As this blog comes out, it’s mental health awareness week.

Somewhat ironically, I nearly didn’t write it as my own mental health isn’t great right now. You know when you feel so overwhelmed with life and things seemingly going wrong that you just want to say sod it?

Whilst exercise clears my head, I knew deep down it wasn’t the answer today. Instead, I picked up my current book – The Hobbit – and sat on the sofa with a blanket to read. If you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ll know the joy of re-reading his books!

An hour or so later my breathing was calm and my headache had eased. Sure, the post- divorce shitstorm that was making me feel this way hadn’t miraculously disappeared; but I did feel more able to continue through the day.

Many of the posts and articles I’ve seen about mental health this week have focused on exercise; but I personally feel this is only one piece of the puzzle.

It certainly is for me.  Over the years I’ve tried many things other things; some like reading I’ve stuck with and others not.

If you’d like to explore more means of supporting your own mental health; then have a read of the 10 things, other than exercise, I’ve found help me.

1. Cold water therapy

I’m the girl who doesn’t get into the swimming pool on holiday unless it’s heated, so the thought of enjoying this seemed very slim. However, after hearing so many good things I arranged for a group of us to do an introduction session last month.

Knock me down with a feather. I didn’t just enjoy it; it was exhilarating! I can’t remember a time when I felt such a rush of endorphins. Well perhaps aside from childbirth.

Will I be heading out for solo dips in some random lake or river? No. But I will be going for occasion group dips with friends.

If you’re Manchester based and intrigued about it, then both  USwim and OpenSwim are worth checking out.

2. Shakti mat

Lying on a bed of plastic nails surely isn’t relaxing? I thought not too until I tried it!

If like me, you have ants in your pants and struggle to stay still; then a Shakti mat I promise will cure this. At least for the time you’re on it anyway.

I personally use it in bed as I find lying topless on the living room floor a bit strange! It’s much more comfortable to put it on your mattress and then have your duvet over you. Then once you’re done you can just chuck it under the bed and settle down to sleep. 

Shakti is the market leader in these mats; however there’s plenty of other mats at a fraction of the cost.

3. Psychotherapy

Throughout my adult life I’ve seen different therapists. Not a surprise really that all of them have been women!

After steamrollering my way through a lockdown divorce and 2 subsequent house moves; I realised the time had come again to get professional help and support. That was 12 months ago and I’m still having regular sessions with her.

It’s certainly not my place to recommend a specific therapist or type of therapy; but this Mind article is a great starting point if it’s something you want to explore. 

4. Reading

I’ve mentioned it already; but reading is something I recently went back to after a long break. I’d forgotten the pure escapism of delving into a book whether in paper or electronic form and taking a respite from the world.

I love to keep it varied as I get bored easily, so my current reads include The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series, Happy by Fearne Cotton and the The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

Any recommendation you have, I’d love to hear them!

5. Plants

Yes that’s right and I’m happy to shout it from the rooftops. I LOVE PLANTS!

Something I inherited from my gran who had very green fingers before her dementia kicked in. I now have around 30 and the number keeps growing.

I find looking after them so mindful. Watering – a precarious act as it’s easy to drown them, wiping them down so they’re not dusty and rehoming them when they grow out of their pots. I get a genuine feeling of joy when I see new leaves and flowers sprouting.

My plant goal (yes I have one!) is to get my Strelitzia Nicolai aka Bird of Paradise to flower. They’ll definitely be a social media celebration post the day it happens!

6. People

I’m sure you’re aware who we spend time with has a massive impact on our mental health. So choosing my company wisely is something I’m very aware of these days.

I feel so fortunate to have the MTW community where across each week I get to spend time with 70+ amazing women. The friendship, support, laughter and occasional tears we share between us are priceless and it seems strange to even imagine life without them.

They say you can tell true friends as they’re the people who are there through the bad times as well as the good and the last few years we’ve all experienced with Covid has tested many friendships hasn’t it? The ones that remain for me I truly value, as I’m sure you do too.

7. Sleep

I’m not going to spout about how I aim to get a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night and how you should too.

Like many mums, once the kids are in bed I like some time to myself which often means I’m up later than I probably should be. Add co-sleeping into the mix too (which happens often despite Thomas being 8) and it’s a miracle if I get uninterrupted sleep, never mind 8 hours.

What I’ve found helps to make the most of that precious time is wearing a sleep mask. I used to think they were just a novelty but there really is science behind them! Have a read here about it from when I started using them in May 2021.

8. Food

You never want to come across me when I’m hangry! My brain and body work in slow motion and as for my mood; let’s just say my MTW programmes would be empty if I rocked up for sessions without eating.

If you’ve read my 4 Fitness Myths Busted blog you’ll know that carbs (alongside Thomas) are my true love and I believe there’s no banned foods we shouldn’t be eating.

I know my mental health is stronger when I eat regularly and well. By which I mean making sure I’ve had enough protein, getting in those lovely carbs and including foods that I enjoy eating.

9. Alcohol

Like for many, my relationship with alcohol intensified during lockdown. At the time I felt that it was helping my mental health. Life seemed easier to deal with and that slightly numbed, hazy feeling at the end of the day helped me get to sleep. Or so I thought.

Eventually though I had to admit that rather than helping me; it was actually having an impact on my mental health. My anxiety was rising, headaches seemed to constant and my brain felt so sluggish I was struggling to make even the most simple of decisions.

Anxiety and hangovers do not make for a good mix!

I’m not here to say you should give up alcohol. There’s no doubt though about its’ impact on our mental health. If you’re feeling like I was and that your relationship with it might need to be explored, there’s lots of resources and support out. I discuss the ones I used in my One Year Sober blog.

10. Having a bath

This one feels like a bit of a cliché to say but I absolutely love having a bath! I’m quite gutted at the minute as our new house only has a shower, so I’m looking forward to getting the bathroom done next.

I don’t light candles, play music and dim the lights. I have the hottest, deepest most bubbly bath ever which I lie in for a short time as I usually go dizzy due to the heat! Either that or I have to get out as Thomas has decided he needs the toilet and comes in, totally disturbs me and leaves the bathroom stinking.

Got to love kids hey?!

Any others?

I hope sharing the things that help me support my own mental health may have given you some new ideas to try for yourself.

Is there anything else you’d recommend? I’d love to hear about them!

Emma x

Find this blog helpful? You’ll love receiving my weekly email full of relatable fitness tips, motivation, and behind the scenes insights into how to make fitness a positive force in your life.   To join in the fun, enter your email here