If you’re not already aware, this upcoming week is Mental Health Awareness Week; a time where we can put our focus on our own mental health and reflect upon how we are all coping in the current circumstances. It has become even more apparent over the last few weeks how vital it is to become aware of your mind and emotions; there are lots of people who have been experiencing feelings that are unknown and scary. The way I have learnt to cope with my own frightening thoughts and feelings over the last few years was from doing everything I could to learn more about my brain, and mental health in general.
Some people think that the discussions surrounding mental health don’t concern them because they aren’t struggling. They aren’t anxious, or experiencing debilitating feelings of despair. They don’t suffer with compulsions brought on by fear, or they don’t hurt themselves in order to cope with their pain. But everyone has mental health – same as we all have physical health. I watched a TED Talk from Natasha Devon a couple of weeks ago and she discussed how we all have a body, we all have physical health; we all have a brain, therefore we all have mental health.
We wouldn’t wait until every bone was broken in our body before we got help; we shouldn’t do any different where our brains are concerned. Being aware of how you are coping emotionally and mentally can make such a difference in recognising early signs of decline in your mental health. When you deal with an issue early on, it can help prevent bigger issues further down the line.
I have always advocated for open and honest conversations when it comes to mental health. These conversations won’t be easy, or may be particularly uncomfortable at times. But they are vital in order to keep ourselves safe and well. There have been so many times in my life where I have debated over and over again about telling someone how I’m feeling or sharing the worries I was obsessing over. I was worried about judgement and I was scared to voice the emotions in fear of them blowing up into something bigger. But when I had the courage to confide in people I trusted, I realised that it did the complete opposite of what I’d been thinking. I was met with compassion and my loved ones would rationalise my worries for me; showing me how they could be managed. They didn’t get bigger by voicing them; they became less frightening when someone else was aware of them. I wasn’t on my own anymore and that in itself made such an impact on how I was feeling.
A couple of days ago I asked a variety of people to give me a word or two to describe how they’d been feeling over the course of the lockdown. The response I had was very interesting; there were unsurprisingly a lot of negative emotions or thoughts. But there were also a great deal of positive words being passed onto me. It proves how different we all are even when we are experiencing the same crisis in the world right now. Everyone is going to have a different view of this lockdown and pandemic – some of us are in the midst of things being key workers, and others are keeping safe at home. All of which are going to impact our opinions and thoughts about whats going on around us. However, despite our differences, we are all able to take the time to think about our feelings and focus on how they are going to affect us long-term. Particularly the negative ones such as feeling threatened, alone or guilty. These emotions are going to impact us in some way and its important to voice this to others in order to keep open communication during difficult times. We can all look after each other, and when we are aware of others’ struggles, we can give the best support possible.
On the other hand, these positive emotions will also have an impact on us; and hopefully they will help us to behave or think differently once the world returns to normal. I had a lot of people saying they have felt more grateful, content and inspired. I have certainly experienced these emotions myself, too. I know that when we come out the other side of COVID-19 I will be making an effort to live my life fuller – I don’t want to take for granted the small stuff again. Nor do I want to forget the sacrifices people have made for others and the abundance of love and light people have been bringing to many lives. This pandemic really has shown the true character of people, bad and good, and I feel very proud to know and love some very courageous, selfless people.
My task for everyone reading this is: over the next week I want you to allocate yourself a few minutes a day to really think about how you’re feeling. Think about why you feel this way and what things you could do in order to help yourself if you’re experiencing difficult emotions. I’d also like you to make a conscious effort to check in on someone close to you; even if they seem like they’re coping, people can be very good at disguising how they truly feel but sometimes someone else taking that first step for them by asking is all it takes for someone to open up.