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I Kept A Mental Health Diary For A Week & The Results Were Revealing
Words by ANITA BHAGWANDAS
Photo by NADA MUDOU
Believe
I Kept A Mental Health Diary For A Week & The Results Were Revealing
Words by ANITA BHAGWANDAS
Photo by NADA MUDOU
We asked a beauty editor and brand consultant to track her mental health in a daily diary for one working week. Here she explores the emotional journey of being self-employed during lockdown and moving back to her parents’ place

Remember as kids when every summer there was a big new ride at one of the theme parks that had queues circling, scares galore and thrills aplenty? Well, that’s happening right now, except none of us signed up for it and the thrills veer closer to a dystopian nightmare than a thing of joy. Yes, that’s the lockdown mental-health rollercoaster – and none of us signed up for it. Even those who consider themselves to be fairly unflummoxed by life’s changeability would concede that this has been a pretty rubbish and scary few months. 

While I’ve reached a good place with the unpredictability each day presents, every week comes with new challenges and surges of emotion that I’ve tried to navigate, with – let’s say – mixed results. Here’s what life in lockdown looks like for me…

Monday Motivation

I start the week fairly full of beans. I organise my diary, which is colour-coded in the way only a Capricorn knows, and I’m full of excellent intentions. I tend towards perfectionism that can manifest as unrealistic expectations and when I don’t meet them, I feel like I’ve failed. So I’ve limited myself to one or two big tasks a day. My biggest task this week? Presenting a masterclass aimed at beauty and wellness PRs on the most effective ways to work with the press and influencers. I get amazing feedback straight afterwards, which is awesome – I love that feeling when you know you’ve done a killer job. But one thing I’ve noticed during lockdown is that no matter what time I get up, by 4pm I feel totally spent. I’m allowing myself to stop then, leave my parents’ dining table, which is now my office, and slope off to be horizontal somewhere in the house. At the start of lockdown, I beat myself up about my lower than usual productivity levels – now I’ve realised I don’t have the energy or will to work until 6pm, so I just don’t. 

Tuesday Throwdown

I started late today after snoozing so long it became another entire sleep. I feel a lot of guilt in the mornings. When lockdown first started, I made an entire workout routine that I stuck to for a few weeks, but – like our freedom – it’s slipped away into oblivion and taken my meditation with it. I feel the effects of both swinging between anxious and foggy, so I focus on the online course I’m doing this week, run by my friend and comparison coach Lucy Sheridan. It’s aimed at those who want to scale their businesses and everything she says really hits home for me, including setting small, measurable goals and the value of connection. Over lockdown I’ve been doing a lot of ‘inner work’ via books, online courses and journalling. I knew I wanted to try to use this time to focus on that rather than what I couldn’t control. I take a few PR calls about new beauty launches and create some social content for a partnership I’m doing, then I’m done. 

Journalist and beauty brand consultant Anita Bhagwandas
Wednesday Woes

Work ticks along and this month has been way busier than last month, thankfully. But today I’m really missing looking like myself. I left London pretty fast and brought only my work stuff and some gym kit with me. I didn’t think I’d be here this long, or that I’d need anything else. But I’m hugely missing all of my usual accoutrements in my London flat: my vintage wardrobe (I collect pieces from the 1920s to late ’50s); my flat full of antiques; my giant beauty stash. The one time I did try to wear a rockabilly headscarf and red lipstick my mum sang a Vera Lynn song at me and my dad said something about Bet Lynch off Corrie. Though it’s all in jest I’d rather not bother again until I’m back home in London, but what I do realise is how much I took for granted, like going to vintage fairs, festivals and jive classes. I vow to do all of that when I’m allowed again.

Thursday Thoughts

Last night I did a big Zoom call with about six pals. But I found myself really drained from it and feeling pretty bleak, when I’ve actually been OK emotionally throughout this. I’ve had reflective moments, sure. I’ve sat looking into my parents’ garden, pondering inane rhetorical questions like a brown Carrie Bradshaw: “I got to thinking, what would happen if the world literally ran out of blush?” On the whole, I’ve been OK. But after that call – and many others I’ve had during this time – I felt a little zapped. Hearing what was happening in friends’ lives – babies, huge full-time salaries and book deals – I felt quite left behind. I made a mental note to limit that for a while; I’m here for people if they need me, but right now, it’s taking everything I have, and I need to save something for me.

Friday Fun

I find myself very distracted today, and it’s self-inflicted. I stayed up late watching Normal People, then woke up sluggish and drained. I slump into my dining/office chair and potter about online. Which would be fine, except I have a feature to finish, a consultant quote to write up and I need to file my annual company tax to my accountant. I perk up a bit with a coffee, which gives me enough pep for an Insta Live I’m doing with a friend and a mentoring session with a young journalist. But it’s shown me I need to prioritise some healthy habits next week. For this week, though, I’m having a KFC bucket and calling it quits. The progress I’m making feels slow, but it’s measurable and that’s fine with me.

3 Things I Learnt Tracking My Mental Health For A Week

Make new habits incremental

I plan to work out once next week, and that’s it. My perfectionism wants me to do it every day, twice a day. If I set myself up for that, I’ll fail.

Balance the work with fun

For me that’s watching Christine McConnell’s Patreon videos and looking at antiques on Etsy. 

Connect selectively

I’m limiting my calls a bit this week; I just want to focus on myself and that’s totally fine.

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