Protect your mental health this Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people. In a season where everyone seems to be feeling merry and bright, you can feel even more alone and unusual for not feeling so jolly. After the recent UK announcements and restrictions, Christmas will feel a lot more gloomy for many. The stress of the holiday period to please people and sometimes added feelings of loneliness can trigger depression and anxiety. The pandemic has really only amplified these feelings. Christmas looks very different this year, for some it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. I felt it was important to share some reminders for this Christmas period.

Christmas creates a lot of build up and expectation. December is dedicated to preparing for just one day. Spending a whole month working to make sure everything goes perfectly sets a huge expectation that can end up leading to disappointment. Don’t expect your Christmas to be smooth sailing, you can’t please everyone and be everywhere, doing everything. Being with the people you love, even if that’s over Zoom, is what’s important.

Don’t compare your Christmas to everyone else’s online. Social media is a highlight reel, especially at Christmas. Don’t feel guilty if you see people sharing their overpriced gifts online, thinking to yourself the gifts you bought for your loved ones weren’t as good. That is never the case and Christmas should not be so commercial. After a financially stressful year for many, presents shouldn’t be anyone’s number one priority this year.

This Christmas, after such a gruelling year, try to look for the small things to be grateful for. Don’t focus on the material or commercial side of Christmas. Focus on your loved ones and how lucky you are to still have them around. Be grateful you have someone worth missing under these new Christmas restrictions.

Set boundaries with your loved ones. If you are in a part of the country or world where you are able to visit a loved one, don’t feel pressured to if you feel it is not safe or if you feel your mental health would suffer. It is okay to protect your own needs, even at Christmas. Adding to that, do not feel pressured to break tier 4 rules if your family or friends are trying to persuade you too. Set your own personal boundaries in order to protect your mental health and to stay safe in the pandemic.

It is okay to feel low this time of year, not everyone is merry and jolly all the time, even at Christmas, it is normal. It is okay to feel fed up after being restricted from seeing loved ones for almost a whole year. It is okay to not be okay, you don’t have to force a smile just because it’s Christmas. Your feelings are valid. After such an emotionally draining year, you are not alone. If you do feel like you need to reach our for support this Christmas, I have left some links below.

Mental health support links

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, whatever it is your doing, stay safe and prioritise your mental health. Let’s all hope for a better year, good riddance, 2020! I’ll see you all in 2021!

Practicing mindfulness

I’ve been uploading quite a few politics focused posts recently, so today I decided to talk about another subject I am equally passionate about…mental health. I love to write these posts and they get a great response from you all, so I hope you enjoy.

If you’re in the UK, like myself, you’ll be in lockdown 2.0 right now, with not much longer to go before another set of changes. Uncertainty is the theme of 2020, honest to god, who knew we were going to be in another lockdown in November. With that uncertainty for the future has come a huge amount of anxiety. Feeling okay with just not knowing what next week is even going to look like can be very hard, I know I’ve definitely struggled with it.

For a lot of lockdown I felt the constant need to fill my time and to be as productive as possible. Whether that was taking online courses, reading, learning a new skill, even making this website, I had to be doing something otherwise I would be worrying about what was going to happen next or where I’d be in a post-corona world (whenever that is lol). I was desperate to not feel like I’d wasted a large chunk of life watching TV and pretty much doing nothing, however throughout an on and off lockdown from March to now, I’ve learnt that doing nothing sometimes is perfectly okay and in some cases is hugely important for our mental health, we can’t always be go go go! I spoke about this more in a recent post called ‘The Wonders of Self Care’.

Since that post I’ve been working on being more mindful, showing myself more respect and being more self-aware, and I have to say it’s done a lot of good. I think the fact that we just never know what’s going on at the moment or what the future holds can be very un-nerving. I’m definitely one to look to the future and worry things won’t work out, but with our current climate it can be even more worrying not knowing what is going on. I’ve decided that in order to combat that feeling I have to be more mindful and self-aware, I need to be doing what I can to stay sane in the moment. We never really know what is going to happen in the future, so instead, focusing on what is going on right now can settle that worry and uncertainty.

