Mental Health Week 2022
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, (Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - Mental Health UK (mentalhealth-uk.org)) and this year’s theme is loneliness. One of the things that exacerbates and heightens my own feelings of loneliness is to feel alone in my experiences and to not know who to ask for suggestions about ways to support my own mental health. So here are a few things that I do that affect my own mental health – some have a negative effect, some have a positive effect, and there is at least one that could swing either way depending on how I approach it. I’m gonna leave it to you to consider which might be which.
I share these as an acknowledgement that even a qualified counsellor has to work on maintaining mental health, and not everything I do is helpful. I am a fallible imperfect human living an imperfect messy human life. And also to humbly and gently lay some ideas in front of you which you are, of course, free to take up and use in your own way or to disregard as completely unhelpful.
· Self Care – Yep, get that eye roll out of your system. Done? Ok. I know that “self care” is annoyingly over talked about and has become a byword for yummy mummies getting their nails done (which is a perfectly valid form of self care, by the way.) But it simply means remembering to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Other perfectly valid and important forms of self care might be to clean that kitchen which is no longer a joy to cook in; finish that work report which has been stressing you out; take a nap; sing along to that cheesy 90’s song on the radio despite your partner cringing beside you. What’s important about self care, and actually a bit hard, is that you recognize what you are feeling and consider what you could do to meet your own needs right now. This week I had a massage (with the lovely Anna at The Space Burston).
· Social Media (the opposite of doom scrolling – Joy? Peace? Pleasure?) – I do sit and scroll mindlessly on my phone, particularly when I’m tired. I find it an effective way to stop my brain from thinking too much. I make this an enriching experience by consciously and mindfully curating my feeds. There is a multitude of different experiences to be had on social media, I have chosen to follow accounts that I find interesting, inspiring, comforting, amusing, thought provoking. Any time I notice that a post has brought up feelings in me that I don’t want (eg. life/body/career envy; the need to change somebody’s mind when they haven’t asked for that; sadness about the awful state of the world) then I unfollow or hide that account. If I change my mind I know where I can find it again.
· Leaving Things Out Of My Diary – I only write things in my diary that I need to remember. So some days it looks like I am not doing anything. So it is quite easy to fall into the trap of filling in those empty spaces with more commitments. And then I realise that I haven’t left myself time or energy for being human and doing all the everyday necessary things such as washing, cooking, shopping, admin, maintaining relationships, breathing.
· Forgetting To Reach Out – It is important to me to have some alone time to recharge and listen to myself and assess what care I may need to offer myself. I also do need to be around other people too – for support, help, companionship. I am not always very good at getting the right balance between alone time and together time, and the more alone time I have the harder it is for me to recognize when it is time to reach out to someone else.
· Allowing Myself To Find Joy In “Silly” Things – At present I am ridiculously excited about creating life, plant life that is. As I write this I have a greenhouse full of baby tomato plants, and a windowsill full of baby leek, pumpkin and melon plants. All of which have emerged from reclaimed seeds from supermarket vegetables (except the leeks which came from last years leeks which went to seed before I harvested them). This may not excite everyone, but I am delighted by the way life (and potential food) has sprung from a waste product.
I hope you have been able to find something in here that has helped you to feel less alone, and if you would like to share I would love to hear about it.