It’s mental health week (10th-16th May, just in case the fact hasn’t been excessively splashed across your social media). I’m sat pondering about what mental health actually is.
In this blog I’m going to relate mental health to physical health and touch on the idea of it ‘not existing in my day’...
Let’s think about physical health we all know that if you eat processed food, drink nothing but alcohol and sugary drinks, have constant screen time, zero exercise and don’t eat ‘fruit n veg’ you will not be be physically healthy. FACT.
(Bear in mind - Once upon a time full breakfasts and smoking were advertised, celebrated and recommended).
Sometimes we catch a cold, or our eczema flares up or we suffer 24hrs of sickness & diarrhea. We know ourselves and others are aware due to our signs and symptoms that we are physically unwell.
We also know with rest, relaxation and some pharmaceutical intervention we are likely to recover and be able to get on with our lives fairly quickly.
We know these facts as we have been told them via TV and media advertising the stop smoking campaigns, 5 a day theory, 10,000 steps a day, we do PE in school and gyms are on every corner etc... basically eating well, staying hydrated, sleep and exercise are all about a balanced physical health lifestyle. Got it.
Let’s do the same with mental health.
How do we know if we have Ill health of the mental variety?
I have heard the phrase ‘no such thing as mental health’ or ‘I’d never get mental health issues, I don’t believe in them’
Ok fine. I don’t believe in broken bones because I’ve never had one... (rapidly touches wood).
However there are hundreds of psychological theories, books, medications and therapies yet we are still to keep any bad days or life experiences to ourselves and not show feelings or emotional struggles.
We STILL apologise for crying.
Positive Feelings and emotions are the basis for good mental health.
So here’s how to spot if you are experiencing good mental health....
Think about your daily routine. Everyone’s is different, I’m asking you to focus on your own routine.
You get up, ready to face the day/night shift, deal with the kids, pets, work, shopping, caring for a vulnerable person or animal etc...
You get washed, dressed, eat, head off out the door life is good, routine, but boring, possibly mundane sometimes and you have a healthy dose of feeling stressed about being late, traffic jams, the kids not brushing their teeth or your partner pissing you off. Sounds fairly healthy.
What if over time these ‘normal’ routine things become overwhelming and empty?
You feel numb, lifeless, pointless, worthless, your mind is constantly in over drive...
What if you can’t sleep, realise you are avoiding your friends, can’t concentrate at work, don’t want to face yourself in the mirror, or wash or preen or clean the house?
Do you ever find yourself overthinking?
Hyperactive and beyond busy trying to avoid your inner mind?
Stuck in a routine you want out of? Miserable and negative a lot of the time.
Laid awake thinking about work, family, your life’s direction...
These are signs and symptoms of poor mental health. Does it matter what they are called? Anxiety, depression, stress etc... Signals that something isn’t quite right for you or a change is required.
Do we need to label the feelings and behaviours above or can we just be having a poor mental health episode the same as we would with our physical health when we have a cold?
I know this sounds like I’m discrediting mental health conditions- I am not. I’ve suffered a few and don’t doubt that I’ll have more to deal with as life goes on. But what I do know is that the term ‘mental health’ is used A LOT therefore losing its meaning.
Mental health week is here, how do I know my mental health is good?
Let me explain...
The theory is: we are all born good and a blank canvas. Some of us are calm, cool, collected, chilled, loved and content.
Some of us are hot headed, scatty, chaotic, unheard, unseen, unloved and trying to fill a void.
Some of us are practical, some of us are academic, some learn visually, audibly or kinaestheticly.
There’s loads more variants, I think you get the idea...
The fact is we are all born and we all die the bit in between is about surviving. At various points survival morphs into thriving and at other points it takes all our energy just to survive a day.
Life events happen to ALL OF US, life events do not pick and choose or discriminate, they happen. It’s not fair.
How we respond to those life events is often in relation to who we are - our default settings (more on this in another blog I think), how we have been brought up, how we feel at the time and what else is going on in our lives.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with a life event or how to feel towards it. Judging others on their life choices & responses is futile really (another blog about judgement at a later date...)
So if a life event has occurred and you feel like any of those things I described above ⬆️ your mental health may need some TLC.
Often there isn’t a life event that makes us feel this way but somehow these feelings have crept on us and we don’t know how to get past them, again your mental health may need some TLC.
Mental health TLC is much the same as physical health TLC rest, relaxation, maybe some pharmaceutical intervention but absolutely and definitely some professional talking therapy intervention.
Sooo back to ‘mental health didn’t exist in my day...’
The difference today is you can talk about it when things aren’t so great and seek help from trained professionals who have studied thoughts, feelings and patterns of behaviour. Some of these trained professionals have experienced life events too!
Maybe you need to change your life, maybe you need to get some feelings off your chest, maybe work is stressful, maybe the mother In law still wants to breast feed her adult child, perhaps you’ve considered eBaying your own children just to get some headspace and quiet time...
Whatever it is; mental health TLC with a therapist is fab way of having some YOU time and learning how you tick - which in turn helps with the shitty life events that come to us all.
Mental health is the same as physical health - you can’t have one without the other. We are whole.
Life’s not fair - fact. ‘Get thi sen a therapist’ and check in on your mental health.