I Started Working Out 2 Months Ago – Here’s how it is changing my life!

I will be honest and say, I stumbled upon the idea of working out.

For the longest time, I have not been one to be fascinated by the idea of going to the gym. In spite of this, I have always wanted to maintain some level of physical activity. Part of the reason for this was because, as a Stay/Work At Home Mom, it is very easy to pile up the weight without even noticing it. To counter this, I found a way to incorporate morning jogs into my daily routine, or at least as often as I could.

Working out at home

The morning walks, I would later learn, help a great deal with my mental health. When I had Postpartum Depression, I remember vividly staying indoors for up to two weeks consecutively. The most I would do during this period of time was to go outside to hang baby’s clothes. The abrupt change from going to work and basically running up and about town (before pregnancy) to staying at home all day postpartum would ultimately contribute to my depression.

Read More: STAY-AT-HOME MOTHERHOOD AFFECTED MY SELF-ESTEEM

Later during therapy, the psychologist would emphasize that I always find time to spend time in the outdoors. When I started doing so, it helped alleviate the way I felt staying home all day – like the four walls were crushing in on me and suffocating me. Since then, I have kept up with walking and/or jogging. But what of the idea of a workout that targets different parts of the body? That, I stumbled upon.

When the bug to start working out consistently bit 🙂

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that lately, I have been posting selfies of my sweaty self after my morning workout, aka ‘sweatfies’. A couple of my friends have been getting in touch to encourage me on this journey, and applaud my consistency. And while I appreciate it, it hasn’t always been like this.

One of my friends, former high school mate, is an avid hiker and fitness enthusiast. She shares her journey on her Instagram page (yall go follow her here if you are enthusiastic about home workouts and pushing yourself), and as I have been following her for a while now, I couldn’t help but notice how committed she is to her workouts. She would post her steady progress, fitness goals, meal preps, hiking adventures and everything in between. It was impossible not to feel the zeal with which she shared her journey.

I started to talk to her, asking how when she began, how she has stayed consistent through it all and what motivates her. She was kind enough to answer my endless questions. I loved that she was and still is accessible and open about her personal fitness journey. One of the biggest benefits for her, and which stood out for me, was how exercise had helped manage her cramps.

Read more: 7 IMPORTANT THINGS I DO IN MY MORNING ROUTINE

Getting started on my workout routine every morning

Now, if you know me quite a bit, you would know that I have often gotten such painful cramps. Not once have I had to go to the hospital, skipped exams, even missed work and important functions because of menstrual cramps. The moment she said that, I was sold to this idea. Armed with the hope to reduce my cramps and improve my mental health, I decided I would start working out the very next day.

One fine November morning, must have been the 19th day, I dusted my sports shoes, got my sports bra and track pants and set to work out. Let me tell you guys, the heaving and panting and sitting on the floor I did that day will stay with me for a long time. I couldn’t keep up with the workout pace then. In that moment, I realized how unfit I was.

Instead of letting that discourage me, I committed myself to doing a workout daily, for 5 days a week. On either Saturday or Sunday, I would get my morning jog done and one day would be a rest day.  The weekday workouts are only 25 minutes long; I can afford to gift myself 25 minutes daily (which I would typically spend scrolling mindlessly on Social Media). I allowed myself to get going at my pace, and not to get discouraged for not keeping up.

I committed myself to this one thing for the rest of November and December (Yes, I put in a good 25 minutes even on Christmas Day J ), and keep going in 2019. Every day I would wake up, ease into the day by making my bed first and re-hydrating, then changing into my workout clothes and getting started.

How working out is changing my life!

Initially, it didn’t feel like there was much happening, but I noted, with great delight, how much the workouts improved my moods. In December, something interesting happened. My menses just began. I did not experience any cramping at all! For anyone who’s had painful cramps (save for those with medical conditions such as endometriosis for which treatment is required), you would understand what a relief this is! That only fuelled my gusto to continue working out.

In January, I started to feel my pants get a little loose around the waist area. Granted, the changes may not be noticeable to others, but these are the changes that keep me going! I remember sharing with my sister about how amazing it felt not to have my trouser button pop open!