What is mindfulness and why is it important?

It is easy to end up living in our own heads and not being aware of what is really going on around us, how we are feeling, or what our thoughts are really telling us. We end up becoming stuck in auto-pilot, living out our days, unaware of our thoughts and how they effect the way we view and talk to ourselves. Mindfulness unlocks the ability to show ourselves self-respect and kindness, this then translates into our everyday lives.

When we practice mindfulness it allows us to see our own thought patterns and why certain situations or scenarios make us feel a certain way, we can train ourselves to better deal with these situations. When we are mindful of our emotions we can notice signs of stress or anxiety and mange them more effectively. If we are more self-aware of what is going on in our head we can control it and not fixate on negative feelings or emotions. We learn self-discipline and how to ensure our thoughts don’t control us, we control them.

Meditation and mindfulness has lots of proven benefits to our mental and physical health. It can lower stress levels, improve your sleep, improve your focus and attention span, help to prevent depression relapses, reduce anxiety and increases the size of grey matter in your brain. It was found in a study that consistent meditation and mindfulness increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. These areas of the brain deal with the regulation of emotion, learning processes, perspective and memory. As well as this, there has been evidence to show that mindfulness can reduce chronic pain and lower blood pressure. Overall mindfulness is significantly helpful in improving our wellbeing.

It can be scary or intimidating for some people to meditate or practice mindfulness, when you stop and sit in silence a lot of worries and thoughts come flooding in. It is important to remind yourself that these are just thoughts in your head and the more you focus on them the more they fill you with anxiety. You should instead turn away from them and remind yourself that these are just feelings, they don’t manifest in reality, they are just doubts, they are not real.

How have I been practicing mindfulness?

Each day I’ve been doing a meditation / affirmation morning routine to focus myself for the day. I’ve never been one to think this type of exercise is effective but I have found that it really helps to calm me and start my day right.

I put on some meditation or wave sound music and I breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on that breathing, any thoughts that would try to jump in I turn away from and focus my thoughts back onto following my breathing or listening to the sounds in the music. After this, I continue breathing and practice positive self talk and affirmations, reminding myself of what I’m grateful for right now in my life and focusing on the good, even if they are small things. The constant reminder of these affirmations each morning allows me to check myself and fight doubts I may be having. The journey of self-improvement is never an easy one, some days it is harder to focus than others, but sticking to the routine is so important.

I think meditation and mindfulness teaches you really important skills about controlling your thoughts. It’s easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking, so forcing yourself even for 5 minutes to sit and breathe and to only focus on that breathing shows you that you have the ability to say no to the negative thoughts or doubts trying to enter your mind. It shows you that you have discipline and that you are in control of what’s going on in your head. I think this is an important mindset to learn and so far this routine has been incredibly helpful for me to centre myself and start my day correctly. Without showing discipline to your thoughts and being more aware of them, it can become much easier to fall into a negative spiral because you aren’t always aware of what does cause the spiral. Understanding your thoughts and being mindful of them is a good way of understanding what can trigger a path of negative thinking and then ensuring that you don’t take that path.

You should take the time to focus on the right here and right now, being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself of the good in the very day you are in, even if it is one small thing like the weather. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture means you get a better perspective of what’s really going on, and maybe that one thing you were stressing about soooo much, really isn’t as big as you thought it was. I think that there is a lot to learn about being mindful, and a lot it can teach us in terms of emotional agility and resilience through challenges times, like this very pandemic. Many of us have found this year challenging, it has affected our whole way of life, even our perspective on life. Checking in with yourself and being mindful of how you are really feeling is more important now than ever. So, take this as your reminder to crack open your window, let in some fresh air, breathe deeply, be grateful, and remind yourself of who you really are, remember that you can control the thoughts in your head.

The Wonders of Self-care

In honour of world mental health day being today, I wanted to share a post all about self-care and the positive benefits it can have towards our outlook on life, as well as the way we view ourselves. I encourage everyone, every now and then, to take a mental health day, recharge your batteries, and incorporate your own form of self-care and self-reflection into your lives on a regular basis. It can realign your perspective and allow you to start fresh and get back to whatever keeps you busy each day with better focus and a clearer mind. Self-care is about slowing down and enjoying the silence for a moment. We are all constantly focused on everything in our lives rushing by and occupying us. Instead we should take some time to reflect and have a mental check in with ourselves about how we are really feeling.

