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Secrets To My Favourite Life - 4

The Little Things

In order to have balance in your life, a routine is your saviour. Gone is the anxiety of worrying about the little things when you have a schedule you are familiar with. With my mood disorder, establishing routine is the most necessary way of keeping my life stress free. However, to continue with a routine you need to have the motivation and excitement to carry it through - that's where I struggle.

I thought up little things that would motivate me, pick me up and push me to continue living my life in a balanced way. These are all very small adjustments we are all capable of, and as silly as they might read, they are very beneficial for those who require more balance as a result of mental illness - or for those who just want the best chance at having a good day.

I am not saying at all - if you do this and do that, you will be cured of depression. Of course not! But these things do help give me a little lift, which make me feel less helpless in trying to control my mental illness.

One of my issues when I was depressed was that I didn't want to leave my bed. Part of my routine that helps keep away an episode of depression is having a constant time of waking up. However, there would be nothing stopping me rolling over and turning off my alarm - so I made small adjustments that motivate me to follow that routine. One change that massively changes how I feel about waking up, perhaps because I love food, is having a really nice breakfast. I can tell you that if I buy a cereal I love, the night before I will be excited at the thought of waking up to eat it. Today I bought a lovely cheese and I had a quick and easy cheese and toast. Buy your favourite fruit juice for you to have with breakfast, make waking up a treat and schedule in that time to just enjoy your first meal - I usually catch up on news whilst I eat. Another good pointer in motivating you to wake up, especially in summer, is opening your curtains before you go to sleep. This is potentially only good advice for those who don't have a ground floor window as that could feel quite creepy, but nobody can see in my windows so I leave the curtains open before I sleep because I know that in the morning my room will be bright when the sunrises - helping me naturally wake up with the daylight.

The next change I made, which I have emphasised before, is keeping your environment clean. Embrace minimalism! Despite how difficult it may seem. I've had somewhat of a fresh start with my environment, where I have very little junk but it makes me feel so content. When you don't have to look up at a mess, oddly enough you don't feel like your life is such a mess! The less you hoard, the less you feel stressed in your environment too - I assure you! Also, I used to have so many clothes - okay, I still do - but I have gotten rid of so many pieces that I was hoarding but would never wear. Having my clothes rails arranged in such a manner where if I wake up and need to get ready quickly - it feels easy, and I can always dress well since I can easily see what I own. Maybe as I'm getting older I'm finally embracing quality over quantity, but it's such a wonderful fuss-free way to live.

Carrying on from the idea of getting ready in the morning, make your getting ready process simpler. Always start your day off with a quick shower, take care of your body too. I moisturise every day and I would tell myself before I didn't have time for it - but it takes 2 minutes. Then when I apply make-up, I only apply around half the amount I used to! I now do my makeup in 10 minutes instead of an hour I used to spend, and I've got the right products where I still feel like I look my best despite not wearing 3 different concealers (which I was very guilty of). My hair only takes 5 minutes now, I cut most of my hair off a few months ago and it just makes life easier and I definitely look more sophisticated. When I miss the long hair? I just clip in my hair extensions, which also takes around 5 minutes.

I am motivated to follow my daily routine if I keep a diary, I often look over my schedule during breakfast. I buy myself a really nice diary and a really nice pen - and suddenly it feels like I have my affairs in order! I write everything in my diary and I never miss anything out. It's so good to have things planned out because it completely abolishes stress. I even plan my specific times to look at my emails, when I have breaks - which you should always give yourself - and social events. When I know I have something coming up, as I write in my diary I also make my travel arrangements at the same time so I can write in which time to get on the train etc. It makes life so much easier for the sake of a few moments. At the same time, as much as my illness doesn't agree with spontaneity - I love being spontaneous, so I don't over-plan. I will leave myself a lot of free time so I can decide at that time what I want to do.

Tips for during the day to help you get through? Have a set of earphones so you can listen to music. Make yourself various playlists and listen to whatever ones for your mood, for example: a calming playlist, a happy playlist, an upbeat playlist... they really do help shape your mood for the better. It's good to have those so that you can turn them on and get an immediate lift. Another tip I follow is that I always have a bottle of water with me and something for snacking: which is usually a few nuts. I find when I become dehydrated or hungry through the day and if I don't necessarily have the time or am in the place to help that, sipping water and snacking really stops that 'hangry', (that's hungry and angry), feeling from blossoming.

Importantly, I recommend everyone makes time to do what they love. For me at the moment, that's writing, reading and exercising. I never book myself completely up to the point where I don't have 15 minutes of doing what I enjoy in a day. Writing and reading are very calming activities but at the same time they are very stimulating. Exercising, as we all know, is one of the best ways to get an endorphin rush - also seeing results in my body is a really nice motivator to continue, looking my best inspires me to keep going with my exercise regimes and I always feel good following a workout. Keeping physically healthy will always help with your mind, making an effort with your diet too is another way to keep you feeling good - don't restrict yourself in a way where you feel grumpy, just make the effort to have more fruits and vegetables and treat your 'treats' as a treat! I have a sweet tooth, so there are times I would eat a lot of chocolate and then that would make my skin bad and then that in turn, would make me feel bad. Having little portions of those things you crave is healthy, bingeing is never a fantastic idea for me.

One of the changes I made to my life was choosing to wind down around bedtime, recently I've been hooked on a few TV shows so I watch until around 22:00, then I turn off my social media and read until around 11pm. This is the hardest part of my routine: learning to wind down. I get excited for my bed because I always make my bed in the morning after I wake up and I make it look really comfortable for coming home to. I almost christen my evening by lighting candles, I blow them out once I go to get into my bed. I always have a fruit tea before I sleep, it helps me a lot when I have insomnia. Turning off social media out of everything is probably the hardest because I always reach out to my phone when I can't sleep, it's really counterproductive. However, occasionally looking at odd funny videos on my phone can be good and I just set my alarm for the next morning and nod off.

I hope these 'little things' help some of you, of course I am not telling you all that this is how you should live - these are just a few of the changes I've made in my life which make my day a bit easier and happier. Please read this article in the context of the other pieces, I follow this routine along with taking my medications and attending my appointments. Also, I understand it's not easy. There are days I struggle to follow this! Of course when you are in the bottom of depression, you care less to wake up to an alarm and a nice cereal will not make everything change for you, but these small changes are steps towards getting a little bit of control over your life when it's really difficult. I hope you find this as helpful as I find it in managing my illness, or at least gives you food for thought.

London, UK