Hi everyone. I hope you’re keeping as well as can be. Seeing as it’s a week for highlighting the issue of mental health, I thought I’d put fingers to keypad and share some of my own techniques for maintaining good mental health.
Like most of us, my family has been touched by mental health issues in some quite extreme ways, with my late father having undergone electric shock therapy back in the 1960’s during a seven year stretch of deep clinical depression and my late brother taking his own life when I was fifteen. There are very close members of my family whose lives are majorly affected by mental ill health to this day and the effects are far reaching. Like ripples from a pebble.
I, myself, am acutely aware of the need to safeguard against a bout of being low snowballing into something more severe and paralysing. I’d say I’m a pretty positive person who tries to always see the bright side but that doesn’t mean I’ve always managed maintain that happy outlook during difficult times. Anyone who is familiar with either self help/development will probably have heard the term “It’s a lifetime’s work” in relation to keeping one’s head above water during stormy weathers. A simple negative thought can trigger others until they all line up, one after another, and teeter over like dominoes, seemingly unable to stop causing great distress and overwhelm.
I’ve read many books on the subject of mental health as I’ve always had a keen interest in psychology and self improvement. From positive quotes saved as backgrounds on my iPad, phone and bedroom wall to listening to podcasts on self-belief I try to make use of resources outside of myself to reinforce positive messages to my conscious and subconscious brain.
I would say that, possibly, the most useful tool I have in my mental health first aid kit is the act of walking. ‘Walking back to happiness’ you could say. If I’m feeling a little out of sorts I find a nice, long ramble restores my equilibrium and recharges my spirit like nothing else. My Skechers and Fitbit always come along for the trip. It usually takes a walk of at least an hour to get me into that different headspace. The longer the better, though.
I’ve mentioned, previously, my good friend at work, Veronica, who inspired me to buy a Fitbit after she achieved greater health using hers. We recently took a four and half hour hike together around Boxhill in Surrey. Beautiful countryside, lots of hills, wooded areas and wide open expanses of nature to feast the eyes upon. It was wonderful. V (as we call her at work) is very camera shy so just her feet appear in this blog but those are the feet of a remarkable woman who couldn’t be more opposite to me in many ways. She hates pink, she loves tattoos and heavy metal music and wouldn’t be seen dead in any of my clothes or make up unless it was for charity! She is of Welsh descent so we both share a love of Wales, the beauty of the great outdoors, putting the world to rights and walking for hours. I hope you like these photos of our day out together and, if you’ve not tried a long walk to throw the blues off kilter, I highly recommend you give it a go! To paraphrase the great Ghandi “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Physically true but full of metaphors for tackling any of life’s hurdles.
Something else I would suggest doing is to give yourself the luxurious treat of time. That could be a day at a spa if it’s within your means and ability but it could also be half an hour in a candlelit bubble bath or watching your favourite film snuggled up in your cosiest pj’s with a big mug of hot chocolate. Just do something you love that’s just for you. If you’re not sure what to do with that time maybe just give yourself fifteen minutes, without any distractions, to really ask yourself what you’d like to do, just for you.
I love to cook. I also love to eat. Lucky for me, both of my children share these passions so cooking for each other is a real treat, too. We, generally, keep it pretty healthy with the occasional indulgence. There are many healthy, not too naughty, treats you can make for yourself, friends and family such as this vegan chocolate cake my daughter made yesterday for us! I think cooking is great as it focuses your mind and diverts your attention away from the thoughts spinning around inside your head and, at the same time, it can allow you to share with others and brighten their day, too.
I spoke of rambling in the sense of walking but I’ve also done it here in a literary sense! This is a subject I feel I could talk about all day long but, for now, I shall leave it there. There’s so much more to say and so many more ways to help ourselves but the Pixiecat and Popsiecat are waiting to be fed so my time is up!
Just remember that there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence in this day and age. Beyond the GP there are online services and charities who can, and want to, help. I applied to bevome a volunteer for The Samaritans but, unfortunately, my work shift patterns wouldn’t allow me to fit into theirs. If you are one of the army of compassionate people out there working hard to help with the fallout of mental ill-health then I would like to, virtually and via the ether, shake your hand and thank you.
See you soon. All my love,