Tag Archives: mental health

Time To Talk—The Power Of Small

Today, 4th February 2021 is Time to Talk Day and the Theme is The Power of Small. The idea is that it’s the small conversations that make a difference but I’m going to take it a step further and say that any small thing can make a big difference when it comes to mental health.

green wooden door with chain and padlock

I think it’s fair to say most people are struggling with something at the moment. Some people may be enjoying the simpler life of lockdown or it may not have impacted them as much as others but not being able to go about life as we want is really hard. Being told what we can and can’t do and when is taking its toll.

Most of us will have an unhealthy coping mechanism we turn to, it could be ‘socially acceptable’ alcohol, or it could be relatively-easy-to-hide eating too much. Or perhaps you’re someone who gets irritable and snappy with those around you? Maybe you’re someone who stuffs your feelings down, pretends everything’s fine, maybe you’re a workaholic or a exercise-addict? But none of these things work in the long term, eventually, the cracks will show, your body, your mind or your relationships will tell you something is wrong, talking about how you’re feeling is the most powerful thing we can do.

2 people chatting by a fire in a wooded area

Speaking to my therapist the other day, I was talking about how I wanted to support someone close to me but I had no idea what I could do to help because I don’t have any skills that they need. He asked “but do you need to do anything?”. As I’m a trainee counsellor, he really shouldn’t have needed to ask this question, but how often do we find ourselves desperately trying to do good things when just being with someone is all they need?

Not everyone will be able to find the words and saying “I’m struggling” can be exposing and make us feel quite vulnerable. But talking about our emotions, feelings and mental health is becoming more ‘normal’. The phrase ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ is regularly used to express an acceptance of each other’s emotional state, no matter where you’re at.

Today is the day when we highlight the importance of talking but it doesn’t just need to be today. Think about who you might reach out to, a friend, a family member, or anyone you feel you can trust.

mosquito on skin

If you don’t believe that small things make a difference, you’ve never shared a bed with a mosquito!

Control, influence or concern—understanding these circles could transform your life!

In some ways I feel incredibly fortunate to have gone through some dark times, when I’ve been mentally ill, I’ve had access to therapy that’s taught me, not only how to manage my mental illness, but how to cope with all sorts of nasty things that are thrown at us over time! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have it all sussed, but I noticed something being passed around on social media, I’d completely forgotten I’d learnt in therapy that people might find helpful in times like these.

woman sitting in front of computer head in hands worrying

Do you find yourself worrying about other people not wearing face masks properly? Or feeling that you’re not doing a good enough job home schooling your children because everyone else appears to have it more together than you? Does it feel like you’re winding yourself up into a frenzy but there isn’t really anything you can really do about it?! This could be because you’re spending energy in the wrong place.

Everything in our lives can be separated into circles depending on how much control, or influence we have over them. Click here to see a visual representation, below is a description of why it helps to do this:

Circle of control

These are the things you have full control over; spending time and energy on these things will have the biggest benefit on your life.

Circle of influence

These are things within your influence, there’s something you can do to have some impact on the outcome but that doesn’t mean the outcome will always be in your favour. You may gain some benefit but don’t spend too much energy on these things.

Circle of concern

Most people find themselves spending time worrying most about these things but is there any point expecting energy when there’s nothing you can do to really have much influence? There’s no harm in feeling concerned that there’s a global pandemic, this is called “being human” but put the concern in the right place—you can wash your hands after you’ve been the supermarket, you can remember to wash your face masks so you have a clean one ready to go out, you can ensure you’re leaving enough space when you’re in the post office queue but you can’t do anything about the R number!

If you find yourself feeling hopeless about everything, as seems to be quite common at the moment, please be reassured that this won’t last forever. Turn your eyes to the small things you are in control of and you’ll feel more empowered. Don’t worry about the bigger picture, that can feel quite daunting.

For each worry you have, think to yourself “how much control do I have?”, if it’s something you have full control over, put it in the centre circle, if you realise you have no control over it, put it in the outside circle and let go of worrying about it. If, however, you realise that you have some influence over it, it’s ok to put it in the middle circle but keep your concern in proportion. Don’t spend too much time worrying about it if there’s not really much you can do about it.