Enjoying quality time alone is unbelievably important. Finding the perfect balance between socialisation and quality alone time is key to a healthy and happy life. It’s hugely important to take time to yourself to recharge your batteries and reflect on your life. We all need to feel comfortable and calm in our own company, focused on ourselves, not preoccupied a million miles away thinking about everything stressing us out this week. Self care is about investing in yourself, it is no way selfish because it lets you excel better in your relationships and life. You have to invest in yourself before you can invest in others.

Finding the right balance of self-care is very important. You should in no way isolate yourself from your loved ones or use ‘self-care’ as a means of distraction or procrastination in getting something done that needs to be done. However, if you’re feeling burnt out and lacking in energy to fulfil a task, if you’re overthinking or anxious about small things that wouldn’t normally irritate you, then taking some time to yourself is an important remedy.

Self-reflection

Whilst self-reflection isn’t technically part of self-care, I think the two come hand in hand. Taking time to look back on the week, the highs and lows and how they made you feel, can allow you to better understand yourself. This can simply be done by just sitting with yourself and thinking about it, or a more popular version, journaling. Having this form of self-reflection can allow you to keep track of your thoughts.

I think these moments alone are so important because it allows you to understand yourself, what you like and what you don’t like. If you’re reflecting on your week you can ask yourself why a certain scenario that played out frustrated you, or why something made you stressed or anxious. Moments of reflection really let us look inside ourselves to understand our behaviours and emotions.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin and in your own company is a form of self-love and self-acceptance. When you slow down and just sit with yourself you learn things about yourself that you potentially hadn’t noticed before, sometimes comforting or uncomforting things, but you do learn. During the pandemic I realised how much of a workaholic and perfectionist I really am. Although I already knew I was this way, having so much time alone allowed me to understand why I behaved the way I did and how to control those emotions. As a person I have to fit in time for my own forms of self-care for my mental sanity and to prevent burn out. Sometimes self-reflection can feel like a reality check and a wake up call to who you really are. It can shake you out of a rut you are in and wake you up.

I’m not really someone that knows a lot about the law of attraction and manifestations, but self-care or self-reflection is similar because of it’s consistency. Self-reflection is very important for your mental health and outlook on life, it can give you a lot of clarity and help to change up your mindset when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed for whatever reason. It’s like a reset period. I like to use self-care time for affirming behaviour and readjusting my sense of direction, such as setting out monthly goals or focusing on what I achieved in the past week and how that outweighs whatever may have gone wrong. It is similar to manifesting and changing up your mindset because you are taking time to reflect and push yourself in the right direction towards what you want to improve in your life and achieve. Taking time for yourself is one of the most important steps in that process.

Another reason why taking the time to sit with yourself and self-reflect is so important is because a lot of the thoughts we have are sub-conscious, we don’t always realise we are having them and they become part of our nature. Overtime, if we continue to have sub-conscious thoughts revolving around stress, anxiety or lowness, it can build into something much worse. Our minds are powerful; our thoughts have the ability to affect our emotional lives. When we have an irrational or low thought, that has a huge impact on our emotions, even when that thought is falsely interpreted from our reality, it will still have a huge impact on our self-worth and emotions. When we self-reflect, we take the time to actively question these thoughts and stop our mind from taking control.

Self-care is a habit

Turning self-care into a consistent habit is very important in seeing it’s benefits. We have to make it a regular occurrence to take time to ourselves, to self-reflect and to recharge our batteries. It doesn’t always have to be the same activity, but making self-care a part of your routine is revitalising. Keeping up with it means you are always looking out for yourself and showing yourself love and respect.

Self-care really can be anything, it’s completely subjective, but it should be slotted into your week, even your days. For some people self-care is their skincare routine, others it’s watching TV or playing a game, even tidying your room. Something where it’s just you and you are giving undivided attention to yourself.

