This month, from 9-15 October, is “Mental Health Awareness Week”. So what exactly is that – mental health? Let’s start by looking at the dictionary: Mental means relating to the mind, or involving the process of thinking. Mental health means relating to the state or the health of a person’s mind. (Cambridge and Collins dictionary).
Okay, you might say, how is that? Well, think of the body – when we feel physically unwell, like having a cold or a flu, we generally tend to rest, keep warm, and become quite aware of what we eat and drink. Some of us may also choose to boost the body with ‘super foods’ and an increased intake of Vitamin C. Finally if none of that helps, we go to see our doctor, as all we really want is to get better, and now!
On the other hand, when we feel stressed and overwhelmed, or maybe a bit down and depressed –what do we tend to do then, What steps can we take to get better? Well, there are many easy interventions, just like with a cold or the flu. First of all it is good to become mindful of what we feel and think. We can choose to do things that will make us feel rejuvenated like going for a nice walk, or have a silly time with friends. We can even consider making positive adjustments in our life, so we don’t need to feel stressed or down again in the first place. And if we’re stuck, there is always professional help. These days it’s not such a big deal anymore to get help, and the stigma that used to exist around seeking support is something that belongs in the past.
How do you tackle it in your own life?
One of the key things is that we pay attention to our negative feelings and thoughts as they come up, just notice them. It is perfectly normal to feel sad, stressed, scared, and so on when there is a ‘situation’. However science tells us that emotions are supposed to have a short life, and in particular after a stressful situation has finished our life should go to back to normal. If the period of feelings of stress or anger or grief becomes chronic is when it will make us sick.
The same with our thinking – just try to notice your thoughts as they pop up; Are they negative, neutral, happy? You can check in with yourself right now by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, simply allowing yourself to notice what’s going on right now in your mind and body. How do I feel? Where are my thoughts lingering on? Do these thoughts support me to reach where I want to be in life? If they don’t, let them go. And remember, you are not your mind, and you can change your mind.
If you found this little article interesting and would like to find out more on how to support your mental well being you can check out the Mental Health Foundation website www.mentalhealth.org.nz you can get information from your family doctor, or other professionals, and organizations. There is so much information and support out there. It is your right to have a healthy mind, and body, and a good life.