OK, so it is Mental Health Awareness Day and the main thing I need to say is the title of this post.
At some point in our lives, most people suffer with some form of mental health issue. Often, sufferers won’t want to talk about their problem, or even acknowledge it themselves perhaps. I personally have suffered with eating disorders, self harm, depression, and anxiety. However I would wager that many people who know me would be shocked to hear this, and not ‘have me down as the type’. But this is what mental health awareness is about – there is no ‘type’. Poor mental health can happen to anyone, and the reasons for its occurrence are numerous and complex.
Currently, I feel in one of the best mental places that I have been in my life to date. And I am going to try to explain a few things that have helped me, with the hopes that someone else who is hurting, now or in the future, may find some help in them too.
Getting out in nature – I recently read that on the Scottish island of Shetland (or Orkney, not sure), a scheme is being piloted whereby doctors can prescribe activities as well as medication. Working in partnership with the RSPB, some of the activities include walking and birdwatching. I find that even drinking my coffee outside in the morning helps me to have a sliver of peace, to collect my thoughts, and prepare myself for the day. I also go out of my way to have time outdoors every day. Even in the rain (see my last post for what we do in the rain). So why not go to the beach/forest/park for half an hour on the way home? There are tonnes of handy online guides to walks which incorporate rivers, waterfalls, monuments etc, or even join a walking club. Not only will fresh air and nature help you feel refreshed, but the exercise is great too.
Socialise – my social life is very important to me, and there are countless studies which demonstrate how loneliness has a negative impact on our brain function and mood. If you work long or unsociable hours it can be hard to see friends or meet new ones, but its so important to make time for this. Being sociable could be chatting at the bus stop, talking to parents in the playground or going along to a playgroup/craft group/ beach clean/pub quiz. If you already chat to parents in the playground for example, you could extend this by inviting them and their child to the soft play. Or if you see the same person at the bus each day, perhaps bring some cookies one morning? It might sound a bit funny to do this kind of thing, but to someone who could be struggling, a simple act of friendly kindness can mean a lot. And plus – it makes us feel nice to be nice too of course!
Mindfulness – We all know this is a ‘buzz’ word at the moment, but seriously, mindfulness is like hummus, once you try it, you won’t know how you ever managed without it! Meditation is great, but small steps here, for the mindfulness newbie – here is some advice that was given to me by a mindfulness expert. Think of a task that you don’t like, for me it was hoovering up. Next time you do the hoovering, take the time in your mind to actually observe what you are doing, look at every nook and cranny that you are cleaning. Acknowledge the areas you have already cleaned and those that are yet to clean. If your mind wanders to something else, simply imagine that thought as a train and let it leave your station, then return back to focusing on the hoovering. Do not berate yourself for your mind wandering, just gently move your thoughts back to the task. Take pride in the task you have completed, and smile. This may sound bizarre – but actually try it. Enjoy that you have a clean floor, enjoy the satisfaction of a task done. This different outlook really helps me to feel calm, happy and peaceful.
Counselling – When we think of counselling, its easy to think that only people who have experiences something really bad need it. Recently, after a friend mentioning that she was seeing a counsellor, I decided to give it a try. When I made my appointment, I was asked if there was anything in particular I needed to talk about, my response was no. And yet I’ve just had my third session and I can tell you that I haven’t stopped talking! I am finding it so helpful to talk to someone impartial, who is understanding and helpful. Even though I wouldn’t have said that right now I have any specific issues, it is just an uplifting feeling to talk through various life experiences, most of which have never left the confines of my brain before.
Animals – give a furry thing a cuddle!! There is a plethora of scientific evidence that animal contact can help calm a variety of mental health issues, but the best proof is in the doing. If you don’t already have any animals, take your friend’s dog for a walk, visit your local horse rescue centre, maybe volunteer at a wildlife reserve. Animals are endlessly forgiving and give out positive energy, so getting friendly with them is sure to help improve mood and positivity levels.
I know it is so easy for someone to say – oh this will help. And maybe it will or maybe it won’t. But for anyone reading this, please know that I am always available to listen, make a meal, run an errand, look after babies (both human and fur), and help in any other way I can, without judgement. We all need each other yo ❤