My own personal self-care really does fluctuate. I find the gym very therapeutic and destressing. Endorphins and moving your body is unbelievably good for your mental health and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. However, I also cherish unwinding at the end of the day slowly, either reading or slowly going through my skincare routine, throwing in a face mask. Whatever allows you to relax and focus on yourself…do that.

Finding happiness in the simple moments

I think that taking time alone to breathe and relax, maybe on a walk or just sitting in a spot you find comfortable, can allow you, even for a second, to really feel content and grateful. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but it is feels almost like a glow. You could get this feeling maybe looking out at a view after a walk, the fresh air in the morning, the comfort of your own home, looking at old pictures. Anything that sparks gratitude and peace.

Holding onto those moments is important because they can keep you going and motivated. I think it’s encouraging to know that there is a potential for peace in your life. No matter what you’re going through, those split seconds can show you that it’s there. It doesn’t mean that things are great right now, or that things will be better in a week. But those simple moments where you feel at peace and grateful for something, potentially during your self-care, is something to hold onto and to cherish. They ground you and they keep you sane.

Moments like these are so important because it allows us to take control of our thoughts. When you are sat alone in silence and that feeling of happiness comes rushing in, even for a second, it shows that happiness or peace is out there for you still, no matter what you are going through. Negative feelings often have the ability to take a strong hold in our mind, removing and displacing them can become a hefty task. A lot of the time repetitive thought patterns keep us feeling low or anxious. Replacing the negative repetitive thoughts can be done in moments of silence. It gives us the time and space we need to turn away from those thoughts, breathe and refocus ourselves and our mindset. Constantly and actively choosing to change your mindset and not let the thoughts consume you. Reminding yourself of something to be grateful for, like those simple moments, can keep you going.

A disclaimer regarding mental illness

Although self-care and self-help techniques are helpful in keeping your mind clear and taking time to relax. It is not a complete remedy to mental illness, it may help you in your bad days, but if your bad days consistently continue you should seek mental health support. It doesn’t have to be taboo and there really is nothing wrong with asking for support when you need it. Reaching out to a loved one or looking for therapies and counselling is normal and should be done more. Don’t undervalue your feelings or disregard them just because they don’t feel as big as other peoples problems because that’s how problems worsen.

It can be frustrating when a family member or friend tells you to just take some time to relax, meditate or write everything down when you are in the midst of feeling low. The same techniques don’t work for everyone and you have to find what works for you. It can be particularly hard to self-reflect productively when you have allowed your anxious, irrational, or negative thoughts to consume you because in moments of self-reflection you can find yourself spiralling. Sometimes you can’t help your self and you need more support, which is why therapy or counselling is a great option, especially cognitive behaviour therapies (CBT), which focuses on displacing those irrational or negative feelings. So, if you are feeling low or anxious and taking time to reflect and focus on yourself is not helping to relieve any burdens, then do reach out for more support. Also remember that your bad days do not equal to a bad life. This is a feeling that you will get through.

Mental health support links

  1. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
  2. https://www.samaritans.org/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/?WT.tsrc=Search&WT.mc_id=Brand&gclid=Cj0KCQjwt4X8BRCPARIsABmcnOr94uOrYxgOCHVkR4eYhAB0A0i08VNKgL_xqb4JIh5odFRGdpBHbUIaAtCqEALw_wcB
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/
  5. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/

Confessions of a perfectionist

Today I’m going to talk about something that I continually struggle with, and that is being a perfectionist. I feel like when people talk about perfectionism it’s that weakness that is actually a strength, but in reality if you really are a perfectionist then you know it is not a trait you actually want. Perfectionism does more harm than good when it cannot be controlled. I wanted to talk about my own personal experiences with perfectionism today, as well as shedding more light on the area and the effects it can have.

Perfectionism is defined as “the need to be or appear to be perfect, or even to believe that it’s possible to achieve perfection.” It is an unhealthy obsession to constantly be better than the best version of yourself. It is impossibly unattainable. A perfectionist is extremely critical of oneself, they strive only for a perfect and flawless outcome. When this outcome isn’t met it leads to feelings of failure and self-doubt which often spiral into mental health issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, OCD, phobias, eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.

