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Dublin: 18 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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'I couldn't keep escaping': We chat mental wellness with Siobhan 'OHFitness' O'Hagan

“I was crying but I didn’t really know why.”

AS PART OF our ‘U OK, Hun?’ series on mental wellness, this week we chatted to Siobhan O’Hagan, also known as OH Fitness, about her own personal experience of the subject.

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Love yourself enough to do the best for yourself this week. Some things I do that really helps me feel good: 👉🏼 Read 20 minutes a day of a hardback book (Usually before bead - helps me switch off from the screens) 👉🏼 Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on topics I’m interested in while doing other tasks 👉🏼 Get out in nature early in the day 👉🏼 Choose meals high in micronutrients and protein 👉🏼 Drink 3 litres of water 👉🏼 Exercise daily 👉🏼 Practice Yoga 👉🏼 Journal my thoughts They are just a few things. Is there anything there you might put into practice this week? Have you anything you do that you feel adds to your wellbeing? Post below 👇🏼 Have a great week 🖤

A post shared by Siobhan O'Hagan - OHFitness.ie (@ohfitness_ie) on

Having studied financial mathematics, Siobhan, now 30, soon became disillusioned by her career choice and decided to begin ‘chasing happiness, not money’.

Leaving the corporate world behind, Siobhan qualified as a personal trainer and underwent a physical transformation of her own; all the while actively working to adjust her mindset and perspective.

Her story piqued the interest of social media users, and the Dublin-native now has in excess of 112,000 Instagram followers; all of whom are privy to Siobhan’s insights on fitness, nutrition and mental wellness, and perhaps most importantly, how to strike a balance between all three.

Siobhan chatted to us about battling the ‘down days’, the methods she employs to maintain her mental wellness, and the importance of cultivating an open dialogue in society.

Can you always identify when your mental health needs attention, or have there been times when a friend or family member has had to intervene?

“I actually feel really in control of my mental health through a lot of reading, meditating, journalling and practicing mindfulness over the last year or two,” Siobhan says.

I am usually able to identify when I start getting into a bad mood and I try to ‘switch off’ or look at the bigger picture if something or someone is getting me down.

At times in the past, however, Siobhan has struggled.

Recalling one particular exchange with her sister, who lives overseas, Siobhan told us: “A few years ago, I was really sad. I don’t know if it was actually depression, but I remember texting my sister and her boyfriend and telling them I was crying but I didn’t really know why.”

They live in Portugal and I used to go visit all the time, but I couldn’t afford it at the time. My sister was upset hearing I was upset and so her boyfriend paid for flights for me to go visit the next weekend.

“I was happy to get away again but it really made me realise that I had to make changes to my own life – I couldn’t keep escaping.”

Are there certain habits or activities which tend to have a negative effect on your mental wellness? 

“For all the amazing opportunities and people I have met through social media, there have also been some times where I have felt it is not good for my mental health,” she admitted.

“I don’t focus too much on what other people are doing (although I do think this is a huge problem in our society, especially with younger people) but I would worry about not pleasing everyone.”

I would get hung up about some negative comments, ignoring all the supportive ones, and start explaining myself to people who have their mind made up about me.

“I have seen people speaking about me in forums and groups – spreading complete lies and half truths but with no opportunity for me to explain myself. These are the nights when I’m home alone and I know I need to switch off the phone and focus on something completely different,” she says.

And comparatively, are there habits or activities which are guaranteed to have a positive effect? 
“Practicing gratefulness is so important,” Siobhan told us. “Sometimes it can be hard to see anything to be grateful for when you’re having a really bad day but if you try really hard to find the magic in something that day, it will hopefully make you realise that you have something to smile about.”
I also like to take a step back when I’m feeling like things are getting me down. I try and look at situations from a third person-perspective and take my emotions out of it. It makes you think more rationally.
What’s one thing you’ve learned as you get older in terms of how to better manage your mental health?

“Again, looking for the rationality in any situation,” Siobhan advises.

I remind myself that nobody is inherently bad, but you might have caught someone on a bad day or they might have had a lot of bad things happen to them which affects their behaviour. 

Siobhan also calls on certain exercises to help her which she admits she would not have utilised in the past.

“I’ve learnt to use breathing and meditation when I feel myself getting overwhelmed with negativity,” she says. “This would have all sounded a bit too spiritual for me a few years ago, but I now know that it works for me.”

Have any misconceptions about any element of mental health changed as a result of your personal experience?

“I’ve learnt a lot about society’s role in mental health,” Siobhan tells us.

There’s a great book called Lost Connections by Johann Hari that speaks about it. It all made so much sense about people looking for happiness in external things and never feeling fulfilled.

“Of course, there is the chemical causes of mental health too but I think this book is an important read,” she adds.

 

Do you feel that words like ‘anxious’ and ‘depressed’ are used too lightly in today’s society or do you think its vital that the language is commonplace in order to remove stigma?

“They are words I have been careful of using because I don’t know if I understand them enough,” Siobhan admits.

There are times when I am not stressed but feeling sad and all the symptoms of stress and I wonder ‘Is this what anxiety feels like?’

“I do think it is so important for anyone who feels like they are struggling to speak out and call it whatever they like. We should never dismiss anyone’s mental health. We need to encourage open discussion in our society.”

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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