If you’ve taken your daily scroll through social media today you will have realised it is World Mental Health Day. A day designed to raise awareness of all mental health issues.
For my contribution to raising awareness and supporting those that I am able to reach I wanted to share some things that help me become more mindful in my own mental health journey.
Firstly, let’s talk about the term ‘mental health’. What does this term mean to you? What do you think of when you hear it? Depression? Sad songs? Psychiatric wards? Pills? Tears? Loneliness?
It can mean a lot of different things to each individual. Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:
‘A person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being’
Which in layman’s terms means your mental health can either be good, or bad. It also means it is ever changing, you will not always feel what you are feeling now. However, when you have a mental health issue your clever mind makes you believe you will feel this way forever. Clever little bastard, isn’t it.
The term ‘mental health issues’ covers so many different illnesses, to name but a few:
As you can tell this is a broad spectrum of conditions. I’m sure you’re aware this blog is not a medical blog and I am not medically trained. I have, however, suffered from anxiety issues in my past and I am aware that depression and anxiety is on the rise. I cannot talk about psychosis, PTSD, Eating disorders or OCD, but I can talk on depression and anxiety issues, from experience and from my yoga training. However if you or someone you know if experience mental health problems talk to your GP.
If you are currently experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic I want you to pause right here and take one deep inhalation via your nose. Really slowly. And when your lungs are full breathe in a little more (there is always more space!). Now slowly purse your lips are allow the breath to exit the body via the mouth.
Do this as many times as you need and at any point in your day. It brings you into the present moment. Anxiety and panic only exist in past or future tense, never present.
Now let’s share some tips that will help you take control of your mental well-being. Try them all and find what works best for you. Give yourself time, understand this is a working progress and you are getting better each day, it is a journey to wellness.
Breathe: Like I just described above, becoming aware of your breath is the best way to bring you into the present moment. It also slows your heart rate, which is no doubt beating super-fast due to the adrenaline your anxious body produces. Inhale for a count or 5, exhale for a count or 5. Download one of these apps to guide you until you feel confident enough to go it alone.
Get off your phone! Ever noticed when you start to feel a little anxious you reach for your phone? Like a little security blanket that phone will help distract you from all the symptoms you’re currently experiencing but you’ll no doubt end up on Google with Bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria (don’t Google that). What I’m saying is if you pick your phone up every time you experience anxiety symptoms then how are you ever going to overcome them? You have to be brave, fearless and sit with them. When you sit with them you learn how to take control over them, and when you take control over them they become weaker. Remember how powerful your mind is. You can either work with it, or against it.
Get Outside! Seriously, nature really is the best medicine. Scientific studies have actually shown your blood pressure reduces the more into nature you get. No matter what season it is, rain or shine, it is good for you to head outdoors. Walk, run, climb, sit, anything that gets fresh air into your lungs and daylight onto your skin. I make sure I spend a little time outside each day and get out for a big hike at least once per week.
Get Creative! You don’t have to be Picasso to pick up a paint brush and you don’t have to be 80 years old to knit. There are hundreds of ways you can bring your mind to one point of focus each day. Mediation works for some and painting works for others. You can knit, cross stitch, bake, write, sing, play music, crosswords, board games, books, photography, anything that takes all your attention. By bringing your mind to one point of focus you strengthen your ability to overcome symptoms of panic. Find something that you love doing, I for example like to paint. I’m terrible at it but I enjoy it so I do it, and no one else see’s so what does it matter! It gets me away from work, my phone, social media, TV and allows me to completely switch off. Before I know it 3 hours have gone by and I’m ready to sleep soundly. It’s bliss.
We shouldn’t just be talking about our mental health today, we should talk about it every day. Even when we feel really good tell someone, ‘I did this and it made me feel great!’
People with mental health issues often suffer in silence for a long time, but trust me you don’t have too. No one will judge you for speaking up, if anything it’s a sign of strength. Don’t let that clever bastard mind of yourS make you believe your false reality is real.
When you walk in the rain, you feel the rain but you are not the rain. You are not your mental health issue, it is just a part of you that you can begin to control and overcome, in time, with support.