Finding Your Voice

By Tara Vaghela.

For me, the ultimate form of self care is looking after my mental health. It's the most important thing and if it’s not nurtured, everything else seems to be harder to manage.

It's personal

I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time, from childhood – social anxiety and lack of confidence – Remember the fear of having to read out in class? I’d always say “I don't want to read today”, because I didn’t feel my voice should be heard.

Later in life, this spread into the workplace, where speaking up in meetings or to colleagues was a big “no, no”.

In 2013, my mental health took a hard hit due to large scale bullying at work. I left the job and whilst recovering, I started to question why was I being silent, when others weren't. We’re all equally important.

It's a journey

I forced myself into uncomfortable situations – starting a brand new profession, having lunch with my new colleagues, talking to strangers, taking on new challenges. This exposure therapy was the positive change I needed at the time and it felt great! Even though I started having panic attacks in 2014, I taught myself ways to manage them. I've put in a lot of work through trial and error. For me, box breathing works well – inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and repeat.

It's natural

At the end of 2019, I found out I was pregnant! One of my biggest fears in life is pregnancy and childbirth. My pregnancy was planned, even though it terrified me, I wanted a child.

2020 hit! Global pandemic! All the anxiety rushing around my head – pregnant women at greater risk, attending antenatal appointments alone, working from home, a clinically vulnerable husband, isolation, rules, restrictions; the list goes on. We made a decision to set boundaries, this is a useful tool when it comes to managing mental health, and it’s something I’ll continue to use.

My pregnancy was uneventful, we enjoyed our little closed off bubble. The labour and birth, however, were traumatic, a lot of things went wrong very quickly. Things I’d never even thought about in my anxious mind were happening, it was messy and there were a lot of people involved!

Both my physical and mental recovery are ongoing, and as well as box breathing, I now also use the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding technique:

It's about you

It’s through all of these mentally challenging times that I found my voice!

We learn valuable lessons and grow from such experiences. Although tough at the time, when looking back we can map how far we’ve come.

But remember, only ever look back to see how far you've come!

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