more book recommendations, and check out my book blog posts here.

Journaling, Writing, Blogging.

Journaling and blogging are very therapeutic for me, especially when I have the time to sit down with a cup of tea and just write about absolutely anything I want, like today. I can hear the noisy London traffic outside, but it’s very peaceful to sit here and write, with a view of the park.

I’ve also been going through Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel, it’s a really fun and creative mindful journal.

I’m not setting any blogging goals at the moment, because I simply don’t want to destroy the joy I have for writing and being creative on this platform. I could exceed beyond my wildest dreams, or not grow at all for months.

I’d rather enjoy the community, creativity and writing aspects of my blog and YouTube channel, than get caught up in numbers and analytics. Instead, I have some lovely friends I’ve made through blogging, many wonderful experiences, and some great gals I can chat to if I’m feeling down. It’s wonderful.

What are your goals and how are you working towards them?

That’s how I have improved my mental health over the past few years. If you’re struggling, I hope some of this helped you. I still have a long way to go, but I’m doing so much better!

All the best,

Emily

Find me here: Bloglovin | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

(AD) P.S. Did you find my blog through Pinterest? I bet you did! Big Pin Energy is the ebook I studied to skyrocket my blog in 2020, it's the best investment I've made in my 6 years of blogging.

17 comments

  1. Good luck on all of your goals! I think it’s a great idea to do things that would tick off two or more goals at once – makes the load seem a lot lighter.

    I’m also aiming to improve my physical health by incorporating more of a vegetarian lifestyle, and so far so good! I’d love to grow my confidence more as I have horrendous self-doubt at the moment… I’m intrigued by that book you mentioned “get your sh*t together” – will you be doing a blog post on it?

    Lizzie Bee // http://www.hellolizziebee.com

  2. I love this post and I think your goals for this year are amazing, I really hope you can achieve everything you’re aiming for! Your 3rd new year’s resolution is on my list as well, I really want to work on getting better this year. I will hopefully start working soon and I like the idea of reading self-help books, I’ll have a look at the ones you mentioned. I find journaling and blogging very effective as well as reading and going for a walk. I especially love going for a walk on Sundays, it always make me feel like I’m living in a small town instead of London and everything is so calm and peaceful xx

    113thingstosay.com

  3. These all look like books I should probably read! I definitely need some help in the self-care department. Thanks for your recommendations! x

    Lexie
    nailgirl.net

  4. This is an awesome post! You have great outlook on how to take on New Years resolutions, my resolutions are very similar so it is inspiring to see someone else working towards the sales goals as myself. Good luck on all of this girl and great book recommendations!

    Xo
    Allison
    Butwhatshouldiwear.com

  5. It’s definitely good idea to look for a part time job. That really helps to keep your mind busy and not to worry too much. And that’s great you’ve got something that you really love (writing), it’s something you can focus on. I wish you all the best.

  6. What a wonderful post, and a fantastic set of goals! I’m working on my physical and mental health this year, too. I want to get fitter, and lose some weight. And I want to try and kick anxiety’s butt. In fact, I have a Dr’s appointment to discuss going back on some form of medication to help as I am having panic attack after panic attack at the moment. Good for you for going back on the meds and for doing what you can for your mental health. I know you’ll do great in 2017! x http://www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

  7. This is a brilliant post and good luck with your goals. I’m working on my mental health too, it’s hard but worth it. I’m starting CBT monday so that should help! I have had three in the past and they were brilliant! Having PTSD is a hard one but I want to overcome my triggers and sort my GAD and OCD out as well!

    Fix Me In Forty Five – A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog
    Blog Lovin’ // Instagram
    xx

  8. I started taking meds for my anxiety last year [sertraline 50mg] and I can say it has seriously helped me to the point I can now do all the things I never use to be able too, with ease. It has took me a few weeks to get here but I’m so glad I started meds and of course it is not right for everybody, but it has really helped me and so I hope it helps you too! And I also find blogging so therapeutic it really helps. Good luck with it all and Happy new year šŸ™‚

    Lotte | http://www.lottebeautybox.blogspot.co.uk

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