• anabundanceofmelanin

My Holistic Health Journey

In my last blog post, I explored how all the different aspects of health can depend on each other which ends up determining your overall health. I started having internal conversations about my health ever since I was around 10 years old. It was at that age where I would hear comments about my body size, how I looked physically and from that, whether or not I was healthy or unhealthy. At 10 years old, I was already correlating 'healthy' with a particular body size. As you can guess, this caused body image issues and a detrimental relationship with food and exercise for the best part of my teenage years. By the time I had turned 18 years old, I found that I was able to manage this relationship a lot better but unfortunately, I know that a lot of young girls and boys have had devastating and life-changing experiences related to body image which later lead to other health problems that are left unaddressed. The Mental Health Foundation in collaboration with YouGov found in their study that 73% of adults (20%, 34% and 19%) felt ashamed, low or disgusted, respectively, by their body image. Similarly, 68% of teenagers (37% and 31%) felt upset or ashamed by their body image. ~20% of adults and ~40% of teenagers reported that they felt worried about their body image as a result of images used in advertising/social media. I can bet that every person resonates or know of someone close to them who resonates with those statistics above. No amount of positivity campaigns and talk of ‘mindset changes’ will completely eradicate that personal responsibility of health comes after having the necessary resources to access adequate healthcare and that governmental responsibility is required to sensor inaccurate and unnuanced information that is published in the media.

This past year has seen me juggling a lot whilst trying to figure out how to adjust how I live my life during a pandemic. It’s been mentally and physically draining, joyful and exciting and very fast paced. Since I began university, my last semester has always been the hardest as I become completely focussed on finishing the year with good exam results and everything else in my life never gets the same attention as my studies. It’s a ridiculous method bound to give me multiple breakdowns but it’s what has worked for the past 5 years. Knowing that I have a big life change coming up (starting my PhD and moving away from my family home) and dealing with inconsistent and unrealistic perceptions about my health, is what made me realise that I had to get out of this cycle of making superficial adjustments that only last temporarily. The pandemic made me slow my life down and create the time needed to do this and commit to it.

I started with my physical health. More specifically, how I viewed my physical health. Before lockdown started, I went to the gym 2 or 3 times a week, yoga once a week and would walk a lot during my normal day-to-day activities. This dramatically changed when I began working on my Masters thesis and then when the lockdown was imposed, I was bound to start feeling low about gaining weight and not having time to exercise. Instead of completely changing what and how much I ate and exercised, I took a more compassionate route of intuitive eating and learning to exercise simply because it improved my functionality and mood, instead of just wanting to shift some pounds. I went through my Instagram following list and unfollowed anyone who I thought promoted a negative outlook of physical health to me (this surprisingly included personal trainers who only focussed on physical image) and searched for those who championed physical fitness for the practical benefits it gave to your body. If you use social media a lot, who you follow will influence your perspective on life more than you know, make sure they align with your values. Next, I tried some home workouts and yoga which didn’t last too long because I do prefer the gym and I’m working on rehabilitating an injury, so instead of forcing or beating myself up about it, I adjusted and started walking outside more often, trying to hit 10K steps a day. The physical and mental benefits of walking are second to none for me. It gets your body moving, you get fresh air, vitamin D and time to reflect on your mood/energy for the day. Who knows if I’ve lost/maintained/gained weight, but I genuinely can’t remember the last time I looked at myself in the mirror and berated myself for how I looked and to me, that’s the real win.

My spiritual health had started about a year ago and I have been trying to strengthen it since then. I was born into a Christian household, therefore, going to Church was always a regular activity in my family’s lives. When I got a bit older and my priorities in life changed, I stopped going less and then all of a sudden, I hadn’t gone to Church or practiced Christianity for about 8 years. I never stopped believing in God but I when I chose to start going back to Church at 21, my priorities had changed again and I found my own meaning with my faith which I hadn't explored when I was younger. Lockdown gave me even more time that I could dedicate to enhancing this part of my health which I will be forever grateful for, as some of my greatest personal triumphs have come from tapping into my spirituality and faith. As I mentioned in my last post, spirituality and faith are very personal journeys which I may share more details to one day, but as it’s something that has improved my overall life, I know that there is a message in what I’ve shared for someone to interpret and incorporate into their own life.

Social and mental health go hand in hand for me. I tend to absorb the energies of people around me like a magnet which results in my mood changing due to how I feel my relationship with others change have changed. I noticed that in fact, I had digested the dynamics of the majority of relationships I had with others or ones that existed in my vicinity from a young age. With that, I then created volatile relationships because I didn’t understand how to compartmentalise, communicate effectively or distinguish between the pain I had absorbed from other situations. Even though I feel that I am quite fortunate to know when my mental health dips, I find that how I analyse and react to situations needs to change as it will affect mine or other’s mental health if I don’t do something about it. Additionally, I definitely know that my mental health suffered significantly during the uprise of the BLM movement in June, as it brought back a lot of suppressed emotions from my childhood. As this is something that I am going to deal with for the rest of my life, I need to learn how to cope when I or others in my community experience racial trauma. I feel like I’ve done all of the work I can to get to this point myself so I have decided that I need to enlist a professional to help me on this journey further through therapy. When speaking about mental health, I think it’s important to discuss that you do not have to suffer from a mental disorder or have gone through a traumatic experience to seek professional help (therapy), I personally think that it is needed as maintenance of your mental health throughout any life changes that occur.

Sadly, a huge reason that people do not consider therapy is the lack of access to it which is mostly through financial means, and even when it can be provided through free healthcare, it’s a long waiting game. This needs to change. However, there have been small wins – over £500k was raised to Black Minds Matter which aims to help Black individuals and families who cannot afford therapy, by connecting them with Black professional therapists and paying for their therapy sessions. Similarly, @ro.reveur & @notnanalise co-hosts of the Two Twos Podcast have raised over £75k to provide therapy sessions to Black LGBTQIA+ individuals! Even as I focussed on each aspect of my health in a regimented way, I was able to build on each part as I went along. Some have been easier than others and I am so glad I broke everything down instead of trying to juggle every single thing together. I do feel so much more content with life and I have noticed that even on my off days/moments, it’s easier to recognise the problem and resolve the issue. The number one advice that will help anyone thinking of focussing on holistic health, is: don't be hard on yourself and grow to be comfortable with the discomfort that comes with REAL self awareness, because there’ll be parts of your self-discovery that you will not like. If I feel comfortable, I might share my therapy journey publicly, but if you have any questions about this or anything I’ve shared in this blog post, feel free to DM me on my Instagram (@anabundanceofmelanin)!

Thanks for getting to the end of this, but I hope it's helped you in some way. Next time, I’ll be discussing access to healthcare, health economics and public perceptions of health/health care, so make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the post or any future exclusive content!

Until next time,

D x

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