Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Self-Care Advice From My First Counselling Session

The first and only time I opened up about my mental health on this blog was when I wrote an open letter to depression, which I deleted when I started Uni, but as I later found out it inspired at least two people close to me to seek help, I’ve re-published it.

This post, on a much brighter note, will share some of the helpful advice I received when I went to my first ever counselling session last week. It did take me over a year to get the ball rolling and actually sort out getting counselling, but if you suffer with any mental illness I really urge you to seek this as soon as you possibly can. I’m lucky enough to have access to counselling through my Uni, but NHS waiting lists can be up to a year long, so acting quickly could make a massive difference.

This is advice given to me, for my own personal situation. I’m not saying this is going to help you, but I also figure these things are generally helpful and worth a try. Obviously I’m just in the beginning stages of recovering, and although it’s too early to say exactly what kind of improvement this advice has induced, I’m definitely feeling a lot more functional.

1 – Make a Routine

When I was in school, I hated the monotony of an everyday routine. Since leaving, I took every chance I could to give my days variation – waking up at random times, eating throughout the day instead of having regular meals and sleeping whenever I felt tired enough. I’ve had four years of forgetting how a routine helped me be more productive, energised and calm. I slotted in easily activities I adored like baking, running and blogging; things that I seemingly can’t find time for nowadays, despite having a lot more free time. Getting back a routine is proving difficult, but worth it. Every day I’ve been waking up at the same, reasonable hour and I’ve banished daytime napping which means I automatically sleep earlier and more deeply. Each morning I make myself a cup of tea before anything else, which usually gives me the motivation to make a proper breakfast (which sometimes leads on to proper lunch and proper dinner). This is just the beginning of a routine, and when Uni kicks back in I expect it to be a shock, but a healthy one. My goals for the near future are to go outside as early as possible and fit 15 minutes of tidying in to every day. Until then, I’m incredibly proud of my newfound ability to just get out of bed.

I'm reading In The Moment - if you're wondering

2 – The Secret’s in the Shopping

My diet is crap. Feeling void of motivation leads to eating poorly as I can’t muster the energy needed to cook an actual meal. My days would be spent eating nothing until the late afternoon, then heading to the Co-Op for a huge bag of crisps, and oven chips for dinner. If you ensure that your food shop is carefully planned out in advance, and actually tailored to your needs (i.e. I snack a lot, so having a lot of good ingredients doesn’t help me, having quick but healthier snack options is the better) you’ll feel at least a little better. Please don’t mistake this for ‘good food can cure a mental illness’ because that’s bullshit, but if you’re better nourished then you’ll have a bit more energy to try and fight your demons. My counsellor recommended online food shopping too, for those of us who can’t always gather the will to leave the house.

3 – Take. It. Slow.

One of my biggest downfalls is how all-or-nothing I am. I’m either in bed for two weeks straight, only leaving the house for crisps, or agreeing to twenty different projects at once while squeezing in two hours of gym time and a daily deep-clean for the flat. This, obviously, raises my expectations far above my ability to handle them, I fail myself and crumble under my own pressure. Then, I’m back in bed for weeks. It’s hard for me to not imagine my life like the motivational montage part of a cheesy movie, but I can’t squish my recovery down into the length of a single upbeat song. I have to be more patient with myself, and the only way my recovery can be sustainable is by taking it slowly, and one step at a time. I’m not going to get back into running the same way I used to in a couple of days, but if I go for a walk every day, I can slowly start to add a bit of a jog. I’m not going to go from all day in bed to all day working, but I can make sure I set an hour, or just 30 minutes of my time to get some of my to-do list done.

This is just a tiny section of advice from my 90-minute counselling session, and I’m obviously not going to share it all, but this is what I’m focusing on for now. Very aware that this post is almost 1000 words, I’m going to end it here, but if you want to know more then please let me know. Below I’m going to list some important resources if you find yourself suffering, but again, my email and social accounts are open if you need someone to talk to.

I hope this either helped, or was an interesting read for the day.

Samaritans - phone 116 123 (UK)
NHS Mental Health
Depressive Illness: The Curse of The Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher (a book my counsellor suggested I read, though I haven't started)


  1. These are such helpful tips. I definitely find creating a routine helps me maintain a balance in my everyday life xxx

    1. I'm so glad you thought they were helpful, and yeah a routine is key - I've had trouble sticking to one these last few days and I've been thrown off kilter! xxx

  2. I think these are all such useful tips - I'm so glad you found the counselling session so useful! For me routine is probably the biggest one - I get so lost when my routine is being distracted! And even though I love going on holidays, I actually feel a bit depressed every time I come back from a longer one because my routine has completely gone to the bin (and I've probably been eating so much crap too!). And then it's so difficult to try and build it back up. It's a constant struggle in a way but I think it's worth it! xx

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I'm really glad you thought they were useful :) I feel the same - I went on just a five day trip once and really struggled getting back to work! xx

  3. These are useful tips which I think will be applicable to a lot of people out there. Thank you for sharing! It's so great you're able to get the help and support you need via your university, also - how wonderful. I hope the sessions continue to help you xx

    1. Thank you, Laila! I'm glad you thought the tips were helpful. Means a lot, have a great day xxx

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