October 10th marks World Mental Health Day 2021 and it’s got me thinking about what good mental heath means to me. After the couple of years we’ve just had, it’s pretty safe to say that our mental health and wellbeing has taken a bit of a battering. Stress levels have been high, anxiety has been off the charts, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would admit that there have been times when I have felt well and truly burnt out. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, right!?!
In some respects I think it’s easier to answer the question of what is bad for our mental health. By firstly recognising what those things might be, we can then work towards strengthening our mindset and equipping ourselves with better coping mechanisms. This then allows us to switch it around and focus instead on what is good for our mental health. A bit of a mindset overhaul if you like.
For World Mental Health Day 2021 I’ve put together some of the things I have worked on to help improve my mental health:
Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy
We all have our own stuff to deal with. And it’s important to remember that no one’s ‘stuff’ is any worse than anybody else’s. There’s no competition to see who’s got it the hardest, who’s struggling the most. Everything we go through has an impact on us individually and not one of us are in any position to judge or make assumptions about someone else’s ‘stuff’. Likewise, any impact on our mental health is a purely personal thing, some people cope with some things better than others. There is literally no point in comparing yourself to other people and their situations.
I think the whole comparison trap is a huge thing to overcome in the quest for good mental health, certainly for me at least. I’ll hands up confess that I am a total nightmare for it. I compare myself against my mum friends – telling myself they’re doing a better job at raising their kids than I am. I compare myself against my running friends – telling myself they’re faster, fitter and better than me. I compare myself against people I see on social media – telling myself they’re better than me because they have more followers, post better content etc. Christ, I even compare myself against past me – telling myself I’m not as fit/slim/pretty as I used to be. As I said, I’m a nightmare! But I suspect I am not alone in this.
Good mental health to me, is about overcoming this destructive urge to compare. It’s still very much a steep learning curve, but the way I try to navigate it is by removing certain obstacles that lure me down the comparison path. So for example, I no longer use Strava when I run. Sounds like a relatively inconsequential action to take I know, but the effect has been profound. I no longer compare my run times with other people, because, well…. I have no one to compare them with. No numbers or stats means no comparison. I can’t even compare my own past runs with my current ones, because I’m just not tracking them. And let me tell you it is so incredibly liberating. The pressure to perform is no longer there. I run, for me. I run because I want to, because I love how it makes me feel, and that’s all I need.
By the same token, if I start to feel the comparison creep in when I’m on social media, I now remove myself from the situation and stop following accounts that make me feel that way. It’s absolutely no fault of the content creators, they’ve done nothing wrong, it’s not their intention to make me feel that way. But if I can’t handle what I’m seeing, if I sense that what I’m being shown is having a negative effect on my mental health, then the answer is clear. Unfollow. What you can’t see, can’t hurt you. So remove yourself from being able to see it and all of a sudden you have nothing to compare yourself against.
Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First
Life is busy. As a working mum of two I know this as much as the next woman. On countless occasions I have put other people’s needs before my own, believing that this was the right thing to do. And obviously there are instances where this is necessary, but let’s make one thing clear here – self care is not selfish.
Growing up, I vividly remember my mum always eating the fruit that was going off in the fruit bowl. She would never pick the nice rosy apple, or the fresh juicy peach, it would always be the bruised one, or the one that had started to wrinkle. Now that I am a mum, I find myself doing the exact same thing. This is only a very teeny tiny example of what women do when they become a mum and clearly eating a slightly bruised apple isn’t going to destroy your mental health. But it does serve to prove how we gradually start to move ourselves down the pecking order, and this is not good for our mental health in the slightest.
We cannot expect to look after others if we are unable to look after ourselves first. We matter. You right there matter. It is vital we take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally, to help with our overall wellbeing. I do this by allocating time every day to myself. For example, I might do some exercise, meet up with a friend, read a book in the garden, catch up on some trashy TV, put a face mask on, paint my nails, have a bath, bake a cake and lick the bowl out. They all sound like such simple activities I know, but it’s these things that help keep me together. They are what make me happy. They’re what make me feel like me. And when I feel like me, that’s when I know that mentally I am in a good place.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
If there was ever a message to come out of World Health Day 2021 it’s that you should never ever be worried to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness. If anything it is the complete opposite; you are showing the strength to take action.
For the past couple of years I have been struggling with what has now been diagnosed as perimenopause symptoms. If you’re not sure what perimenopause is you can take a read of this post for a bit more info, but basically it is the pre-cursor to the menopause and in my case has seen me experiencing night sweats, erratic periods, heart palpitations, dizzy spells, increased anxiety and spells of really bad mental health issues. Not gonna lie, it’s been horrible, and what with the pandemic putting a massive spanner in the works, it meant for the most part I just had to crack on with it and cope by myself. It was only when my husband sat me down and told me I should get more help, that I realised that’s what I needed. And so I sought help from a private menopause specialist, who listened to me, validated me if you like, and prescribed me some HRT. I’ve only been on this for a couple of weeks so it is very early days in terms of seeing whether it has worked, but I’ll keep you posted.
More than anything though, just having someone listen to me and take me seriously was a huge relief and I came away feeling instantly lighter. There are so many organizations out there who can help, you just have to go looking. I was so glad I did, but it took someone else recognising I needed it, before I was willing to accept that I did. I’ll say it again – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re looking for ways to support your mental health and wellbeing The Anti-Burnout Club is a great platform to check out. Offering monthly wellbeing challenges and lessons, over 150 on-demand wellness courses and videos, as well as introducing you to a positive, supportive, and uplifting community. In support of World Mental Health Day 2021 they are giving away free access to their wellness platform right up until the end of October to make self-care accessible to everyone. This offer is only available to sign up to for the next 24 hours so make sure you head on over to The Anti Burnout Club website to take full advantage of this incredible resource.
What Does Good Mental Health Mean To Me?
Everyone will have a different answer to what good mental health means to them, but to me it means being able to be me unashamedly. It means being able to function without the fog. It means noticing when there’s a problem and taking action to do something about it. It means doing the things that bring me joy, that make me feel calm, that are good for me. It means recognising the symptoms, checking in with myself, and being compassionate. It’s accepting that it’s a fluid state, that constantly changes, as our lives and situations change and as we grow and evolve. And acknowledging that it’s OK to feel the feelings, that sometimes that is exactly what we need.
Becky Stafferton is a full time blogger over on her website The Art of Healthy Living, mum of 2 and certified Queen of the hashtags. She continually strives to promote a realistic, sustainable and positive image of how to lead a healthy life. When she’s not writing or reading her teenage diary she can be found swigging Prosecco from the bottle, running through muddy puddles, making lists of lists, having a good old moan, scoffing flapjacks and squatting like her life depends on it.