Perfectionism pushes you to be more than you can actually be, and this isn’t some pinterest quote about being your best self and just putting in that extra work, this is a real condition about never being good enough for yourself. No matter how smart, generous or stunning you may already be. No matter what you do or achieve it is simply never enough.

Being a human means that we often make mistakes in our life, therefore being flawlessly perfect is an unachievable and unhealthy expectation. A healthy approach to self-development is understanding there will be mistakes along the way because this is how we learn. However, when you are a perfectionist you won’t even attempt an activity in some cases unless you can be sure it will go flawlessly. This apprehension is grounded in a fear of failure which can lead to procrastination, anxiety, and poor time-management.

I myself, particularly in my studies, have been a perfectionist and it took me a long time to realise not everything you are going to produce is going to be perfect. This didn’t sit right with me for a while. I am guilty of spending many hours working on something for too long all in the effort to make it ‘perfect’. This behaviour meant I wasn’t balancing my time well and was sabotaging myself in other areas of my life that I should have been paying more attention too. My own perfection being more academically focused meant that whatever grade I would get, it would always need to be higher next time. The expectation just keeps…getting…HIGHER. This is obviously not a healthy way to approach a situation because when you achieve something you should congratulate yourself, not carry on increasing your goal because one day you won’t reach the expectation you set for yourself, and it will break you (trust me I know). This is when people tend to spiral into mental health issues because they realise that their expectations are unattainable and this begins to hold them back and create fear. I ended up developing an unhealthy thinking pattern that determined my own worth on my academic success and ability which was ultimately very wrong. Your happiness and worth should never be determined by the extent of your achievement and success.

Burnout happens when you avoid being human for too long.

Personally, I believed that in order for me to achieve I had to be on my grind 24/7 because from my observations that is how people that succeeded behaved. Nobody is actually like that because that leads to burnout and it is not a productive way to work. No one can sustain that amount of hard work for long periods, it’s about balance. Productivity and success is not about working flat out 100% of the time, it’s about taking breaks, recharging and coming back stronger. However, at the time I felt that if I wasn’t working, if I was taking a break, then I didn’t deserve that high grade. That is obviously untrue but that is how perfectionism works. If you are anything less than your absolute best then you are not good enough or worth enough. I had to learn what hard work and productivity really looked like. You will not always be 100% everyday, you have to learn when you need to call it quits and take a break. I would love to know how many hours I have wasted just staring at a uni essay on my laptop, doing absolutely nothing, but telling myself that I can’t stop because I don’t ‘deserve’ a break, even though I’d probably already been sat there for 9 hours.

I believe that a lot of people are becoming perfectionists because of societal influences, social media in particular. When you look online it doesn’t take long for you to find someone who appears like they have their whole life together, no issues, no struggles, just good vibes. Social media has created this toxic need to be perfect, successful and rich before you’re even 21. Social media is a facade, it’s people wanting to show the best highlights of their life, in some cases it is even fake. I’ve spoken to countless people who are insecure about their relationships, academic ability, style, appearance or financial stability, all because there are hundreds of people online presenting themselves as if they are perfect and that everything is going their way. After a while this can make a person deeply insecure because when they look at their own life they see normality, instead of perfection. We compare our whole life consisting of highs and lows to someones highlights. First of all that is unrealistic and second of all comparison is a killer and it’s only going to make you more insecure. Nobody has it all together all the time but society can make us think that we need to be that way, and when we aren’t we feel like we have failed. This is simply not true.

Taking a step back from social media and generally using it less will only lead to positive benefits in your life and how you view yourself. Gaining a better perspective and knowing that not everyone’s life is that perfect is hugely important for anyone’s mental health. It is important to focus on what you are doing and achieving than comparing yourself to everyone’s perfect presentations of themselves online. You shouldn’t base your own worth on what somebody else is doing. Unplug and take a detox from social media.

