When you’re struggling with mental illness it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the simplest things. Everyday tasks seem insurmountable and we end up feeling helpless, useless, and surrounded by chaos. Getting back on top of those runaway trains of thought and feeling can seem impossible, but sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Inspired by Queer Eye (which, by the way, is the feel good show that everyone needs in their life), this blog series will be made up of posts focusing on small things you can do in the areas of space, food, grooming, fashion, and culture, that could make a big difference by helping you feel more in control, or give you a sense of achievement.
Today, I’m channeling Karamo and thinking about little ways to experience and cultivate culture in your life, even if you’re struggling to leave the house.
Finding ways to explore culture – whether through music, theatre, art or education – is good for our mental health because it gives us the chance to step outside ourselves for a bit – something that mental illness tries to deny us. However, the nasty catch-22 here is that accessing those cultural opportunities can be a real challenge when your brain, body or both tell you that getting out of bed isn’t worth it or walking out the front door is impossible. But there is a way. The internet has its downsides but if you’re in search of culture and community, without leaving the house, it really can be your best friend.
Here are some of my favourite ways to access culture through the wonder of the net:
- Sign up for a course with Open Learn from The Open University: these courses are free to access, wide ranging in subject and content, easily accessible and super engaging! Whether you’re interested in history or social sciences, want to learn how to write poetry or understand the science behind the impact of exercise on mental health, there is a course here for you. You complete them in your own time, no deadlines or pressure, in the comfort of your own home. You can access them on any device with and internet connection so you can learn on the go as well! They really are a brilliant way into widening your horizons and exploring new ideas.
- Find theatre, opera or ballet productions on YouTube: I love going to the ballet. Absolutely adore it. I love the grace of the dancers movement; I love the music; I love watching age old stories brought to life in incredible ways without a word being spoken. I also get anxious in crowded places and whilst I am often able to overcome this for the thrill of watching my favourite performances live, sometimes it’s just too much. But I can watch some of my favourite dancers or the work of some of my favourite choreographers on YouTube! Whole productions aren’t always available but short snippets are and they are truly a joy to watch. So explore what’s available and see if you discover something to inspire you.
- Enjoy historic artwork: going to a gallery might be beyond you but did you know that you can explore the collections of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum online? There are incredible masterpieces available for your viewing pleasure whilst you remain curled up in your duvet.
I hope you find some time this month to immerse yourself in culture and, whilst you’re at it, keep in mind this bit of wisdom from the lovely Karamo:
Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness.
It is a sign of strength.
It shows that you are in tune with yourself.
Top Tip: when you’re exploring cultural avenues, try to be on the look out for something you’ve not experienced before. If you normally go for music, try looking for something theatrical to watch, if you normally lean towards literature, try exploring something scientific – discovering something new that interests you can be a real boost and help you lift your head above whatever parapets your mental illness may have erected.