It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. What is mental health? According to the Mental Health Foundation if you’re in good mental health, you can:
- make the most of your potential
- cope with life
- play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends.
Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’ and it’s every bit as important as good physical health. The Mental Health Foundation found that two thirds of us experience mental health problems at some point in our lives, why then is mental health so often a taboo subject, and given far less attention and resources than physical health?
As someone who has lived with mental health issues in my immediate family, I am acutely aware of the need to fund this area of health and also to enable people to find a way to nurture themselves. Without doubt there will be times when medication is critical, but in addition we need to be aware of the importance of self-care. Literally taking care of ourselves, many of us are notoriously bad at it.
Having a sense of community and purpose is of course paramount, being part of a group will benefit you and if you are fortunate enough to be completely well, you can boost your own optimum mental health by supporting others.
Take some time out for yourself, if you are a bath person (I love my hot baths!) make it a proper ritual, get someone else to mind the kids, turn your phone off (yep totally) light a candle (make it a natural one) and soak away the blues.
Mark Bristow NLP and EFT practitioner and coach, author of The Financial Healer says we need to calm the ‘monkey chatter’ – “To get out of a stressful mindset, we need to introduce a more positive emotion, such as calm. Put your hand on heart and breathe in for a slow count of six and then out again for another count of six and continue to do this whilst concentrating on your breath. Continue this for a couple of minutes, then recall a situation when you felt calm and picture this in your head. Try and be as specific as possible with your picture, and note what you see, feel and hear, stay with that picture as long as possible whilst continuing taking deep breaths” https://markbristowcoaching.com/
Forgiveness is key. Jane Thurnell-Read is a writer, author and speaker on stress and wellbeing. She says... “Our ability to forgive is an important part of having robust mental health, but it can be so difficult. When people have hurt or abused us badly or let us down, it can be difficult to find even the words let alone the emotions of forgiveness”.
If you find it difficult, you should read what Eva Kor has to say. She and her twin sister were experimented on by medical doctors in Auschwitz. Years later Eva worked with a Nazi doctor to heal both their pasts. She wrote a letter of forgiveness and urges others to do the same for their own unhealed traumas. She has written: “Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and tragedy. It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment.” There is a lot more about this remarkable lady on the internet. Forgiveness may not be something you can do in a day, or even a month; it may need to be a long process but make a start. If you can’t forgive, your own mental health will suffer; your own capacity to be happier will be restricted’
Look after your feet! Back on the bathing front, Herbalist Kathie Bishop from Into the Wylde suggest that you look after your feet! Enjoy a long footbath, add some magnesium salts, some chamolmile heads and some lime flowers (smells divine) its a gorgeous way to melt your stress away.
Gareth Stubbs who is the author of The Big Mindful Colourful Book says “During periods of stress, it’s often difficult to think ‘straight’ as our minds are all over the place. The feeling of overwhelm often stops us from taking any form of meaningful action so finding a way to interrupt this cycle is helpful. One thing that often gets the mind thinking differently is to stop and do something totally different, something that has nothing to do with anything you’re working on. Interrupting the stress cycle gets the mind working differently and often gets it into a place where other solutions can appear whilst also giving us a chance to simply stop and take a few deep breaths before returning to our lives’.
It goes without saying that good nutrition plays a part. Louise Mercieca is a nutritional therapist and author of ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ and she says…’Food can literally make us, happy, sad, alert, calm, irritable or confused. There are three main connections; the blood sugar connection, (blood sugar drops you might feel tired, anxious, nervous irritable and depressed) our gut microbiome and the neurological connection. To stabalise mood eat foods that are rich in Tyrosine (which in turn produces Dopamine) such as eggs, dairy, lean meats, seeds, wholegrains, fish, cottage cheese, seaweed (spirulina), soy protein. Tryptophan rich foods are important too, to produce Serotonin so you need cottage cheese, milk, red meat (lean), fish, chicken, chickpeas, bananas, almonds, sunflower seeds, spirulina, peanuts’. Obviously avoid sugar and fatty foods. http://www.louisemercieca.co.uk
Alcohol is a factor too, I read a staggering statistic recently that over 70 % of the population with addiction disorders also have a coexisting mental health problem. Of course we don’t know which came first, did the mental health issues lead to drinking in order to self medicate or did the alcohol which is a major depressant exacerbate the mental health condition? Listen to some of the inspirational interviews on my podcast Alcohol Free Life
Jo De Rosa is the founder of Quantum Sobriety and believes meditation is the key.
“In meditation we take the outside layer of life off, and sit for a period of time with ourselves, who we really are. Not who we pretend to be, or would like to be, but us at the most basic level. I have always called this part of us our ‘essence’ but you can call it any other name that resonates.
The more we connect to who we really are at this level the more we really know ourselves, what makes us tick, what makes us happy. We can even notice when we are out of balance before we get sick.
Meditation compliments everything in your life; it will increase concentration making you more efficient in your work; it will slow you down so that you can focus your attention on those you love; it aids all types of therapy, making their effectiveness ten-fold, and of course it will help you step off the merry-go-round of addiction, giving you clarity and a deep connection to your authentic needs”
So practice self care, work out what works for you when the chips are down, and put yourself first.
Check out the work of the Mental Health Foundation