Lisa's story: "I believe everyone has at least 10 minutes a day to be kind to themselves."

I have a family history of mental ill-health and have lived with my own mental health problems since I was a teenager. My problems began after I had a miscarriage, just before my second son was born. My world completely fell apart - I just couldn't understand why it had happened.

Three months later, however, I became pregnant again. I should have been excited by the news but instead I was consumed by fear as I kept thinking that I was going to lose the baby. It was the lowest point in my life. I cried constantly and had suicidal thoughts.€“ My world simply looked black.

I wouldn't leave my room for long periods of time and I started to become a danger to myself. I began to abuse alcohol, laxatives, and was spiralling out of control. It was then that my Mum and Stepdad decided to move into my house, to make sure I was safe.

Then, when my youngest son was 5 years old, I split up with my partner. It was a distressing time and my health started to deteriorate. As things got worse, I realised I needed to see a doctor. I was diagnosed with bipolar rapid cycling, depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder and prescribed medication. The medication helped a bit with my emotions, but they would either leave me feeling sedated, hyper, or withdrawn.

My psychiatrist then referred me to see a councillor where I was offered a course of 10 cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions. The CBT sessions were great but just as I started to feel like the sessions were really working, they ended. However, during those sessions, I was taught something new that I could use every day: mindfulness.

I didn't know what mindfulness was, or how to approach it, but my counsellor thought it could really help. When I first heard the term mindfulness, I thought it meant to €˜meditate. I'm not good at concentrating so I thought it would be really hard for me to do.

However, once my councillor began to explain a bit more about what mindfulness was, I realised that I'd unknowingly practiced mindfulness before both in labour and in work, as a beauty therapist - where in both instances I've used deep breathing techniques. I remembered then, how I felt when I practiced deep breathing and how powerful it was. I learnt that allowing yourself to '€˜do nothing' was incredibly effective.

I now use mindfulness every day as a way of checking-in with myself and asking '€œam I okay?'€ Mindfulness has taught me to be kind to myself.€“ I joined Slimming World and have learned how to eat well and have lost some weight in the process. Mindfulness has helped me to stop drinking and take laxatives, and I now have the courage to leave the house.

When I'm on the go, I use an app on my phone which provides 10-minute daily sessions of deep-breathing exercises. I believe everyone has at least 10 minutes a day to be kind to themselves. My son bought me a book called The Little Book of Quiet which is full of quotes on mindfulness that I always keep with me. I know that my mental health problems will always be there, but I feel better about myself, like it's shifted my outlook on things. Mindfulness allows me to be one step ahead.

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