(Altered from BePure Clinic Series Talk for Mental Health Awareness Week)
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). Although we may not suffer from mental illness personally - we all have days and times in our life where we are in excellent mental health and well-being and times that - well - we are not. Mental health is on a continuum - at the one side there is mental illness - and at the other side - mental well-being. There is an awful lot of goings on in between.
Sometimes the ‘not so good’ end of the scale can last for a significant amount of time. And although we may not be officially diagnosed as being depressed or anxious - we can get into a bit of a rut - and struggle to find our way out. This may be due to habits, lifestyle, relationships, jobs stress, the food we eat, previous or current traumatic events etc.
The theme for this years Mental Health Awareness Week is: EXPLORE YOUR WAY TO WELLBEING. And I think what can be really helpful is to explore our own mental health with an open sense of curiosity. A curiosity that isn’t necessarily looking for answers, but is happy to gently sit with the questions, and explore.
A question you can ask yourself when your feeling a little out of sorts is “what do I need right now?” When I ask myself this question a variety of answer might come up. Sometimes I just need to take a break, have a cup of tea. Sometimes it’s a walk outside, some fresh air, sometimes it’s connection with a good friend, sometimes it’s a good cry and a pint of icecream (just kidding about the icecream. Mostly).
Sometimes I need a relaxed, candlelit slow dinner, an early night and a hot bath. Sometimes it might be gentle walk in the park, or an extra long sleepy lie in. Other times it’s a hard long walk in the bush or some physical exercise, or a good work out in the garden. Sometimes it’s having that difficult conversation with your boss/partner/best friend or it’s related to bigger life changing aspects, such as acknowledging that you’re not happy with your job, relationship, living situation etc.
We often push our needs / wants / desires down - to fit in ‘our life’ i.e all the things we need to get done. But one of the biggest gifts we can give to ourselves - is to stop, slow down, connect with what we really need and actually pay attention to that.
The impact of not listening to your mental health needs is that you may be getting messages through your physical health that the way you are living your life may not actually be serving you. Your stomach may be sending messages that what you ate / the way you ate was not good - but it may be telling you the company you had at dinner last night wasn’t right for you. You may notice that doing those extra stressful hours at work have left you feeling tired and cranky, and with an upset bowel or an increase in your eczema. You mental health may be expressing it’s needs through a physical outlet.
Your body and your mind are constantly speaking to you and each other. It’s sending you messages - (some would say alarms). Your job is not to ‘silence the alarm’ but to explore what might be setting the alarm off. The alarm can be a physical complaint (stomach pains) or a mental signal (anxiety) however these symptoms can all be intricately linked.
With a bit of exploration or curiosity, you may begin to see how when you wind down with a relaxation exercise instead of a glass of wine - that your sleep improves, your thinking is clearer and your energy is much better the following day. You might find that a 10 minute walk, an honest talk with your partner, a much needed guilt free sleep in gives your mood a significant boost for the day.
This Mental Health Awareness Week - play with changing your focus from; ‘not being unwell’ to exploring what keeps you very well. Explore what makes you feel happy, fulfilled, relaxed and content.
By cultivating curiosity - you will move closer to your ideal health and your ideal lifestyle. Open the conversation, give yourself a sense of empowerment and give yourself permission to do what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself: ‘What is it that feeds my soul and nurtures my wellbeing’?