With Monday being mental health awareness day, I wanted to share my thoughts on topics to which I feel very close: mental health and ways to maintain it, ways to help yourself if you need support, and ways to help others.
To start, it is important to note that we all have mental health which is what enables us to function. As human beings, we are all on a mental health continuum that ranges from good mental health to poor mental health.
My definition of good mental health is the emotional ability and strength to carry out daily tasks, overcome life challenges and live a fulfilling life. Trauma, life changing events, health conditions, daily stress as well as our relationship with ourselves, can all have repercussions on our mental health which in turn can affect our relationships, our work and our way of looking at life.
In this blog, I will answer some of the questions that I feel are most insightful on the subject and that I hope can help you look after yourself and others. The blog is longer than usual, but I wanted to share these points. I have put in bold my headings so that you can choose to only read some sections if you prefer.
Why is awareness of mental health so important?
First and foremost, being aware of something helps us to understand what is happening.
Secondly, awareness can lead to choice and change.
Thirdly, awareness contributes to prevention of poor mental health.
Understanding what is happening
We live in such a frenetic society and our brain is constantly flooded with information and thoughts which in turn can create a rollercoaster of emotions. When we experience poor mental health, our feelings can become overwhelming, and our vision of the world and our circumstances is impacted. We begin to act out of character and our relationships, at home and at work, can suffer. We can also be very harsh on ourselves if we are not aware that we are experiencing poor mental health and we can end up exacerbating the situation by judging ourselves for not being able to cope.
This is why awareness is essential. If we can accept that ill mental health can affect all of us at some point in our life, we can learn to recognise the symptoms and also learn about the possible solutions. Nobody is immune.
Leading to choice and change
Mental health awareness provides us with an overview of what emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing is. When we experience poor mental health, awareness is going to be the catalyst for choice and, hopefully, positive change. Simply knowing that we should seek help and not struggle with our feelings by ourselves is something fundamental. Abstaining from judging ourselves for feeling in need of help and being aware of the support available to us is what is going to encourage us to change.
Prevention of ill mental health
If we are aware of what promotes and sustains good mental health, we are much more likely to identify problems before they escalate into potential mental health conditions. Anxiety and stress are typical examples of something to which the majority of us can relate. Experiencing anxiety or stress in itself is not a mental health condition but it can become so if it starts affecting our ability to lead our everyday activities and life. In this case, awareness of mental health is important because it teaches us ways of preventing problems from escalating and it teaches us which sources to use when we can’t handle the symptoms by ourselves.
What can we do to maintain good mental health?
There is a lot of literature available out there so these are just a handful of hints and tips that I am sharing with you based on my studies, reading and experience with my clients.
Self-compassion - observe how you talk to yourself. Are you acknowledging all the good that you do every day, or do you give yourself for granted? At the end of the day, take a moment to reflect on all the things that you have done, that would not have happened had it not been for your contribution. Give yourself praise and reward your achievements. Our relationship with ourselves is at the heart of a strong mental health.
Physical activity - this is a much-discussed topic and exercise is scientifically proven to uplift your mood and de-stress you. You don’t need to go from not exercising to hitting the gym every single day if this is not what you like or what your circumstances allow you to do but try to incorporate a little something every week.
Digital detox - opt for some time during the day where you disconnect from the digital world. This will help you on many levels. It will prevent you from feeling anxiety that news can bring you and it can stop you from constantly comparing yourself to others if you spend time on social media. It can also increase your wellbeing as you are more likely to connect with somebody close to you when your devices are away. As with the previous step, you can start small, even by trying half an hour a day or once a week.
Do what fulfils you - our mental wellbeing is rooted into our sense of purpose and doing what fulfils you can make a huge difference. Again, you don’t need to make a massive change at once, you can start perhaps by volunteering for an hour or two a month and start discovering what makes you feel whole.
Be strong enough to seek help - normalise the conversation, be open with those around you if you are struggling. Not only will it benefit you, but it will also enhance your relationship with others who might not understand what you are going through and might feel driven away. If you have children, this is where you are a role model for them: if they never see their parents struggling at all or needing help, they will grow up emulating this and not seeking help for themselves.
How can I support other people’s mental health?
Spending time understanding the basics of good mental health is a great investment for yourself and others. Once you are aware of what mental health is and the difference between every day’s challenges versus mental health conditions, you will be able to make different choices about how you interact with that person, and you will be able to support them in a much better way. Below I have included some tips from me, again based on my studies as well as my experience as a coach and mental health first aider.
Listen non-judgmentally - never assume that the person chooses to feel a certain way and create a space where they can feel safe enough to be vulnerable and open up.
Don’t compare yourself to the person to whom you are speaking, we are all different and we all have different backgrounds which affect the way we are.
Don’t try to minimise the problem - to the person who is in distress, it won’t help.
Offer compassion and reassurance.
Signpost them for help - you are not there to offer therapy but there are lots of places that offer amazing support. You can also read more on my resources page here:
And finally, I’d like to answer a question connected to my profession:
Can coaching help to improve mental health?
Coaching is not designed to heal trauma which is why it is not classed as therapy. For somebody experiencing a stress disorder or depression, therapies such as counselling or psychotherapy are the suitable choice.
However, the mental health continuum is very wide and it covers all of us, from good mental health to poor mental health. Coaching is a discipline that can help you get to the core of a problem and have a safe space where to explore how you can overcome a specific challenge or reach a goal. On a personal level, I have used coaching in many different moments of my life, when I felt that I was stuck with my thoughts and I was struggling to see a solution to my specific problem. Coaching helped me reframe what I was experiencing, it gave me insights into myself and it released the strength I had within me to make changes to what I did not like. I would certainly say that it helped me maintain good mental health and it prevented me from feeling depressed.
Ultimately, what I feel is the most important point about today’s blog is that it is crucial for all of us to be there for each other and ourselves. Listen to yourself if you are unhappy and try your best to be non-judgemental when you spot someone who is acting out of character, and you don’t know why. Seek help for yourself and others, nobody needs to struggle by themselves.
Below is a link to some useful resources on my website in relation to this topic:
I am including here a few links that I have not yet incorporated on my website at the point of writing this blog but that I highly recommend if you feel in need of help for your mental health:
If you want to find out more about what I do, please book a discovery call, I would be delighted to help.