Written by Camilla King

Health

Every little ‘fixit’ helps

A few weeks back, we had a chat with the lasses behind a 10-week online mental wellbeing course. Camilla King read it and decided to give it a whirl. Here’s her first update.

heart-shaped cloud against a blue sky
It’s easy to be complacent about mental health, but I think it’s safe to say that even the most balanced of us have an utter arsehole living inside our head, trying to derail our best attempts to live in joyful communion with the universe.

Of course sometimes it’s not just our minds, but actual real-life arseholes impacting our joy, but sorting out our inner mean girl/boy undoubtedly helps with all the other crap life throws at us.

The term ‘mental health’ is fraught with the potential for misinterpretation, existing as it does on such a vast sliding scale of experiences. Wherever you sit on that scale, though, taking care of yourself physically and mentally is important. It’s also something that many of us neglect to do when life gets difficult, just when we need a healthy mind the most.

Thankfully, Katya Jezzard-Puyraud and Liz Axham (a holistic massage therapist and mental wellbeing teacher, and a senior NHS psychiatric nurse, respectively) have made looking after your mental health a little bit easier, by pooling their experience and knowledge into LightHearts UK, an incredibly detailed, user-friendly and absolutely free set of online resources.

The main part of the LightHearts website is a 10-week Mental Wellbeing Course, aimed at breaking down the key symptoms and causes of depression and anxiety, and providing a set of ‘fixits’.

Each week tackles a different issue: week two focuses on quieting that annoying brain chatter, for example, while week three deals with clearing negative energy, giving you breathing techniques, guided meditations and tips and tricks to try out. The aim is that by the end of the 10 weeks you’ll be well equipped to continue working on getting those symptoms under control.

A few weeks ago I volunteered to try the pair’s course. I was facing 2017 with a renewed determination to protect myself, and shore up my mental defences.

I’d been physically run down for the entire autumn, falling behind on work and gradually struggling more and more mentally, gripped by a fog and a fear that left me staring blankly at my computer screen as the hours ticked by; so tired I could barely lift myself off the sofa.

On the plus side, I caught up on a lot of telly, but I also let a frightening amount of other stuff slide.

In the sombre, hungover dawn of the New Year I ordered a bunch of self-help books and promised myself that I would do a little yoga every day. Adding LightHearts into the mix seemed like the cherry on top of my extremely organised and sensible approach.

“If, like me, you’re fearful of confronting emotions that you’ve been trying to push away for a long time, just know that Jezzard-Puyraud and Axham have made this a safe space to explore those feelings.”

The first thing Jezzard-Puyraud and Axham ask you to do is to keep a diary of how you’re feeling, and I have to admit this really tripped me up. By the end of January, having spent the previous month just about sticking to some of my resolutions while staring resentfully at the growing pile of books promising to turn my life around (oh, for the energy to read the damn things), I wasn’t in a good place.

The long and the short of it is that I’m suffering from depression (reactive, as in, a lot of shit has finally caught up with me). I’m getting help, but with a waiting list several months long until I can start NHS counselling, I’m the perfect candidate for LightHearts. While I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be a one-stop shop for me, it is definitely helping give me the confidence to tell the head voices to SHUT UP!

What I love already is that it’s not full of psycho-babble, which is complicated in the first place, and when you’re already feeling exhausted becomes downright impenetrable. Jezzard-Puyraud and Axham have written practical, simple explanations of how our brains work against us at times, and how to shut that shit down.

The following made me laugh and shout “YES!”, which is always a good thing:

“It can get really annoying to be around relentlessly cheerful people. I once tried being positive all the time and not only did I find it very tiring but my sister said it made her want to punch me.”

It’s OK to struggle, and although the urge to help is strong, sometimes it’s OK to just let people deal with those struggles as best they can, and offer a gentle bit of support rather than constant demands for positivity.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you’d like to dip in and try some of the meditations, or will file LightHearts away for a more difficult time, great! If, like me, you’re fearful of confronting emotions that you’ve been trying to push away for a long time, just know that Jezzard-Puyraud and Axham have made this a safe space to explore those feelings.

Take your time and maybe give the week two Ujjayi Breathing a go; it’s surprisingly satisfying to learn that you can make the sound of the sea with your throat.

It’s early days, but I’ll be diligently completing the full 10-week course and back here  to write about it once I’m finished. Let me know if you’ve tried it, or are thinking about it, on Twitter.

@millking2301

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Written by Camilla King

Freelancer in the arts. Unwilling expert on Batman, dinosaurs and poo (there are children) and running widow of @UpDownRunner. Lover of music, cake and lady stuff. @millking2301