It’s mental health awareness week. In honour of the fact that this may have gone unnoticed in the current environment, I dedicate this blog to those suffering with mental health and to bring awareness. People always do better when they know better.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “A state of well-being in which every individual realises their potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to the community.”
I don’t know about you, but I personally struggle to live each day by that definition. So while I find it’s a good definition for an ideal state, the fact is right now the vast majority of us will be struggling with mental health and that is OK.
This topic is very important to me. I have personally been affected by the heartbreaking consequences loosing family members to mental ill health. Not many days go by where I don’t think of how I could’ve helped if I knew what I know now and the topic of mental health was as open as it is now - acknowledging we still have some way to go. This is what I wish to talk about.
Following on from my earlier comment on the definition of mental health and how we may be feeling now, I wish to focus on the stigma.
Right now we need to be open and honest about our current mental health. In particular, as we move forward to a “new norm”. A new way of interacting, a new way of working, a new focus on our overall health, a new version of freedom and living in general.
With the “new norm” can we please be open and honest about our mental health?
Can we be open and honest without feeling rejection, retribution or being considered weak?
I say we can ....we are all in a period of change and uncertainty so the very definition of mental health is being challenged. I want to say that’s ok and I would ask you to be open about how you are feeling to yourself, to your loved ones, to your co workers and managers e.g. working from home (alone or otherwise) has a massive effect on mental health.
In this quest to making it OK to admit to having mental health concerns its also OK as the recipient of this information to not have all the answers.
My wish for us to be OK about not being OK in the “new norm” would incorporate the following :
It’s perfectly alright to admit to having mental health issues. It's a changing world and this is the first vital step to regaining health and help.
If you are the recipient of this information or request for help, don’t think that you have to have all the answers.
Engage with loved ones, family, colleagues as appropriate and treat them as individuals, ask what they need, listen and always seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
Balance is all about managing expectations (some self imposed) and workloads. By engaging we can understand individual circumstances and we can (if needed) consider reasonable adjustments, personal planning and promote appropriate self-care.
Inform by way of repeating and confirming support that is there when needed, inside and out of work and / or home. Remember support has different meanings for different people so don’t assume you know what’s best or that support given to others will be suited to you.
For some crazy reason we tend to beat ourselves up when we don’t feel we are coping or worse still ignore it and that only makes matters worse. Old society / cultural norms at times promoted this - “man up” or “get on with it”.
Remember we are moving into a “new norm” so heres a few things to watch out for in yourself and others that are not OK’s :
You don’t want to see or speak to anyone e.g. not another zoom, teleconference work or social call!
you wake up feeling flat and unmotivated for 3 days in a row or more
you are self medicating through food, coffee, alcohol /drugs, excessive exercise and then beat yourself up for it
you experience snappy / teary ranges within a short time frame over a few days - please don’t blame this on hormones even though they are effected in both males and females
you struggle to sleep or just want to sleep
you have unusual aches / pains and/or skin irritations e.g. coldsores, eczema
As I have said before, your body has a way of telling you it's not OK when you choose to ignore it. A problem shared is a problem halved so in a changing world let’s help each other along by admitting it’s not always bells and whistles - even though others may perceive this about us.
It’s ok not to be ok. Acknowledge this openly and your already one step closer to better mental and physical health. The more this is understood the better.
Note I do clearly support the intent behind “it’s ok not to be ok” but quite frankly I wish for us all to strive beyond OK to Fantastic …how wonderful would that be to have Fantastic as a standard response …but one step at a time.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Your support and comments are always sincerely appreciated.