Talking therapy is for anyone having emotional problems or a tough time dealing with something in their life. Sometimes it’s easier to speak to someone who is completely neutral; someone who will respect and withhold judgement to give you the best chance at overcoming any psychological difficulty you are facing.
Your mental health and emotional wellbeing is just as important as your physical health and fitness. Mental Health Awareness week is about shining a light on something that is often stigmatised or misunderstood. Mental health issues vary in severity and come in all kinds of forms and feelings. You can start building up resistance to mood hampering emotions by opening up to a professional or joining this global conversation online. This campaign lets you know that you are not alone and there are people who can help, listen and accept you for who you are and want to be.
The importance of ‘Real Relationships’
This month we sat down with Balance Magazine to discuss the importance of talking as ‘speaking out increases compassion in ourselves and others’ giving us hope for a better future and stronger sense of self and community. Talking about your feelings is a basic human need that in the long-term helps you to build stronger relationships. Human compassion after all is the basis of morality.
On the surface we have reached a new level of connectivity through the advances in technology but a virtual connection is not the same as a present one. Human relationships are essential to building a meaningful life. These deep connections become our own mini support networks that we can rely on in times of need. The Mental Health Foundation have a ‘Relationship Resolution’ initiative that encourages us to make a conscious effort in investing more time and energy into our existing and potential relationships.
Our quick-paced modern lives are disrupting our relationship-making capabilities. We have compartmentalised the idea of friendship into brackets such as ‘associates’ and ‘best friends’. Even Facebook gives us the option to categorise our friends into ‘Close friends’, ‘Acquaintances’ or another list of our choosing. Social Media has completely revolutionised the way we view social interaction. Facebook has redefined the whole idea of friendship in the digital age. In order to reclaim the word and importance of human connection we need to start using these social platforms as tools for nurturing deeper connections rather than a substitution or easy way around it. Strong relationships need time, attention and care. Instant online interaction can help build those foundations but this must be balanced with a healthy commitment to real life interaction.
Standing up for mental health
In her Ted Talk ‘What’s so funny about Mental Illness’, Ruby Wax reveals her own struggles with mental illness and why it is so important to talk about these inner feelings: ‘If we don’t talk about this stuff and we don’t learn how to deal with our lives it’s not going to be 1 in 4 it’s going to be 4 in 4 who are really really going to get ill in the upstairs department’. She suggests that in order to overcome much of this angst and social taboo surrounding mental health, we have to start opening up instead of shutting down.
Stand-up comedian Dave Chawner discusses his experience of living with an eating disorder in this podcast. This quirky, upbeat interview challenges the typical standards and stereotypes about eating disorders and gender. His story reminds us of the commonality of mental issues. Mental health is by no means a joke but honesty, candidness and self-reflection are some of the best communicative techniques that can ‘help people help themselves’. Shame, stigma and stereotypes often prevent us from disclosing difficult feelings even to the ones close to us when sharing ourselves in a more open way can facilitate deeper connection and help us feel less alone.
Stephen Fry and other celebrities like Professor Green have all disclosed their own personal battles with mental health through documentary, using TV as a platform to provoke a much-needed awareness. Stephen Fry has ever since been an advocate for fighting against the public perception of mental illnesses. He provides an alternative view to how mental health could be perceived: ‘I don’t know many people actually worth knowing that don’t have a mind that sometimes leads them astray. I don’t know that sanity; real sober, sensible sanity is such a glorious thing. I think most of the world’s advances in creativity and invention and in almost anything have been done by little spurts of madness.’
Useful tips & practices
‘Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery’ so the Mental Health foundation provide a great variety of advice. Here are their top 10 tips on how to look after your mental health. Every single one of these ideas is important to maintaining your mental health. Just like your physical health it needs to be worked on too.
Getting enough sleep is very important to your mental health and ability to regulate your emotions. Our lifestyles and culture and technology work against us in maintaining regular sleeping habits. Try banning your devices from the bedroom – and instead stick to some old-fashion reading and sleeping. Try to have a regular bedtime routine so that you’re body and mind respond to these ritualistic cues that indicate when it is time to go to sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Lastly, if you haven’t had a good night sleep don’t be tempted to over sleep in the morning or to nap as this will make it harder to go to bed the following night!
With a little help from your friends you can get some of your worries off your mind. Being able to share your difficulties with someone can help you think about whether your worries are in a reasonable balance or if you need professional help. Many of us have similar worries so sharing with your friends can help you feel less like you are on your own and also help you find out how other people cope and manage with their worries. This will also help you feel more connected and able to support your friends and therefore strengthen these relationships. If your worries are interfering with your ability to live and enjoy your life this might be the time to talk to a psychologist to gain a better understanding of yourself and find a more effective way forward.
Most importantly, take the time to make plans with the people close to you. In our busy lives we need to make sure that we make time for our relationships, as it can be very easy to assume that relationships will look after themselves and that we can always pick them up where we left them. Making the time and taking care of our relationships can help us take care of our mental health.