Mental Maintenance

Recently, I’ve found myself with more time on my hands. This freakish turn of events has led to all sorts of developments. There are things in drawers and cupboards that haven’t seen the light of day since I moved house that have been turfed out and ruthlessly chucked out. I’m actually up to date on my marking and my ‘News in Slow French’ podcast. I’ve been swimming twice this week. I’ve even *gasp* managed to keep on top of my writing and produced a fair trot of words. What more could I ask for?

There’s just one problem with this constant need to fill up time. It neglects the one part of my body that I need more than anything else: my brain. While listening to the bloody marvellous Standard Issue podcast today (I may have been cleaning the bathroom at the same time – not one to miss out on a chance to double up) I heard an interview with the brilliant Rae Earl. You might have heard of her through My Fat, Mad, Teenage Diary, a book that was turned into a Channel 4 series, to wide acclaim. It spoke about mental health openly, and paved the way for the current climate that has helped to drop the stigma and shame of issues from anxiety to depression. She also has a new book out, which is aimed at younger people but should help anyone to get their shit together. Can’t be a bad thing. During the interview, she pointed out that we rarely take time out to give our minds a bit of a workout, or a break, yet we are bombarded with messages about what to eat and how to exercise.

I consider myself very lucky in that I’ve only dipped a toe into the world of depression. A few dark times in my past pushed me into a rather unpleasant place, but with support I was able to climb back out again. There are several people close to me who haven’t been so fortunate, and I’ve witnessed first-hand just how ugly things can get. What I’ve come to realise is that coping with these things is ongoing, a part of life, something we all need to think about. You wouldn’t expect to eat healthily and do a bit of exercise for a couple of months and then be healthy for ever, yet we often throw these expectations at people when the problem is perceived to be ‘in their head.’

So what else could I be doing that might be more helpful? Firstly, reaching out to those who I know are struggling and offering a chat/text/cup of tea/cake. Conversation is brilliant when it comes to clearing out the clutter in your head. I’m also doing a bit of personal mental maintenance. We’ve all got our demons, and it’s about time I put the same level of effort into keeping my grey cells exercised and healthy as the ones I consider to be less than easy on the eye.

Today, I went for a walk. Sure, it cut into my writing time, but it was bloody lovely. Wandering round the local reservoir, I could look at the clouds, watch a pair of swans taking off (noisier than I expected) and generally feel good about the world. Later I’m scheduling in a bit of yoga – taking my mind away from the world and just thinking about the breath going through my body. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep these habits going just as much as the other good ones. Who knows, it might even lead to a more creative mind. Now that would be a treat.

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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