I still have some way to go with my fitness goals for 2019, but I am certainly not where I was when I began. Working out daily has given me some level of discipline I did not have. I encourage myself to get up and get the work done even on days when I would rather sleep in. It continues to help my mental health too. I cannot wait to see how this journey unfolds all of this year – and yes, I will be sure to post an update, with before and after pictures!

Do you work out? How has your journey been? What would you say are some of the benefits of doing so? Let’s talk in the comment box below.

30 Day Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness matters

January is Mental Wellness Month. Mental wellness refers to a state in which one’s psychological well-being allows them to function well using their cognitive and emotional capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, mental wellness is more than the absence of mental illness.

By marking January as the mental wellness month globally, more people are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of their mental health. To help with you with this, I created a 30-day mental wellness challenge for this month. There are many options to get through with. The most important thing to remember is that these options are not a replacement for medication and therapy.

The challenge helps build your mental strength. Just like any other muscle in the body, the mind benefits from daily workouts to help improve your wellness. You can start the Mental Wellness challenge at any time of the year. Most people prefer to start the challenge at the beginning of the month. Whatever you prefer, just ensure that you take note of where you started and track your progress.

Please Note: This challenge is largely rooted in selfcare and social structure to improve your mental health.

The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

Day 1 – Journal about how you feel.

Take time to get in touch with your inner self, as well as to find out how you would like to feel after the challenge. Below are some wonderful prompts you can use to help with your jourmalling.

  • Today I learned…
  • My ideal day would look like…
  • I am grateful for…
  • I would like to accomplish the following three things…
  • This is how I am feeling right now…

Read More: My Selfcare Routine

Day 2 – Spend at least 20 minutes in the outdoors

Whether that means taking a nature walk, going for a light jog or walking around the block, take time outside.

Day 3 – De-Clutter

Clearing out your space has a tremendous effect on your mental health. It is particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety. Getting rid of clutter helps your mind.

Day one of the Mental Wellness Challenge includes journalling as a tool. Write about how you feel and how you would like this challenge to improve you.
Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge Day 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Unplug for 24 hours

Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. For many people, however, this has led to an over-reliance on our gadgets. On Day 4 of the 30-day mental wellness challenge, go off the internet for 24 hours. Do whatever works for you. Some people prefer to log out of all apps while others opt to delete all their apps.

Day 5 – Call someone that you love

It is easy to get caught up in life’s daily routines. This is why it is important to pause and get in touch with our loved ones. Pick up the phone and call someone that you love.

Day 6 – Slow down, be present

Our fast-paced lives mean we hardly get time to truly be present in the moment. Today, take time to slow down. Be present. I have found that taking time to note my surroundings helps anchor me in the present. Take note of five things that you can do with each of the following senses: see, hear, feel, smell and touch.

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Day 7 – Make a list of next week’s goals

What would you like to achieve? What are your short term and long term goals?

Day 8 – Do one thing that you have been putting off for a long time.

What’s the one thing you have been postponing for a while but would love to do? Today provides that chance.

Day 9 – Read something that will assist your mental wellness

Read your favorite book, fun facts, listicles, or even an informative blogpost. Here is a good place to start on this blog.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 10 – Extend kindness to a stranger

Read More: What I am learning about grief

Day 11 – Practise positive selftalk

Choose an affirmation that resonates with you. Repeat it throughout the day.

Day 12 – Find ways to improve your morning routine.

What does your morning routine look like? How can you improve it?

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 13 – Create a sacred space for yourself

This creates a safe space for you to retreat to after a hard day. Fill it with all your favourite things – sweet photographs, special letters, scented candles or even your favourite rug.

Day 14 – Do not be afraid to ask for help

Day 15 – Make a list of 10 things that you are grateful for today

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

 

Day 16 – Go through today without complaining.

Day 17 – Go to bed half an hour earlier today

Getting adequate rest is an important part of mental wellness. This not only allows the body to recuperate, it is also a wonderful opportunity to recharge.

Day 18 – Make time to enjoy the sunrise/sunset today.

Sit and soak in the splendid beauty of that moment.

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Day 19 – Write a letter to the 10-year old that you were

If you could go back in time, what would you tell the 10-year old that you were?

Day 20 – Make time to watch something that encourages you or makes you laugh.

Day 21 – Be intentional about how you speak today.

Try as much as you can to make sure that it is stuff that builds and not destroys.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 22 – Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone

Say hi to that neighbour you have never talked to. Write an audacious plan for your year. Take yourself on a date. Venture out to a new part of town. Learn how to crochet.