This technique is well known to help people in the general population as well as people struggling with mental illness. However, if you feel your anxiety might be out of proportion to size of the concern, it’s impacting your sleep or it’s preventing you from going about your everyday life, it’s important to seek professional support.

How to survive Blue Monday and thrive this year

The 3rd Monday of the year has been found to be “Blue Monday”, the day when people most depressed, uncertain if the future and even hopeless. It may be pseudoscience but I think people are feeling pretty down this year. Some people find themselves in debt after Christmas, struggling towards the next payday, weather in the northern hemisphere is pretty bleak and this year in particularly, the Covid-19 pandemic has been dragging on just a bit!

I just had to respond with a blog about how we can manage this period of the year and learn some coping strategies that will benefit us for the rest of the year!

Person tiring their shoe laces

5 top tips:

  • Move everyday—some form of exercise whether it’s yoga or walk or a HIIT workout, moving your body is awesome for all sorts of reasons. It can be a good distraction, a time to think, or a time for mindfulness. It releases endorphins, the feel good hormone. You can get the whole family involved too!
  • Creativity—whether it’s poetry, pottery or a building a shed, being able to say “I made this” with a sense of accomplishment boosts even the lowest mood. Turning your hand to something new or picking up an old skill taps into a part of the brain that we don’t use everyday. Something we can all do is listen to music, while it’s not building or making anything it taps into an expressive part of the brain and can be incredibly powerful.
  • Writing—it’s been found that even just writing about what you’ve been doing each day can help build memories. For some people, writing can be a way of expressing themselves if they find it difficult to talk about how they’re feeling. If you pick up and pen and don’t know what to write, perhaps start with things you’ve done or things you can see, hear or smell, then try writing some about how you feel, it doesn’t have to make sense initially but you’ll soon get the hang of it!handwriting
  • Talking—this is an incredibly beneficial coping strategy. From talk to your a pet to choosing to take up personal therapy or anything in between. It’s important if you live alone to keep in contact—we’re incredibly fortunate with the range of technology (text, email, various video call options or good old fashioned phone call) these days we just need to use it!
  • Help others—looking after a pet or even a plant can really improve your mood and help your self esteem. Feeling depressed can make all your thoughts turn inward but making yourself look outward can bring a different perspective to your problems. It doesn’t have to be huge but once you start you might feel you want to do more and more!

A few simply dos and don’ts

  • Do express your emotions in a health way—have a good cry if you need to, punch a cushion, scream if it helps, these are all fine. Make sure you can differentiate between healthy and unhealth expressions of emotion.
  • Don’t turn to addictive behaviours—alcohol may be “socially acceptable” and may “feel nice” but it’s just a way of numbing your feelings and it’s ultimately helpful. Equally, turning to food or anything else you know is your usual coping habit is a way of pushing away your feelings. A more healthy way of coping is to find ways of being able to manage your feelings in the moment such as breathing techniques, talking or writing about them or try mindfulness. (It’s fine to have a drink but just ask yourself if you’re drinking to escape stress/feelings etc?)woman holding a glass of wine
  • Do limit time spent reading/watching news about Covid-19—make sure you know the pertinent information but beyond that don’t get sucked into the unhealthy political mud slinging that the media seem to enjoy.
  • Don’t compare your life to other people’s! You don’t see what goes on behind closed doors. Don’t endlessly scroll through social media, limit your time on social media if you can. Remember that what other people post is a highly edited version of their life and doesn’t reflect their reality. Try to only follow people or pages that bring you happiness (hide, mute or unfollow everything else—it really is that simple!).
  • Do remember you’re mental, physical and spiritual health are all linked, if you don’t look after one, the others will suffer. Doing something physical, like going for a walk or having a bath will do just as good for your mental health as it will for your physical health. If you didn’t think you had a faith but this pandemic has got you asking questions like “why would God do such a cruel thing?” perhaps it’s time to find an Alpha or Puzzling Questions course (or similar) and ask these questions. It’s ok to get angry at God, he can take it. Ask someone you know goes to church or contact your local church (or other faith community) online, they’re all doing far more online than they used to!

If you think your low mood is more than feeling a bit blue and these tips are not going to be enough, please seek professional support. It’s important to get support early.