The diet overhaul and supplement regime were the jumpstart I need to improve my health. However, longer term, a large factor in my IBS was my mind. I was always an anxious, introverted child, and these tendencies had continued into my 20’s. As my mind became clearer and I think perhaps being in my mid-20’s, I started to really question what was important to me. Following the initial lifestyle changes – I made the following decisions that ultimately improved my mental health:
- Moving away from the city
I’m originally from the north, and moving to London tended to be the done thing for most graduates. When I initially secured an internship there, I was absolutely thrilled. However, post university and back in London, the realities of living in the big smoke started to slowly grind on me. These included; commuting an hour on the tube to work, paying extortionate rent costs for very average accommodation, having to travel long distances across London to meet up with friends, the dirty air and spending so little time in nature. I’d grown up with a field and woods backing onto my garden, with neighbours we knew well and friends I would play with that lived over the road. I found it was very easy to feel isolated in London, being surrounded by people and knowing only those you pro-actively made an effort to see. After just under a year on my health-kick I opted to move back in with my parents and re-think my career.
2. Yoga regime
When the alternative healer treated me with reflexology, she said it was very apparent I spent a lot of time stuck in my head. As an analyst, it was effectively my job to think of problems from every angle and consider all possible scenarios. I carried this approach into my personal life, and spent a lot of my time ruminating. I’d started yoga and pilates at university but stopped when I first moved to London as there was literally not enough room for a yoga mat on my floor. The healer inspired me to pick this up again, and I started following ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on youtube and doing her videos daily. Even now as I have tried other yoga classes/ online videos – there is something about Adriene’s voice and manner that I find to be incredibly relaxing and hard to replicate elsewhere. I still do her videos frequently today.
This isn’t something I do often due to the price, but I found an incredible sports massage therapist when I moved up north and she was able to get rid of knots and kinks I had had for years. I used to carry a lot of tension in my shoulders, and she commented that it almost felt like there was grit in there because some of tension had been there so long. I see her maybe once every three months when I feel stressed. Sometimes I feel emotionally the day after, but I think it’s my body removing the toxins. Other times I leave her house and feel absolutely amazing. The aim is to develop a lifestyle where I don’t hold tension in my neck, but for the moment I find her massages a game-changer.
I sometimes struggle to admit to people that I see a therapist. I think there’s still a stigma around asking for help, even though there really shouldn’t be! This has probably been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I have learnt so much about myself, my subconscious and my core fears it’s given me a whole new perspective on my IBS and anxiety. I had previously tried two therapists in London, but I hadn’t felt like they were the right person for me. However, the lady I found in the north has been a total game-changer. She has taught me that often the problem we are ruminating on is rarely the core issue of distress, the importance of the breath and how the relationships I had growing up have impacted my self-esteem and self-beliefs. I see her monthly now but find I am becoming less dependent on her as I incorporate more of her techniques into my daily life. And after hearing Brene Brown speaking openly about her therapist – I feel a lot more open about sharing my experience with others.
5. Learning to listen to my body
I grew up in a family that was not comfortable having the hard conversation or speaking about emotions. Being sensitive was seen as a bit pathetic, and working hard was seen as the right thing to do. As a result, I’d worked myself extremely hard for many years, both at university and work and I think this had contributed towards my poor physical health. This included deciding to do a Masters degree around working full-time, that looking back was a rather terrible decision. When I moved up north and started a new job, I opted to work four days a week and give myself more space to complete my masters. I also listened to my body more when I need rest, ate the foods my body wanted and with the help of therapy, learnt to listen and share my emotions more openly. This is definitely an on-going process, but I already feel more rounded and comfortable in my own skin as a result.
6. Developing a learning mindset
Listening to podcasts, reading books and attending health-related events has really helped me to understand more about the body and the mind. It’s also helped my confidence just in pursuing a subject matter that I am so interested in, that has such an impact on the quality of my life. This includes starting a library of books that I try not to lend out if possible that I’ve found particularly profound and behaviour-changing. This also contributed towards the motivation to start this blog, as I was consuming so much information on health and wellbeing, I wanted somewhere central to record it all.