Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18-22 May)
A Bit About Me (Nick)
I have been an anxious person all my life. One early example of this was developing stress induced shingles when preparing for my GCSEs! I was diagnosed with GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and depression when I was 21 and have been on medication ever since as well as going through a number of rounds of counselling and CBT therapy.
My mental health before the current crisis was in a pretty good place but the mental and physical strains of the current situation have really challenged me.
Whether you have experienced mental health problems before the current crisis or you are experiencing them for the first time as a result, there has never been a more important time to be kind. Kind to each other and kind to ourselves.
Being Kind to yourself
All of this tips below are things that I have read, been told or discovered myself and are things that help me. Hopefully there might be a point or two that resonates with you too.
Talk and be heard
The reason this one comes up so often with mental health is because of just how impactful it is. The only thing I want to add to this message is something I often do when speaking to people about my worries and anxieties.
Often people want to fix our problems – it is a very natural response and is always well meaning – but most of the time we just want people to listen and empathise with us. Before starting to open up I ask people (politely) if they can just listen and empathise rather than suggesting any solutions or actions. This makes a big difference and can really help make you feel heard and respected.
I have read a number of self-help books and been recommended far more. Finding someone who talks about a particular experience in a way you identify with can be immensely powerful and help you feel less alone in your worries.
This is purely a personal recommendation but the one that has had the biggest impact on me is F**k it: The Ultimate Spiritual Way, by John C. Parkin. The thing this book challenged me on was my perception of what is important and how I apportion my time and my energies. I still get this wrong almost constantly but I often think about the messages in this book and use them to reframe my worries.
I have often thought about keeping a diary but I have never found the motivation to keep it going, what I have done is gratitude journaling. Gratitude journalising will, over time, help re-frame your outlook and appreciate that there is good in every day however small.
Each day you write down three short points about what you are grateful for and most importantly why you are grateful for that thing. The key is to be very specific and relate them to that particular day, not just “I am grateful for my friends”. Here are mine from today:
- I am grateful for my new slippers because they are keeping my feet much warmer and provide a nice padded sensation on my feet when I am sat working.
- I am grateful for the sparrows that are currently nesting in our roof because their soft cheeping noises are making me think about new life and nature.
- I am grateful for having a quiet diary today as it has allowed me to get lots of bitty jobs done and write this article.
Softening negative self-talk
I often feel like I am not doing well enough in life or at work but when I look at where these messages are coming from there are invariably coming from me. We are all critical of ourselves but one thing we might not pick up on is the language we used on ourselves (“you got that wrong you idiot!”).
What I try to do is catch myself when I am doing this and ask myself “would I say that to someone else” in this situation and if the answer is no then I look to soften my language and be kinder to myself.
Reading and playing computer games are my two go-to activities for escaping my own thoughts for an hour or so and both are very restorative for me.
There are all sorts of different things you can do though and I would encourage you to do at least one thing every day to “get out of your head” for a little bit. Your problems will probably be there when you get back but you will be in a better state to deal with them.
If you are having a difficult time make 10 minutes in your day to find out more about the support Sheffield Hallam has available for staff.
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