Making mistakes and being flawed is how humans work. I was at war with myself for a long time for not being good enough, when actually I was achieving really good grades but my constant desire to be better held me back. At the end of the day you can achieve great things and still be left feeling like you need more and more, but more will not be enough if you can’t be content within yourself and appreciate the journey you are on, flaws and all. We cannot be perfect and that is okay. What we can be is happy with who we are and what we have, whilst being committed to growth and progress in a healthy way, knowing that there will be mistakes along the way and that makes us a human being, not a failure.

Regarding overcoming my own personal perfectionism, I am definitely still on that journey. However, I have learnt that keeping up the habit of trying to knock away those negative thoughts and doubts in your head is the most crucial step to take. It is way easier said than done and is a constant journey, but noticing that thought pattern you have and consciously deciding to turn away from it instead of feeding into it is hugely important. In order to do that you have to accept yourself, congratulate yourself for the small achievements, (they are still amazing achievements!) and most importantly look after yourself. Take breaks, do things that make you feel good, see your friends, these are all important factors in achieving success.

It is very easy to feel an unbearable pressure and expectation being a perfectionist. You can easily over work yourself and take on too much and ultimately this will lead to burnout. This makes it even harder to fight the negative thoughts in your head because you are mentally exhausted. Taking time for yourself is hugely important, this is something I would love to go into more detail on in another article focused on self care and bad mental health days. For now though, be kind to yourself and accept your journey for what it is. You’re doing way better than you think and you are good enough.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! Please do continue to email your responses to me on the contact me page if you don’t feel comfortable commenting below, that is completely fine! I have some links below to useful resources surrounding today’s topic, but I also wanted to mention a book I have briefly started, ‘Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection’ by the Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim. I touched on various kinds of Buddhism and mindfulness during my time at university and found it incredibly fascinating. There is a lot we can learn when we step outside of our western mindsets. I haven’t read the whole book yet but it’s a unique approach to overcoming perfectionism and I thought it was worth a quick mention! I’ll be sure to review the book later when I have finished so look out for that!

Mental health support

If you feel your perfectionism is negatively impacting your mental health and sense of self then do reach out to an organisation that can help support you. Your feelings are completely normal and valid, you do not have to feel alone.

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
  2. https://www.samaritans.org/
  3. https://www.mind.org.uk/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

TED Talks on perfectionism

Here are some of my favourite TED Talks on perfectionism, all very varied, but insightful talks about peoples own personal struggles with perfectionism and how they started to fight and overcome their unattainable expectations.


Social psychologist Thomas Curran explores how the pressure to be perfect — in our social media feeds, in school, at work — is driving a rise in mental illness, especially among young people. Learn more about the causes of this phenomenon and how we can create a culture that celebrates the joys of imperfection.

Iskra Lawrence asserts that we all need to be taught how to look after ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally and encourages us to invest in ourselves right now. She gives examples of self-care techniques like the mirror challenge and the gratitude list that work for anyone, any age, anytime. If we learn self-care and practice self-care, then we can gift self-care to others.

The idea of embracing a perfectionist identity takes away our power to control the outcomes of our lives. We can take control of our personal power by understanding the detrimental belief of perfectionism and embracing the idea that we are naturally imperfectionist. The more we understand how perfection is unattainable, the less control it has over us.

Until recently, Da Yeon believed that being perfect in every aspect of her life, from family and friendship to academics, was not only possible but would also bring nothing but benefits to her and those around her. In this personal talk, Da Yeon shares a journey of self-realisation, discovering the roots of her perfectionism, its consequences, and a path toward a healthier future.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

A disclaimer before I begin. I will be discussing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as well as suicide. If this is something you are sensitive to or triggered by, then this is a warning. There will be links at the bottom of this page to resources that can help support you. You are not alone.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are hundreds of writers paving the way in various fields and raising awareness about important topics.

One of which is Matt Haig, a best selling writer based in England. Matt writes in various styles as a journalist, children’s and non-fiction writer. Matt is active on his social media accounts working towards breaking the stigma around mental health.

