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If you are anything like me you have put on a couple of pounds over Christmas, the grey skies make me feel tired just by looking outside (I'm not a morning person), I'm budgeting for the year ahead, catching up on what must be a bazillion emails at work. I have a home to run and three children, and joy of joys, my eldest starts learning the recorder this month...

I'm fine, but there are moments that it's too much.

The third Monday of every January is awarded the wonderful title of Blue Monday. Isn't it bizarre that by naming something a colour, blue, you already feel like that day is going to be rubbish. But it does and it's important to realise that anyone can feel this way, whether or not they have previously felt down or stressed at all.

It's also really important that anyone who does have anxiety, stress or depression, is aware that if they are feeling a bit more out of sorts right now, it could well be just this silly Blue Monday to blame.

Did you know

  • 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues in the UK (Mind)
  • 700 million people worldwide have mental health conditions (Weforum)
  • 95% of people who are referred for mental health support through the NHS, have to wait up to 18 weeks to see someone (NHS)
  • 10 % (possibly up to 20%) of young people self-harm (Mentalhealth)

If you are going through a bit of a sensory overload, and there's simply too much going on to handle, there are a few things that can be done to help you feel more on top of things.

Kathryn on a trampoline

I have hypermobility syndrome, an underactive thyroid, a fast heart rate and anxiety issues. I'm an all rounder! One of the things that really helps me is keeping active. It's not easy, you have to teach yourself to like exercise and stick to it. My main tip is not to be a Monday starter, start today! And find something that's fun!!

Eating right is a big thing too, which is so so annoying. I love crisps. I really really love crisps. But again, eating right is something that you have to learn, you have to make time to plan your food and sometimes convince yourself that you like it!

Once you are in a routine it does get easier. It's also fine to try something and it not work out. I tried to be vegan for a while, I managed about 8 months. But pressures of running a business, a breastfeeding baby and two other kids, plus my health factors, I started making myself ill. I try not to beat myself up about it, but I am back on a meat diet, I just avoid dairy.

Kathryn doing tai chi

A big thing for me is that exercise and eating right really helps with my mental health. I do have moments of anxiety and I have methods in place to help me.

I have tried everything: counselling, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, medication, cognitive behaviour therapy, finger tapping, mindfulness. For me, they all helped in their own ways, but nothing was a cure, and I always found that disappointing. I ended up finding out that for me, the best thing was just to face my fears head on and literally take baby steps outside of my comfort zone. I had to, and still have to, force myself to face the world and retrain my mind to believe that the world is an ok place.

One thing I have started doing on most nights, is forcing myself to put the phone down, and listen to tracks on Buddhify (https://buddhify.com). It may not suit everyone, but I find that the recordings really help me to unwind and most of the time I fall asleep listening to it.

I also do Tai Chi regularly to help me centre, it's meant to be all about being calm, but my instructor knows I love the martial arts behind it and let's me play with swords (they are wooden, so I cant hurt myself…much…)

Kathryn #10yearchallenge

I think it's also important for your mental health to reflect and see how far you have come. I'm always harping on about my anxiety issues and how my mental health caused me issues in the past.

There's a popular thing at the moment about doing a 10 year challenge, seeing how much you have changed physically over 10 years. I did it, and I didn't think of the subconscious message that this sends, until I looked at the @i_weigh account on Instagram from Jameela Jamil. Instead of doing a physical photo comparison, she suggested doing a comparison of how much you have grown in the last 10 years.

So, I did both for my #10YearChallenge. In the last ten years I have gained my PhD, grown 3 children, become a business owner and a national award winner. I'm having a tough time with my health at the moment and this has helped to put a smile on my face and realise that I am doing better than I feel that I am.

Finances

Budget, budget, budget! I'm not endorsing any one service, but I have just started using Money Dashboard (https://www.moneydashboard.com) and I can see some real potential. It's free, I can put in all my accounts and assign every transaction to a certain activity. I'm just testing it now, so please don't shoot the messenger if you try it and don't like it.

I have a few titbits I can give in regards to insurance too. It may seem like a bit of a leap, but bear with me :)

Insider Insight

  • We have arranged insurance for people with anxiety, Asperger's syndrome, borderline personality disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, self-harm and suicide attempts
  • Some of our clients have been declined insurance before speaking to us, and once they have spoken to us we have arranged their cover at standard terms
  • Some insurers and insurance products will need to be arranged at an increased premium and/or with a mental health exclusion, depending upon your diagnosis and symptoms
  • Some insurances come with enhanced counselling services, perfect for those times when you are feeling blue

After Christmas budgets have left us all a little tighter, it may sound odd to spend money, if you are trying to save money, but if you can, budgeting for an Income Protection policy can be worth it's weight in gold. It could cost you the equivalent of a couple of nights out a month to insure your income; if you're in the South, probably one night out ;)

Having an insurance that could pay you your monthly income until you retire, if you cant work due to ill health, is one of the most important insurances you could have. Someone said to me once, can you afford to retire tomorrow?

There is also things like life insurance and critical illness cover that could give you huge peace of mind, that if you were to fall seriously ill or die, your family could have access to some tax-free funds to maintain financial security. There are loads of options and as an insurance adviser I am here to tell you what you need and how to get it, but ultimately it's up to you to decide what is right for you.

Facts

  • There is no shame in taking medication to help with a mental health condition. It is actually an extremely strong and empowering moment, to admit that you need extra help.
  • Most people experience some form or stress or anxiety over a situation, at some point in their lives. The important thing is to recognise when your feelings are starting to affect your daily living.
  • Mental health conditions are also physical conditions! Your heart can race, you can become incontinent, you may sweat more, you might struggle to breathe, you can get waves of tingling throughout your body.

Myths

  • If you try hard enough, you can get snap yourself out of having anxiety or depression. This really annoys me. There is a huge difference between feeling anxious and depressed, and actually having anxiety and depression.
  • Being depressed or having anxiety, always has a trigger event and a logical reason. Again, this one annoys me. My anxiety comes from a build up of trigger events and hit me with a whammy when I least expected it. One of the things that gets me the most, is how I can feel anxious, and know full well that logically there is no reason for me to feel the way that I am.
  • You can get through anxiety and depression without medication. This can be true, but many people need some extra help to get through things, even just for a little while.

That's the main stuff that I think is useful with us going into Blue Monday. If any of my insurance ramblings have caught your eye, please feel free to have a look at the dedicated pages I have written about mental health conditions below.

CuraVision – The ABCs – Bipolar
CuraVision - Health - Mental Health
Get The Inside Out: Mental Health Awareness Week
Anxiety
Bipolar
Depression
Mental Health
Schizophrenia
Stress
Suicide Attempt
Suicidal Thoughts

If for whatever reason, no matter how big or small or silly it feels, you feel like things are getting a bit of your control, please do contact someone for help. The Samaritans are a good first point of contact (https://www.samaritans.org).

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