It almost sounds counter intuitive to claim “Mental Health” as forbidden words. It has become rather trendy over the last couple of years to mention mental health. Ever since “burn out” became a large issue for employers a couple of years ago, companies are offering webinars and workshops on managing your mental health. Luckily it has become a topic that is written about, with dedicated coaches, instagram accounts and professionals. The reason though I still claim it’s forbidden comes from the following thoughts: When was the last time you took a mental health day? Have you ever mentioned to a friend you were worried about your mental health? Have you confided in someone you think they have mental health issues and should see a professional?
Some of us have done one of those, few of us all. The reason being there is still a large stigma around mental health. It’s “woke” to mention it in general terms but it’s still such a private matter to bring it up in the context of yourself or others around you (but we feel fine referencing Britney Spears’ mental breakdown). We rarely take that extra step to allow the term into our everyday lives. There is still the feeling that if you don’t have mental health you have a mental illness. Which are, to be frank, quite terrifying. I once sat across from a mentally ill person in a tram. They kept talking and laughing to themselves and it hit me how tragic it is to lose your mind. Losing a leg is horrific too, but at least you still have your mind. Without our minds, what is left of us? We all fear not being able to function in our lives, mental illness disables that. Hence the absence of mental health to a lot of people means the presence of a mental illness. There is something terminal about that. Like once you are mentally ill, it means psych wards and instability for the rest of your life. Unlike when you have a flu and you are considered “sick” – everyone expects you to bounce back. But when you have depression – its a lifelong sentence as a emotionally unstable person.
This is misconception number one. Just because you are too depressed to give 100% at work does not mean you have lost yourself and are mentally ill. Mental illness is a prolonged state where you need professional help to function through every day life. Just because your mental health is suffering it doesn’t mean you suffer from a mental illness. We all have ups and downs in life and no living being, not even a dog or a fish goes through one single, pleasant emotion in life. Sometimes its just that your mental health suffers due to many trying external factors. With some self-acceptance, you can be kind to yourself and admit when you need to take a step back. I think the first step is really with oneself. To accept the fact that you might not be doing fine and that your mental health is suffering. I understand it sounds heavy but you will find a great sense of relief and love towards yourself if you confess “I am not ok. I am suffering”. Just try saying that out loud. It is almost empowering to be able to admit it to yourself. As with many things in life, it all starts with you being honest with yourself. Once you own mental health as a topic to yourself, its easier to accept it in others.
Owning the topic means understanding that state of your mental health and when you need to focus on it more. Only when you can talk about something, can you engage in activities about it. Which is something we all need to do. If we did it, there wouldn’t be such a stigma about it because we would all have the same understanding as what mental health means, namely “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being”. Not too scary now is it. We need to talk about it as such. We need to be clear on what we mean with mental health otherwise it just will not be addressed. If its always in the context of being mentally ill, then we will not be able to ensure mental health for anyone. Which is a thing most people can do. Here are some ways to manage your mental health:
- Check in with yourself and ask yourself “How am I doing?”.
- If you have a stressful job, force yourself to take a 5min break/ walk. Yes, force yourself. Actively push yourself to take a break to invite more balance into your life. Force yourself to be healthy. Anyone can wait 5min for you, its like a toilet break. They will survive, just give it a go.
- Accept your feelings. If you are feeling a certain way just listen to the emotion. You don’t have to do anything about it but also, don’t sweep it under the rug. You can label it, you can give it a name “oh I’m feeling like Herbert is around again” – what ever you need to be able to acknowledge the emotion.
- Don’t minimize it. Don’t claim stuff like: “Most people don’t have any mental health issues” because how would you know about people’s emotional well-being? If you feel like you do, ask yourself what they know about yours. Do they know how you feel when you have to present in a big meeting? Or when you have to give someone bad news? Do they know what thoughts are in your head before you go to sleep? No. And you don’t know theirs.
I know its fear that drives people not to look into themselves, fear of admitting to themselves how they are actually feeling and handling life. Most of us are suffering and we don’t know what to do about it. Start with being honest to yourself and then, start embracing the vulnerable you in order to become complete.