This week, we’re celebrating World Mental Health Day and noticing what works well as well as where we may need additional supports.
When you think about ‘mental health’ do you imagine yourself or a loved one at their worst? Even though this is my area of work, I immediately remember when my own PTS (click HERE) was bad, anxiety (click HERE) through the roof. When I wished for the sweet release of death so much of the time. When I was too burned out to do anything. When I thought I’d never be able to stop self-harming behaviours.
Mental health is also about actual mental health. I can appreciated my increased resilience (click HERE). The post-traumatic growth I’ve experienced. How I now use anxiety as a guide instead of believing it to be proof of there being something wrong with me. I can see how much healing I’ve had over the decades. How recovery and growth are possible even when we believe we’re broken beyond repair.
When you hear about World Mental Health Day, where does your mind immediately go? How does it feel to think about it in terms of actual mental health?
I’m hoping that increased awareness means that more people will be able to recognise our own mental health and wellbeing triggers as we may take extra care of ourselves when an old knee injury flares up. I hope these self-care tools will help:
- Pause to notice how you actually feel right now – Mentally, physically (be specific about what you feel and where it is in your body), maybe energetically and emotionally? Think about a time when you’ve felt really well. How does it feel to connect with that memory (or imagining) right now? What about when you felt really bad. How does it feel to remember that? What insights do you have as you reconnect with your mind, body, heart and soul right now? What are potential stresses and triggers to be more mindful around? How might you put extra supports in place for yourself today and at other times?
- Look at your schedule – Rather than feeling on the verge of a panic attack or burnout and attempting to plough on regardless. Typing this, am remembering how, back in 2004, I got to the point where crying at my desk in an open plan office was a normal every day event for me. It was only when I was weeping while walking through the hallways that I said to my then boss, ‘I think I need to see my doctor’ and she was like ‘GO!!!!!’ There is SO much more awareness around mental health now but it can still be a huge step recognising that we need and deserve help. Taking regular audits of our daily schedules can reduce the likelihood of needing to be signed off work or anything else. What can you cancel or postpone to allow yourself more rest? How might you make more time for your loved ones if that’s what you crave? [In best Phoebe from Friends voice:] Who’s the boss of you?
- Move – Physical activity is such a wonderful way to improve the way we feel. As we get stronger physically, we can reflect on our increased mental and emotional strength. As we become more flexible, we see old issues from different perspectives and often come up with a new solution. Strong movement is one of the best tools for anxiety and stress as are literally honouring our ancient wiring and allowing ‘fight/flight’ movement that’s socially acceptable for the 21st century. This may be a run, a brisk (or gentle) walk, a bike ride, some push ups, some dynamic yoga, anything that appeals to you. Experiment and add what works to your self-care toolkit.
- Get outside – A gentle stroll or even sitting outside can be beneficial as we feel the wind or gentle breeze help clear any cobwebs, watch the changing seasons and connect with being part of something bigger than ourselves. Nature is wonderfully healing. Studies show that while exercise is almost always beneficial, the benefits soar when done outside whether running, cycling or something else. I swim year round but there’s something extra special about my sea, river and lake swims during the summer. Even typing this makes me smile remembering some of this summers’ highlights. I don’t drive so I get to cycle around town most days. What works for you?
- Balance in a way that feels good for you – We live in exciting and challenging times. Our nervous system has to work very differently to that of our ancient ancestors. They spent most of their days in rest/digest mode, only getting into stress response, fight/flight/freeze (or even tend/befriend) mode when their lives were actually in danger. Today, the thought of an email can trigger that same physiological response so it’s up to us to build down time into our daily lives so we can continue to enjoy the benefits of our 24/7 lifestyles without paying a heavy price in terms of our mental and physical health. When we take these daily steps (maybe a minute’s meditation a couple of times a day, really allowing yourself to relax physically after any exertion (click HERE as Savasana can benefit you even if you don’t do yoga)), we’re less likely to need a longer, forced break due to burn out, being run down or a chronic illness flare up. Setting boundaries is key to self-care.
- Notice patterns – Get to understand your body and mind’s language and you’ll see they’re trying to help you. When do you always feel stressed / run down / depleted / anxious etc? When do you never? How does what you eat and drink impact your mood? We’re living in trying times and a lot of my clients who have survived trauma are being triggered by the news. Even so, we all have some times when these external triggers we have absolutely no control over knock us off our feet and times when we’re better able to ground (click HERE for more self-care for trauma tools) almost instantly, rise strong and tall. Recognising the things that help and support us mean we can build on these times.
- Seek help if appropriate – It can be scary going to see your GP or ringing a counsellor for support but it is so worth it. I always tell new clients to please not give up on the idea of counselling if my style doesn’t support them. There are so many different ways – we have access to ancient wisdom from around the globe as well as the benefits of modern medicine and better understanding of our minds through neuroscience breakthroughs. Talk to different therapists until you find one you can work with for as long as you need. You can click HERE for more information about my therapeutic offerings. Online and telephone work means we can potentially work together wherever you’re based. I’m accredited as a counsellor in the UK and Ireland (click HERE) My prices go up at the end of October so get in touch before then if you’d like my one-to-one support at today’s prices. And, of course, I’m not the only counsellor. Check out the BACP, IACP, BPS, UKCP and other professional bodies’ directories to find someone you feel comfortable talking to.
The idea of celebrating World Mental Health Day may be too much for you today but ask yourself how you can honour it by better honouring yourself? Taking a little time to do something that will help you?
I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below or you’re welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org