I so whole-heartedly agree with the increased coverage that “mental health” is getting in the media at the moment. Teresa May has said this morning that she wanted to tackle the “despicable stigma” of those with mental health conditions as part of her vision of a “shared society” …don’t worry! I will never get all political with you, so moving on…
The Royals, William, Harry & Kate are also making huge in-roads into taking away this stigma, with particular attention to the suffering of our servicemen, which is a very effective way of making the discussion more mainstream, as most of us feel very strongly about our Armed Forces and the sacrifices they make for us.
But what I think every time I hear it mentioned is that WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH… Some of us have good mental health and others have serious mental health illnesses, but we should all pay close attention to our own mental health throughout our lives.
At this time of year, we are all thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, which can often involve rushing to the gym (or at least rushing to join the gym!), or starting the latest diet and other such things that help maintain our “physical health”, but not many of us think about how we should maintain our mental health. This usually only happens when your mental health starts to suffer.
Good mental health can be maintained by building resilience – we can never stop bad external events happening to us in life, that is not within our control, so we need to help the things we can control. Resilience can be built by filling your “happy bucket” as much as possible in the good times (imagine a bucket with a tap at the bottom, come on, do it…stay with me…it will make sense in a minute), so that when we are hit with hard times (I know I’m making this sound simple – again, bear with!) and the “happy stuff” starts to drain out of the bottom of your happy bucket, you will find you have reserves there so that the bucket doesn’t empty completely. An empty bucket means no resilience and defences against the stress of difficult circumstances, leading to a breakdown in mental health wellbeing.
Filling your happy bucket can mean something as simple as; spending time with good friends, taking time out for “me-time”, exercise, a long bath! Airplane spotting if that’s what floats your boat and leads to enjoyment and relaxation.
Talking therapies are also great for all of us! The British (myself included obviously) are not quite so enthusiastic about these things as our American friends, but it is growing in the UK, interventions such as coaching are about forward positive movement in your life, setting and reaching goals, leading the life you want to have, building the business you want to have, maintaining the health you want … whatever! If you put your focus on a certain area, it tends to have an effect, and magically things start to happen.
Now I know you’re thinking I’m just trying to sell you my coaching services, but honestly, I’m not (ok well maybe I am a bit). I am passionate about talking to people, I love hearing their stories, their wishes and dreams etc. (not all fluffy ones, I love the new business dreams and goals especially!). We all would benefit so much from taking a small amount of time out every so often to think about us, ourselves! Getting to know yourself, how you work best, what you can and can’t do, what you do and don’t like, what is important to you, shaking off fear of failure, increasing your confidence etc. How often do we really take the time out to think about these things? (Well in my life quite a lot actually! But hey I’m a Coach, it’s what I do).
Getting back to looking after our physical health, of course this is really important, but I believe looking after our mental health is much more important – if you lose that, you won’t want, or perhaps not be able to look after your physical health, and your physical health is intrinsically linked to your mental health anyway.
So, let’s forget the stigma, for those of us who have been lucky enough to have good mental health through our lives, we still need to be aware that it is something that needs to be looked after just like that slightly-fatter post Christmas body of some (yes me included!). It’s just not so visually obvious. Mental health illnesses can affect any of us at any time.
If nothing else, it’s a lot more fun filling up your happy bucket by sitting and talking to your most favourite Coach (that’s me!) than sweating your b******s off at the gym!
Mandy Baker (8.Jan.17)