Be your own hero
Each day I read more and more about how to manage stress, how to cope with anxiety and how to live with depression. The information is in abundance - free webinars, courses, articles, TV shows, podcasts etc. Quotations fly all across social media inspiring and supporting those who are experiencing mental health issues, educating those who do not experience mental health issues, explaining what it is like to have a mental health issue - article after article, campaign after campaign - this in my opinion, as a professional woman who suffers with a mental health issue, is amazing! It is, without doubt, a positive development and any effort to decrease stigma is welcomed with open arms, heart and mind in my world.
The current climate regarding mental health is certainly moving us all a little closer to having a wider understanding of what mental health is and how it affects those that suffer. As a coach and therapist, I am seeing a lot more male and female clients approach me for talking therapies to help them cope with their mental health conditions, openly accepting they have them, when once before they would have hidden from such a truth. And with one in four of us having a mental health issue that message is needed to be made louder and louder if we are to provide the ongoing support that is needed to those who suffer daily with their mental health.
But what about the other three from that group of four, because if there are one in four who have a mental health issue then there are three in four who do not … yet … and my question is this ‘what are we doing to support them?’
Employers are still seeking ways to maximise the productivity of employees at the risk to their health and wellbeing. Commercialism is still producing campaign after campaign to make us feel less than what we are in order for us to buy pointless product after product. Economically life is hard. The price of everyday living increases and wages decrease - adding an abundance of pressure on families. Young people feel a little lost and unclear as to the brightness of their futures. This is a big melting pot of potential mental health mess, and soon those three in four without a mental health issue will be closer to the other side of the statistic.
So what do we do?
I know I certainly wish someone had taught me how to prevent mental health issues when I was younger - so I would not have had to endure some of the painful experiences I have had. This is why mental health awareness and mental health first aid courses are so important for everyone, they teach us about the signs to look out for in others but also in ourselves.
Knowing the signs can only help you so much. First aid kits are for fixing a wound not preventing it. What the three in four people need is an armour that protects them or certainly makes it more difficult for mental health issues to develop or escalate further. Their armour needs to be stronger than just learning how to eat better, do more exercise or practicing mindfulness - these will play a part but if all we had to do was eat healthily and exercise then everyone with a perfect BMI who goes to the gym daily would never experience a mental health issue – sadly we know that is not the case …. so what does make up this mental health prevention armour?
My Belief is that there are a range of strong principals that form our prevention armour:
1. Know yourself:
- What are your values?
- What are your beliefs?
- What effects you positively?
- What effects you negatively?
- What issues from your past have you not dealt with and what negative situations in your present are you stressing with or procrastinating over?
- What are your successes so far and what have you learnt from your failures?
If you know yourself you become aware of your triggers and reactions. When you know your triggers and reactions you can prevent them from escalating into something darker or affecting your life in a negative way.
2. Believe in yourself:
- Develop your self-esteem and confidence, your self-worth is critical to your wellbeing.
- Keep learning and growing in order to remain mentally stimulated and interested in life.
If you believe in yourself and keep growing and learning you will experience life more positively and those negative thoughts and feelings are less powerful.
3. Care for yourself:
- Stop and relax regularly.
- Sleep well.
- Don’t be ashamed to put yourself first when it comes to your self-care.
- Learn to manage your breathing.
- Be in the moment more often.
- Eat healthily and be active, but do it to be the best version of yourself not to be what social media or the commercial world is forcing you to believe you have to be.
- Be true and kind to yourself.
4. Know where you want to be:
Find the environment that works best for you in your home life, your social life, your work life. Feeling comfortable is crucial and unhealthy environments can have a very big impact. They can make us feel lost and lonely, feelings we are better off avoiding experiencing regularly.
5. Find your people:
- Spend time socially with the friends and family who make you feel good about yourself.
- Laugh and have fun.
- Talk openly and honestly and when you need to cry, scream and shout.
- Share emotions, release emotions and try not to suppress emotions.
6. Know what you want:
- Live your best life.
- Know what you want from your life.
- Know what you want to achieve and why.
- Set clear goals and action plans and celebrate all successes no matter the size and remember comparisons are pointless.
You are wonderfully unique you can’t do it exactly the same as anyone else and they can’t do anything exactly the same as you.
Therapists and life coaches can be a powerful chain in your armour. They can support you to cope, manage and live with a mental health issue and they can also support you with preventing them from occurring. So I say, let’s keep the conversations about mental health and wellbeing flowing, but let’s put equal emphasis on both sides of the coin - ‘living with a mental health issue’ and ‘preventing a mental health issue’. We have more power with this than we think, after all, it is our mental health and wellness, who else is there to protect it?
Learn to be your own mental health hero - learn to be your own knight in shining armour!
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