Updated: Aug 1, 2019
The theme of this years world mental health day is young people and mental health in a changing world.
I have worked in a wellbeing and mental health capacity at a university for the last 5 years and the work there inspired me launching MoodLifter. The timing of my work there and my work with UMHAN seems to have correlated with student mental health becoming the focus of national press. Headlines about mental health epidemics or debates about resilience are on a weekly basis.
Mental health promotion in young people certainly seems to have improved over the last few years. Students know about mental health and will come to see me because they were having difficulties with their mental wellbeing. Common shared things discussed included being unable to concentrate, not being good enough, and that they wanted to hide away or felt ashamed for being withdrawn or overwhelmed. I’ve noticed a contributing factor was there was a stress that if they didn’t talk or get help it would get much worse but despite often knowing the strategies that can help improve wellbeing things didn’t seem to be getting better. There is a big difference between knowing what you feel you “should do” and what you are able to do.
First let’s get one thing straight. Often the emotions that we are experiencing fit the facts. If we feel unsafe or there is uncertainty our body gets us ready for action, this involves releasing cortisol and adrenaline into our system, increasing our heart rate and changing our focus to the threat.
If we consider the potential threats of the world at the moment regardless of your political view (And mine is obvious), Brexit, Trump, Job market, housing all bring about uncertainty. The internet has brought with it a 24 hour culture that means the threat remains even at night-time. We also know that worry about debt that has a detrimental impact on wellbeing. One of the purposes of having mental health is to facilitate our survival, on an evolutionary basis we would go into fight flight or freeze till the threat passed, we would withdraw from our flock to avoid contamination. Our reactions may feel like they have stopped fitting the situation but prolonged stress will reduce the threshold of uncertainty that can be tolerated.
If your mental health is not fitting your situation or is impacting on your function then it is time to take one step of action.
Often students will identify that fitness or exercise would be helpful in helping improve their mental health but the difficulty in instigating something new, when day to day tasks are already hard, meant that often they wouldn’t have been able to do the activity that would help. The same goes for you and is why I launched MoodLifter. If you live in the West Midlands and are finding tasks impossible, do one small step now of texting me on 07899798933 to find out if I can come to you to make some of these impossible things become easier.
There are also other actions you can take these two ac:
On this mental health day I am sure there are abundance of amazing mental health memes and quotes. These can bring comfort and inspiration. If they do, find one that resonates with you and save it as your phone screensaver. If you find these quotes trigger negative feelings then take an active step back from them. If you are critical because you wished that you could articulate or speak up in that way then the strategy is self-compassion. Remember one thing the majority mental health conditions and stress do is switch off the language centres in the brain making it hard to express what you are feeling.
If you are struggling to be active, go for a walk, if you can’t think of somewhere to go, aim for the post-box at the end of the road. No one will notice someone walking to a post-box and turning around. Whilst you are out breath in the fresh air, feel the weather against you (I don’t want to assume that it is raining where you are… If it is raining, feel the drops of water and know that the idea of rain is far worse that the reality).
If you are feeling suicidal, remember it is something that happens when we feel trapped by a situation. Try an alternative solution of reaching out to Samaritans, Mind, or someone who is available to listen to you. Soothe yourself with a song or program that calms you, this moment will pass don't make a permanent decision based on an emotion right now.
In this changing world there are things that can cause us anxiety and uncertainty but there are also opportunities and adventure.
In my next blog I will pull together evidence as to why exercise is good for our mental health (And why it sometimes isn’t so how to tell if this is the case) and what to do. As per usual I am new to blogging so comments feedback and sharing ideas on what work for you are all welcome.
Read more blogs by Sarah here.