Getting your mental health in shape this summer

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

Summer is here and social media is the one-stop-shop to spy on friends and Instagram models showing off their summer bods at the beach and catching up on the party-scene. Staying healthy and eating well is undoubtedly important this summer, however, when was the last time you thought about getting your mental health in shape during the festive season?

We as a society focus so much in the months leading up to summer on getting our abs toned and hoping we achieve a good summer glow. This is all well and good, however we seem to sideline our mental health.

Not this year! I've personally tried to focus on mental health journey this year, especially during Covid-19. For years I have silently suffered with anxiety and OCD but didn’t really think about getting the help I needed.

In 2019, I started taking anxiety medication, Effexor XR. Effexor was great at first, to be honest it all felt like a placebo effect. I was told by the doctor the medication would make me feel better so I proceeded to take it. Then the doctor told me after a few months it takes a whole year to come into full affect. Then I started to question whether or not the medication was even working.

For seven months I took the anxiety medication and I felt like it was not doing anything for me. It was not a great feeling going out into the world and deciding I need help, and only for the help to not be working. So, I stopped the medication. Gradually my anxiety and OCD got worse and worse and I found myself anxious about things that really didn’t matter, and my OCD was slowly taking over my days.

I visited my doctor at the end of 2019 and decided to go back on Effexor XR and continued till March of 2020. It was then that Covid-19 became a factor within our lives, and we were all sent into lockdown. Once again, I stopped my medication convincing myself there was no point because I was going to go crazy stuck inside all day and night anyway.

April came along and I experienced personal heartbreak in the form of a breakup. A breakup I had caused through my actions, to be completely honest. The end of this relationship left me in the worst possible position I could be in. Once again, I started taking Effexor in a last-ditch effort to help myself and my mental health.

I was advised by a loved one at the time to start therapy and come mid-June of 2020 I started seeing a therapist on a fortnightly basis. We would discuss reasons for my anxiety, my battle with narcissism, OCD, and my inability to be happy in a relationship. We also discussed my sexual history and my fascination with helping women financially while in a relationship and how I felt as though I obtained the power in the relationship when I paid for everything.

I will not advocate that after five months of fortnightly sessions with a therapist that all is well and good in my life. However, it has shown me that yes, I am a flawed human being, but I am on a path to better myself. Yes, it is cliché, but getting help is the first step.

With New Year's Eve around the corner I must admit that it is that time of year where reflection takes over all my thoughts. Did I achieve my career goals? Did I achieve my relationship goals? My personal favourite, did I achieve my weight loss goals? Even though these are rhetorical questions, I shall answer because the next part is very important. No, I definitely did not.

These failed goals are obviously depressing to some. However, not to me. I put my mental health first in 2020 and made sure I understood why these goals were set and why it is okay to not fully achieve them. My therapist helps me understand that.

Sitting down with a therapist once a fortnight and consistently having my anxiety medication has placed me in a position where failure is not the end of the world. Failure is a lesson on where I should try harder. My career goals were not reached, I didn’t achieve my relationship goals and I did not achieve my goal weight. It is not the end of the world no matter how much it feels like it is.

This idea of reflection during NYE celebrations is a part of a much bigger problem within society. Dr Larry Kubiak, Director of Psychological Services at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioural Health Centre stated that NYE is exceptionally hard on mental health.

“Anytime there's a time for reflection, you have the potential of becoming even more depressed. Especially if you feel like you just don't measure up in comparison to others. During this time, we’re more likely to reflect upon our achievements or lack thereof,” stated Dr Kubiak.

This summer, I dare you to place your mental health first. Work out your mental muscles and work up the courage to get that much needed help. Suffering in silence is only bearable for so long. Government Mental Health Plans are free and offer 20 free sessions with trained psychologists every year.

Now, I am not staying don’t hit the gym and start eating junk food. I’m saying hit the gym, eat healthy but also give your brain the same respect you give your body.

Take the steps necessary this summer to get your mental health summer ready. Talk with family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends – and alternatively, speak with a GP and start your mental health journey today.