Late last night I realised it was World Mental Health Day. Always late to everything. I also feel like I am resistant to any ‘Day’, and often don’t post on that subject on purpose on that ‘Day’. In this case, I feel like mental health day should be everyday, but I guess having a Day doesn’t do any harm as it focuses the attention on this subject.
So anyway, I know a thing or two about mental health. Actually I just got off a Zoom with a psychiatrist and at times it felt like we were colleagues, discussing disorders and medication!! That’s how well read and how much I research mental health as a subject. I’m not even bragging, it’s true! Seriously, a previous psych said to me “are you in the medical profession?’. I LOLLED (and, yes, I am well aware of the signage outside doctor’s offices which says ‘Don’t confuse your Googling with my medical degree’…)
I guess what I am saying is, since my own mental health journey began about 3 years ago, I have had a deep dive into this world. The holistic side, the Western medical side, the Eastern philosophies. Mixed in with personal experience and also building relationships with other diagnosed individuals.
Am I an actual medical expert? No. Have I got lived experience with a hyper focus on mental health? Yes!
I wanted to share with you what I know now, having been on a healing journey for a few years. And what a journey it’s been.
- You may have shattered into a million pieces, but the rebuilding of you will be even more beautiful
The Chinese 15th Century practise of Kintsuki is the putting back together of smashed pottery bowls. The broken pieces are sealed with gold. It’s even more beautiful now. Someone said to me that she sees that I had to break into a million pieces. But that it was necessary and that’s the only way to heal. Nobody gets through life without a few battle scars. The real meaning is what you learn from them going forward. Appreciate your golden cracks.
2. Self care is everything
On a practical note, choose one or two self care non negotiable each day. Whether that’s free yoga on YouTube, a dog walk, a 10 minute meditation (tons on YouTube). Create healthy habits like drinking a big bottle of water. Take vitamins to ensure you are topped up on all the essential things. Go to the doctor to keep on top of the health queries before they get worse. Ask for help. They’ve seen it all before, so don’t worry if you break down and snot-cry everywhere.
3. Shed some light on the deepest darkest things
When you talk about the things that have happened to you, they don’t feel half as heavy. You might even find out the same things have happened to lots of people. If you carry trauma around with you like rocks in a backpack they get so heavy, every year it feels like another rock is added. Eventually those rocks will make your body sick. High vigilance, stress, anxiety – they create illness in the body. When your body spends too long in the sympathetic nervous system, it shuts down the other systems like digestive and reproductive, and basically just focuses on keeping you alive. It’s fine to be in this state when there is an actual emergency, but if you have trauma (little t or big t) you might be in this state almost all of the time. This WILL make you ill. Speaking to someone about your trauma is the first step to healing.
4. Trauma is trauma
Someone may have Big Trauma. Someone may have Little Trauma. The body is affected in the same way. Don’t dismiss the ‘little things’. Admitting and acknowledging how they showed up in your life without shame in them being ‘not that bad’ is important. For big trauma, also, it goes without saying, please get the help you need to heal.
5. Help is out there
Yes there are enormous waiting times. Try IAPT which is a self referring service for mental health. Samaritans if you need help right away. Your GP may not be that helpful, buy they can refer you onto someone.
6. Self healing is a thing
Even though reaching out is important, I would encourage anyone struggling with mental health to seek out sources of their own healing. Create a world around you that you love. Nourish yourself. Educate yourself. Get books from the library on healing, mental health. Follow mental health accounts on Instagram. Listen to podcasts about holistic healing. Improve your diet. Walk. Do yoga. There are so many ways to help yourself. Don’t wait for the doctor’s letter of referral, start now.
7. You matter – and ALL OF YOU is worthy of love
You are sacred. The universe made you exactly the way you are for a reason. If you are sensitive, embrace that. Emotional? Great! How wonderful to be tapped into your emotional centre. Even your darkest traits and not so nice parts need love. Show them some love. Those are hurt parts, and they don’t need more negative self talk – they need to be listened to. You matter. Give your hurt parts the healing and love they need.
8. We are all different – and that’s OK!
Recently I got into human design. It’s a system based on astrology and the chakra system and ancient Chinese art of iChing – a way of reading your birth chart and explaining your archetype. For me it has really helped to understand who I am and why I am like I am! Whether you vibe with that or not, our generational make up, including massive traumas going way back – make us who we are. Traumas, like war or famine, literally shape people’s DNA and that DNA is passed down. It’s called epigenetic. Add to that personality types, things that happen in this lifetime, your interests, upbringing, your friends, your preferences – and you get a special unique mix that is you. Instead of trying to work AGAINST your ways, and seeing them as faults to be fixed, how about you lean into them? I’ll give you an example. I struggle with energy. Sometimes I have tons. Sometimes none. So I work with that. I know now (through so much trial and error) that I can’t do pre-scheduled things as a career (if it’s social I have to remain flexible). I will most likely always have to be self employed. I also know I am, emotionally, SO hyper sensitive. I used to think this was wrong and had to be fixed, but actually it gives me a deep insight into others’ energy, and I am very tuned in to the universe around me. Which is a gift, really. Repeat after me: ‘I am not broken and I do not need to be fixed.’ Some healing? Maybe. But fixed? Nope.
9. Do what quietens the mind
Someone said this to me recently. And then another person (both spiritual coaches) reiterated it. For me, that’s cooking, or creating in general. What quietens your mind? Dog walks? Playing squash? Riding horses? Building Lego? Singing? Pick one or two and do them more often.
Caveat: try to avoid things that temporarily quiet the mind then make the mind suffer in the long term – like alcohol. Fine with one or two, but when you know it’s in excess, to self-medicate, seek help. That help doesn’t have to be AA, there are tons of communities out there that help people drink less or see what sober life is like. Often addictive or maladaptive behaviours happen when we seek to quiet the mind in ways that are actually harmful. So be aware and honest to yourself if you see that happening.
10. Ground yourself. Bring yourself back to your body
If you are unfamiliar with this type of language you might be like, what does she mean?! Well, we spend a lot of time in our heads. We almost dissociate with our bodies. This may be caused by trauma, but also by stress and just lack of grounding in today’s world. There are so many distractions, adverts, social media, things to do. We rarely just be with ourselves, in our bodies. It’s something I REALLY struggle with.
There are many ways to do this. Yoga is one of them. Mindful walking is another. Self massage. Stamping on the ground or shaking. Dancing. Trauma, emotions, stress – all held in the body and with today’s sedentary lives we often simply don’t move enough. Move more. Not to be skinny or anything, but just to come home to yourself, your body, your vessel for this life. We put our bodies through so much. Love it a bit. Caress it! Say thank you. It’s got you this far!
So they are some things that I have learned. They are true for me. Take what you want and leave the rest. I hope you are OK today. If not, just have a day. If so, enjoy it. Life is ups and downs. That’s what it’s made of. It can’t be all ups or else we wouldn’t know they were ups. Downs are part of life. Accept that. Move through it. Listen to what is coming up. Don’t drown it in wine, or tell it to shut up. Be curious. Love it better.
And remember, tomorrow is a new day.