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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is 10th -16th May 2021

This week you will see lots in the media about mental health. It will be all over your social media feeds and celebrities will bravely share their experiences in order to normalise mental health struggles. Powerful stuff!

I am in awe of anyone who is brave enough to share their mental health journey publicly because I know how difficult it is and the judgement that has come with that in the past. Thankfully, over recent years the stigma associated with mental health issues has diminished and it is more acceptable to be open about our challenges than ever. 

 

That doesn’t make it easy though.

If you are reading this as one of the few people on the planet who has never had a mental health struggle in their life, don’t think for a minute that it is ever easy to share our mental wellbeing challenges. 

For most people, at least an element of their struggle is worrying what people will think and how they will cope in a new situation. Sharing their deepest, darkest internal battles is therefore one of the bravest, most difficult things someone will ever do.

There are countless organisations and movements now voicing the challenges those of us with mental health and supporting us on that journey, not just this week but all year round. They are incredible but we still have to be brave enough to admit that we are struggling. Unfortunately many of these services and organisations are under funded and as a result have shockingly long waiting times. 

I have been very open about my mental wellness journey and not just during mental health awareness week. I am fortunate that I am a sharer, and my driving force in life is supporting others and helping them unlock their full potential. I know that being honest about my challenges is a vital part of that work. It hasn’t always been easy though. The first time I wrote a blog about my own depression and anxiety I was terrified, but over time I have got used to it and grown a little braver because of it.

My daughter was incredibly brave and shared her story on my school website almost two years ago now. I have never been more scared than I was posting that blog. Not only was it a very intimate piece by my daughter, but I was also concerned that I would be judged because I am a wellbeing professional and my own daughter struggles with her wellbeing almost constantly.

The reality though is that most people do. 

Even with all the tools I have in my mental health toolbox I still have days when I can’t get myself to a point where I even want to try using them. Those days happen less and less as time goes on, in fact I can’t remember the last time I had a day like that, but I would never been presumptuous enough to think that I never will again. One thing that is for sure, is that our mental wellbeing is a changeable and unpredictable beast. We may go for years feeling great, then one event derails us. 

Mental wellness

Throughout our lives we are constantly climbing that mental health mountain and gaining new perspective with every step.

With time and practice it gets easier to see the early warning signs and take evasive action. If I start to feel tired and notice I am eating more junk food than usual, I know that is my early warning so I correct my diet, up my exercise and self care and give myself more healing that I usually would. That is usually enough for me to avoid having a slump day.

It takes practice though, it isn’t an overnight change.

What sort of things can you do if you are realising that you need some help with your mental wellness?

  • Talk. Talk to someone you trust, someone who makes you feel safe. Sometimes just sharing your feelings can be enough to help you shift that feeling. One thing is for sure though, if you can find one person to confide in, it will be a weight off your mind, and it is instantly someone else to support you when you are feeling weak and frail. 
  • Ask for help. This is one of the hardest things in the world. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, just having someone help you with your housework, picking the kids up from school or cooking you a meal can be a game changer. You will almost always find that when you ask for help, that person has been wanting to support you but didn’t know what you needed.  
  • Visit your GP. Sometimes we all need a bit of medical intervention and GPs now have a long list of support that they can offer you not just pills. They may be able to refer you to a counsellor or support group.
  • Do all the things you know you should be doing to support your mental health. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, spend time with your loved ones, watch a film that makes you laugh, put on some music and have a good dance… All these things will counteract the stress chemicals your body is producing in reaction to your fear and anxiety.

 

Make sure you are checking in with your friends, colleagues and loved ones regularly too. Just asking “How are you feeling?” or “Are you ok?” may be enough for some people, but if you feel deep down that their “I’m fine!” answer isn’t true, ask them again “How are you really feeling?” their response might be life changing and give them the support they have been needing. 

So as we move through Mental Health Awareness Week stop and think about all the ways you could support not just your own, but other people’s mental health. How can you raise awareness and support others all year round?

As wonderful as it is that we have this focus on mental health for a week every year, we must remember that this is an issue for many, many people, all day, every day. So if you are struggling as you read this, please, don’t go through this alone. However you are feeling, you are definitely not alone. If you need a someone to talk to who is totally neutral and doesn’t know anyone in your life, by all means message me. But please talk to someone. You will get through this and the sun will shine again.

Cosy change

For more support and information about mental health awareness check out these links: 

 NHS Mental Health Charity Helplines

 The Next Step

Shift your Focus

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