Choose something that takes you out of your comfort zone, but one that benefits you.

Day 23 – Practice deep breathing for five minutes today.

Deep breathing has been shown to ease anxiety. Read more about that here.

Day 24 – Say NO to the things that you do not want to do.

One of the greatest pillars for mental wellness is learning to say No and to set boundaries. This gives you space to chase after only the things that set your heart on fire.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 25 – List 10 things that you love about yourself.

Day 26 – Spend time alone today. If possible, plan a date night for yourself.

Day 27 – Make time for a healthy hearty breakfast today

Read More: Taking a minute can save a life

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 28 – Clear out your email inbox.

This is the time to get rid of all those emails that keep piling in your inbox. Hit unsubscribe for emails that you no longer read/ find useful.

Day 29 – Take photos of 3 things that make you happy today.

Day 30 – Evaluate the progress you have made during this mental wellness challenge.

What would you like to keep doing? Is there anything that worked for you? What was your best day? Do you have a list of things you can commit to do in the coming months to improve your mental health?

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

 

Featured Image credits

OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

Conversations on #suicide

I really do need to get into the habit of writing down blog ideas on the go. This post was inspired by something that happened whilst my son and I were in hospital last week. He had just got his medication administered when I had some commotion downstairs. For a moment, I let it pass because I thought, the last thing I need is to have my peace disturbed  – and so I tucked Jay in for him to continue napping and get some much-needed rest. But the noise persisted, and it piqued my interest because, what could the people/ patients be talking about so loudly? I hurried to the balcony just in time to see the small crowd that had milled around disperse. Curiously, I asked the nurse what had happened. What she said left me feeling angry, hopeless, defeated, charged and riled up – all in one.

So, the crowd that had gathered had come to pick a patient who had been referred to the national hospital. Naturally, I enquired what had led to that, and she admitted to the patient having overdosed (in a suicide attempt) and requiring specialized attention. So what was the noise all about, I asked. Apparently, a group of his ‘friends’ had come to pick him up and take him home. I say ‘friends’ because of the comments that followed. The nurse went on to share some of the crude and disheartening things they said, things like:

“Tell the medics they should have administered a stronger dose…’ (ostensibly to kill him)

“Be man enough…  relationship woes do not suffice to make a suicide attempt… some of us wish we had those very girls (those girls tormenting your life)…”

“suicide is selfish… you just don’t care about others”

“Suicide is for weaklings!”

I asked her what the administration did about the fiasco and she admitted to having had an intervention before the crowd chose to disperse. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to imagine what the man must have felt hearing such words from his ‘friends’, the people who had supposedly come to help him on his way to get specialized care.

Read More: Masked

Here’s the thing about depression and suicide. Depression is not just something you can ‘snap out of’! If it were, then so many people would get better at the snap of a finger without going through the motions of hopelessness, rage, disillusionment, intrusive thoughts and self-harm. If it were so easy, we would not have so many people struggling.

Many people think and say out loud that suicide is selfish, that it is for weaklings – but I am of a totally different view. It hasn’t always been like this. I too thought, suicide was selfish – until I suffered Postpartum Depression and experienced suicidal thoughts. Then I realized, people who struggle with suicidal thoughts feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and good for nothing. It is not just an ‘I woke up with a bad hair day and I kinda feeling under the weather’. It is believing that one is actually not worth anything.

It is feeling utterly overwhelmed and trapped with no way out. It is hazy and suffocating  – I often liken it to opening your eyes in over-chlorinated water. Worst of all, when one is suicidal, they feel like a burden to everyone around them – their family, friends and even their children. They genuinely believe that the world would be a better place without them. It is this struggle that sometimes pushes people to their limits and they go right over the cliff. In a moment, powerful negative emotions surge, and when the mind is sick, it is often impossible to stop these thoughts.

It is time we had conversations around suicide and suicide prevention. Look out for the signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Be aware of what the symptoms are. Be present enough to know when someone’s putting up a strong face yet crying for help. Go beyond ‘ hi’ and ‘I am fine’. Taking a minute to do this genuinely can save a life.

Read More: Taking a minute can change a life

 

NOTE: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts in the next post.

 

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

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September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal