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Tuesday, 21 May 2019

How Disney helps with my anxiety and wellbeing

A photo of me at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, earlier this year

You see that photo of me at Disneyland? Look how happy I look! The phrase 'the happiest place on Earth' was coined by Walt Disney when he opened his original Disneyland park in 1955 and for me, this statement still has a very deep rooted element of truth.

Off the back of the UK's Mental Health Awareness Week, I decided to post something, a little more personal than usual, that I hope resonates with some of you.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, a few weeks ago I posted a video to my Instagram story where I spoke quite openly and honestly about my struggles with Anxiety – this was a first for me as my mental health is something that I have never opened up about on Social Media before.

The response was overwhelming. I had several people contact me – friends, family members, old school peers, strangers, friends of friends – each explaining that they admired my bravery, that the video encouraged them to be open about their struggles with mental health, that they too have mental health issues and felt comforted by the video, that they had a loved one that struggled and they wanted some advice...

It went on and on and on, and I felt truly energised and inspired by the fact that my seemingly small action, could have caused such a positive reaction. I said in the video that if it helped even just one person, that I'd be happy, and it did exactly that. 

So, in a similar vein, I wanted to share with you all how Disney has really come to help me to combat my anxiety over the years. If you're a regular listener of the ChatDisney Podcast, you'll know that Tash and I have discussed how for many people, Disney is their safe place, and I am certainly no exception to this.

I hope you enjoy the post, and if you have any questions about mental health or need advice and support, you can check out, or reach out to your local GP.

– Mercedes

How Disney has helped combat my Anxiety and keep me calm

1. Disney Trips

A shot of me at California Adventure earlier this year

This is a pretty straightforward one.

In 2012, I graduated from University and consequently, sank into the deepest hole of my life. Reflecting back on this period now that I have come out the other side, I believe I was suffering with depression. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom – amongst the mundane, repetitive darkness that was consuming me, I took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida with my Mum, Sister and good friend Jo.

For the two weeks that we were out there, I forgot. Whilst I would argue that the experience at Walt Disney World would have been so much more enjoyable had I been able to have clarity of mind, the ability to forget, even just for a second, was invaluable to me. I believe it was this holiday that helped me to get better.

Now, I'm not suggesting that it's feasible for me to assume that every Disney fan suffering with poor mental health is able to hop on a plane to Disneyland, but it doesn't have to be a Disneyland trip per say...

Any Disney outing allows me to feel pure joy and happiness, especially when I'm feeling anxious. An alternative to Disneyland could be getting a train to London and exploring The Disney Store at either Oxford Street or Covent Garden. Or, if you're near Birmingham, how about a visit to the newly opened Disney CafĂ© in Primark? You could even visit The Ashdown Forest in Sussex, the inspiration for the 100 Acre Wood in Winnie The Pooh. There are lots of little nods to Disney all over the UK – we're very lucky to have all of this on our doorstop!

I treated my Mum to the Beauty and The Beast Afternoon at The Kensington Hotel in London for her 50th Birthday – a lovely, 'Disney' inspired treat and a chance to relax and unwind

Injecting a special 'Disney outing' into my week is something that helps lift me up when I'm feeling down and I know lots of other people that feel the same.

2. Watching Disney Movies

Photo Credit: Disney Screencaps

Again, this is another one that is pretty straightforward. For me, Disney animation is a complete fantastical, nostalgic escapism that always helps to calm and relax me when I'm feeling anxious.

It's best to really think about the subject matter before choosing a movie to make sure there aren't going to be any triggers for you (i.e. watching Disney Pixar's Up is probably not going to be wise if you're grieving a Grandparent or loved one!) but on the whole, Disney movies have heartwarming narratives, fun-loving characters and pure magic that can captivate you, whisk you away from the ordinary and brighten even the darkest of days!

3. Tea and Biscuits

My shopDisney Poison Apple Mug

In addition to snuggling up with a Disney Classic, there is nothing I love more than to sit down on the sofa with a blanket, some biscuits and a warm cup of tea! My Boyfriend jokes that I have waaaaaaayyyy too many mugs (he's probably right) and the majority of those are Disney themed!
My DisneyXCathKidston Mugs and Teapot

There is just something about adding a little Disney magic into my evening routine that makes me feel calm and happy!

4. A relaxing Bubble Bath with Candles

Maple and Whisky Candles available on Etsy are a lovely way to bring the scents of Disney Parks and Resorts into your very own Home

There is nothing I love more than a relaxing Bubble Bath, and injecting a little Disney into this only makes it better. I wrote a post about Disney inspired Lush products which highlights how you can add a little magic to your pamper session but have you also considered a Disney scented candle?

Maple and Whisky sell some of my favourite Disney scents in the form of tealights and large jar candles, including 'Main Street Popcorn', 'Pinapple Lani' which is inspired by Disney's famous Dole Whip, and even a Pirates of The Caribbean inspired fragrance! Go and check them out!

5. Disney Food

We often make Pizzas when we visit Grumpy's Parents, and it is now just expected for me to create mine in the shape of a familiar Mouse...

So, as you can probably see from the rest of this post, my favourite way of making myself happy when I'm feeling low is by creating my very own Disney magic, with seemingly 'mundane' or 'everyday' activities.

Dinner time is no exception.

Mickey Pizzas are a really easy way to add a little 'sparkle' to your evening and instantly make you feel as though you're back on Disney property. Another favourite past time of mine is to purchase the Mickey and Friends pasta from Disneyland Paris. If I'm having a pretty bad period of anxiety and I get home from work, cooking myself some of this with bolognese (and lots and lots of cheese please!) always manages to put a smile back on my face.

You can also add a little Disney magic to your baking if you're a keen cake maker!

Mickey Christmas Cookies made by me!

The food possibilities are pretty much endless. How could you not smile when tucking into these little guys?

– and that's pretty much it!

I am of course not suggesting in this post that The Walt Disney Company helped cure me of my anxiety – I needed a combination of psychotherapy, the headspace app and good friends and family around me for that, and even then I'm not sure that I will ever be cured – but Disney certainly helps me day to day, just to perk me up a little when I'm down by allowing me to escape into a much happier, fantastical and optimistic place. 

I would love to hear your stories – what helps to keep you grounded when you're struggling? Is any of this true for you too?

Let me know in the comments below.

– Mercedes

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