While the issues surrounding mental health and sustained well-being are on there rise, it poses the question ‘what can we do to take care of our own mental health and well-being?’
I have a unique understanding of mental health. From having been close to family members who have suffered mental health issues, to having experienced mental health issues of my own. I understand how debilitating and lonely it can be, first hand.
What makes it harder is that we are currently living in times where mental health is still a taboo. There isn’t as much support as there should be. The number of people dealing with mental health issues far outweigh the resources available offering much needed help and treatment.
So, lets lay it out on the the table right now …. mental health is a condition like any other, just like diabetes for example. It is not a sign of weakness in a person. People who are experiencing mental health issues are not ‘loonies’ or ‘weird’. There is no shame in admiting that you are experiencing mental health problems and it is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Mental illness needs to be brought into the light.
There is a stigma attached to the words ‘mental health’. Say the words to yourself and watch your emotional response. Are you filled with compassion when you hear those words? Or are you filled with fear or judgement? This stigma needs to be changed. There is nothing wrong with anyone who has found themselves struggling with their emotional well-being.
One aspect of mental health is ‘stress’. Life can be stressful, and it can lead a person to experience emotional and physical manifestations of that stress. Stress, if left unchecked can lead a person into anxiety, depression and more. Whether your stress comes from the pressures of daily living and the responsibilities surrounding that or from a traumatic event or experience, or perhaps from underlying patterns of abuse or neglect, what is important to remember is that stress is real. It has an effect.
Things are filtered down to us through society in many ways, with sayings like ‘no pain, no gain’, ‘you have to strive to succeed’, ‘if it hurts its working for you’. What are sayings like this really telling us? That its okay to go against our feelings? Fight against ourselves and others? Cause ourselves harm? Work our socks off to the point of exhaustion? Sayings like these create a very negative self-talk, self critisim and internalised pressure as well as isolation.
But the silver lining here is that there are tools that can help manage stress and help you gain an understanding and bring balance to your emotional and mental well-being. Talking therapies are a great help. A good counsellor will work in creating a safe space for you to air what you are feeling and guide you to form positive structures and self awareness. Perceptions and barriers can be challenged and changed in a gentle way. I have used talking therapies and have found them a wonderful release, an opportunity to ‘look inside’ myself. I could delve deeper into my internal goings on with the guidance of a trained professional. There was never any judgement and once I got past the initial fear of attending my first appointment, I looked forward to my weekly sessions. It was time where I could focus solely on me, something that had been lacking. My counsellor gave me a safe space to deal with the build up of ‘stuff’ that was demanding to be felt.
The other tools I am going to talk about are ones close to my heart, Yoga and Meditation. For me they are another way of approaching my ‘being’ that facilitates an awareness. I come to my yoga mat, dropping the ideals of yoga and instead use yoga as a frame work to allow me to move my body with ease, drop ‘fight’ and ‘resistance’ and connect to myself. I breathe, I spend time with my breath, following it, focusing on it, using it. I move how it feels good to move and I let go of any attachment to an outcome, I simply let myself be in the moment. This is how I teach yoga, not with the idea of acomplishing the perfect downward dog pose, but using breath and movement to build an awareness of self on the physical and emotional planes. Practising yoga in this way reconnects you with your body, which we can lose when in times of stress, aniexty or depression. We can then become detached and locked in ourselves. I encourage my students to experience how they are truly feeling in the moment, to sensitise to themselves, physical or emotional. It needs to be felt so it can be released. From here we move, freeing up the body and creating space with ease.
The science…. well, its simple. Your body has a stress response and a relax response. When you’re under stress the body is put under pressure and can become imbalanced and depleted. But when you regulate your nervous system and move out of that stress response and into your relaxation response, your body finds its harmony. Breathing comes with ease, your hormones balance, your sleep is deep and sound. The adrenals that were pumping crazy amounts of stress hormones into your body calm and are brought into check, your disgetive system finds it natural, healthy rhythm, inflammation in the body reduces. Cells repair, tissue mends, the mind settles, pain decreases. Your immune system strengthens. From this you become balanced, resiliant, grounded. This pours into other areas of your life, if you feel good in you, you’ll put that out into the world. You can then face any challenges that come your way with ease as you’re not coming from a place of lack or burn-out anymore. You’ll have more energy, your body will work for you, and from the mental awareness you’ve built, you will see any old patterns rise up and be able to choose a different, more positive path.
You have the power to change whats happening. All it takes is practise and giving yourself a chance.
Guest Blogger – Isla
Yoga, Massage Therapist and Reiki Practitioner