Some of my favourite books by Matt are ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and ‘Thoughts on a Nervous Planet’. Both of these books are non-fiction and tackle the issues and stigma around mental health, as well as Matt recalling his own personal battles with depression and anxiety. Today I’m going to talk about ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. This is one of my favourite books and I urge anyone and everyone to read it, whether you are going through your own personal journey with mental health or are seeking ways to support a loved one, even for just general awareness! Mental health is becoming a pandemic in itself, breaking the stigma and shutting down stereotypes is extremely essential in tackling this issue. It is an enlightening and informative read.

Matt’s writing style is so engaging and his ability to explain such complex mental health struggles in such simplistic ways is truly inspiring. He uses various metaphors and explanations that allow people to really understand the way depression and anxiety can affect a persons life. Matt also includes scripted conversations with himself, portraying the inward struggle and turmoil he felt when his illness spoke to him.

Mental health is such a vast and complex topic, being able to explain its influence is something many struggle to put into words, but Matt Haig does this in a wonderful and effortless way. It allows people to really understand how mental illness can consume a person and the mental and physical symptoms that come with it.

But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.

Albert Camus, A Happy Death

Matt discusses the invisibility and ability depression has to creep up on a person and consume them. Whoever that person may be; a billionaire, an alcoholic, a mother, a teenager, or a businesswoman. Depression can affect anyone and whilst some mental illness are related to past trauma, some may feel they do not have a reason to feel the way they do. This only leaves those people feeling guilty and confused for the way they are feeling. When those around them try to belittle their emotions or behaviour this guilt can intensify. Ending this stigma is SO important, Matt seeks to do this in a number of effective and informative ways within his book.

Another key statement Matt raises in his book is that mental illnesses impact and appear differently on everyone. This means that there is no set way to overcome it, get around it or deal with it. Understanding this is so important! Mental health is a journey of good and bad days. There is no one size fits all solution. There is trial and error, Matt retells how he began to cope with his mental illness within ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

In an effort to break the stigma around depression and mental health, Matt compares physical and mental health issues. He uses a variety of scenarios to explain this idea but as an example, you wouldn’t say to someone who had just broken their arm, ‘Oh, just get on with it, stop thinking about it!’ So why would you say to someone with depression, ‘Mind over matter, just get over it!’. Mental health issues are just as much issues as physical health issues. There is an obsession to separate the body and mind, when we should take time to care and nurture both. As much as we can have issues with our physical health, we can also have issues with out mental health. Matt pushes this idea throughout his book.

Matt fluctuates between retelling his own personal battles and experiences with depression and anxiety to more statistically informative facts surrounding mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation, “1 in 5 people will experience depression in their life”, and “A million people a year kill themselves. Between ten and twenty million people a year try to. Worldwide, men are over 3x more likely to kill themselves than women.” These figures clearly suggest to us that there is a mental health pandemic amongst us, which is why breaking the stigma is important now more than ever.

When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through. You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

These are just a few topics Matt touches on in his book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. He also explores the benefits and drawbacks surrounding medication, exercise and therapies. What coping mechanisms work for him, including some discussion on what he has learnt from Buddhist thought in controlling his anxiety.

Matt also discusses how the modern world has set us up for failure due to the feeling that we will always need more, stating that: “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?”

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Matt’s story is truly inspiring and a message to anyone who feels suicidal that things really will get better again. Matt found a way to live and enjoy life, something he never thought he would ever be able to do again. Mental health is an ongoing journey, doubts can fill your mind and depression can creep up on you, but learning to control those thoughts and to know that you are more than what your depression and anxiety is telling you, is the present theme throughout ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

If these topics interest you then I’d recommend you grab this book! It’s a great starting place for anyone wanting to grasp more of an understanding on depression and anxiety. Matt honestly and authentically captures the experiences of mental illness. After facing his own struggles he is not hesitant in stating that life is really hard. However, we can learn to see the beauty of it again within the simple moments, not everyday is promised to be amazing, but it will get better.

Links to mental health support

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/
  2. https://www.mind.org.uk/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Reasons to Stay Alive: https://www.waterstones.com/book/reasons-to-stay-alive/matt-haig/9781782116820