The Personal

Me and My ‘Mental Ruts’

So, it’s been quite some time since I last wrote a blog post.

It’s been a funny few months for me, as I can imagine it has been for many people. We are still in the middle of a deadly panasonic, after all. As that continues to rage on, as racism has continued racism-ing, as the politics of this country has descended further into the gutter and as things have changed in my personal life, I’ve at times found it hard to think straight. I’ve found it difficult to process my thoughts, to concentrate for long periods and to keep information straight in my head. Time seems to simply pass me by – my work days as well as my evenings seem to just disappear, with me seeming to achieve very little during either of them. As a result, I’ve struggled to keep up with simple things like messages: I’ve failed to respond to so many (sorry if you are one of those) and I’ve muted numerous WhatsApp group chats because (a) the notifications were killing me, and (b) because any response that requires real thought has been beyond me. For the most part, I’ve felt like I’ve simply been existing, rather than living – moving listlessly from day to day. I’ve been in a mental rut.

Predictably then, the blog has suffered. As has my weight, my energy levels and even some of my relationships. It is not always easy to make someone understand why I can talk nonsense on social media about Love Island (although I’ve even fallen behind in that) but I can’t maintain a basic conversation on WhatsApp. The reality is that losing myself in a TV show or in silly gossip on The Shade Room or by playing the Nintendo Switch I recently bought myself is a (perhaps unhealthy) form of escapism for me. These things don’t require much thought or concentration. Ok, Zelda: Breath of the Wild does, but it’s not stressful, y’know?

I don’t know if you can relate to anything I’ve said so far. Maybe, maybe not. Truth be told, panny-d or no panny-d, I fall into these mental ruts every so often. They usually come about when I feel overwhelmed or anxious, and there are a couple of things that have been weighing on my mind recently. But these are things that, at least for now, are out of my control, and these mental ruts are no way to live. I chose to write this post – sharing some of my vulnerability with the world – because I am finally, after almost three months, starting to pull myself out of it. If anyone reading this can relate, I thought I’d share how I’m emerging.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional, mental or otherwise, and this should not be taken in lieu of professional advice if you need it. I am merely sharing what has helped me.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
  1. Prayer

I wrote a post a few months ago about prayer and how I’m finding my faith again. Now while I am not religious per se, being in touch with my spirituality has helped me centre myself and process and release my emotions. With the help of Kelechi Okafor’s Spiritual Seasoning for the Soul and Say Your Mind Affirmation cards (these are no longer on sale – sorry), I guide myself and speak affirmations over myself and my life. It may sound a bit ‘woo woo’ to some of you, and that’s fine (and you don’t need to share that with me if that’s the case). But I truly believe in the power of the tongue and that your brain and body will believe what you tell them. Shifting my energy is the first step for me in emerging from a mental rut, as it is key to me functioning properly.

  1. Journalling and ‘Brain Dumps’

Remember I said I struggle to think straight? Journalling and doing brain dumps help me. Sometimes my thoughts race – they come and go before I’ve had time to properly process them and then I can’t fully remember what they were. Writing down said thoughts when my mind is racing can sometimes feel like I’m “emptying” it – kind of like when you empty a bin – and it helps my brain feel less cluttered, ergo I feel less overwhelmed. The same goes for brain dumps. I write down all the things that are on my mind at that moment: from phone calls I need to make to an upcoming event. Being able to see it on paper enables me to organise and categorise: is this actually important, or is it taking up precious space in my head for absolutely no reason?

If you looked at some of my notebooks, they would look like utter gobbledegook: a jumble of random words and unfinished sentences – definitely not journalling in the traditional sense, but it works for me!

  1. Giving myself grace

I shouldn’t have to elaborate on this, but it is something I have to tell myself over and over again. It is ok for me to experience this, and it is ok for me to slowly – and gently – pull myself out of it. Like many people, I am my own worst critic, and I am very hard on myself. I have been that way for as long as I can remember, and it is only when I hit 30 or so that I began to tell myself that it is ok for me to feel things, to not be ok, and to fail. I am still a beautiful intelligent baddie despite these things. It takes time, and it’s an ongoing process, but it is a necessary one. Be kind to yourself.

  1. Feeding my inner child

This is a new one for me actually, but will perhaps be the best. I think we can all agree that, to a large extent, being an adult sucks. Work, bills, stress – lather, rinse, repeat. The white supremacist capitalist patriarchy we live in has made it so that we get so caught up in ‘adulting’ that we struggle to find the time, energy and money to do the things we enjoy. It has made us afraid to try new things, things we may think are past us because we’re just too old for all that now. It has made us afraid to embrace the vulnerability of being new to something, and potentially not being good at it. But who cares?

One day, a couple of weeks ago, my thoughts were racing and I was feeling rotten. I was sitting on my bed, music was playing in the background and I pulled out my journal to help me process. As I was writing, ‘Diary’ by Alicia Keys started playing and I started to sing. I have always enjoyed singing. Can I sing like Alicia? Hell no. But I am ok at it and I’ve always loved it. Am I going to take lessons when I have some extra money? Hell yes. Because I’ve always wanted to pursue it as a hobby, but a lack of confidence and all the considerations I just mentioned have held me back. I already take piano lessons, so why not? I’m not looking to build a career off it, I am simply investing in something I love – music – and feeding my inner child. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks practising songs, recording myself on my phone and getting used to the sound of my own voice, and it has honestly brought me so much joy. Feed that inner child, bring joy into your life, and it will help bring you back to the present.

Final Thoughts

Being stuck in a mental rut is no fun, and it is really hard to pull yourself out of it. As I said before, everything I’ve listed is just what has helped me. No one solution will necessarily be a silver bullet, but some combination may prove effective. If you have been experiencing a mental rut of your own, I pray that what’s written here may help ease that strain. Feel free to let me know in the comments or on the socials. Bless up.

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