World Mental Health Day
It’s World Mental Health Day today – a chance for people to talk about mental health and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality worldwide. This year there is particular focus on young people and mental health in a changing world.
As I talk with coachees, colleagues and people within my networks, I’m increasingly saddened by how many tales of mental health issues I hear. From people with diagnosed conditions to people who are talking about getting so stressed that they get panic attacks, uncontrollably angry or break out into tears; people who can’t switch off and worry constantly about their workplace, family or the world around them. Please note I say saddened and not shocked – I’ve heard the tale too often to be shocked. I’ve lived the tale.
I’ve written in blogs before about what stress and overwork did to my mental state and I’m reminded regularly of how important my maintenance routine is. Each time I allow my maintenance to slip, usually when I’m really busy (not productively active) and have important deadlines to meet, I start to feel that panic creeping back in. Fortunately, each time I’ve recognised it for what it is and have tried to reduce the stress and have increased the self-care.
When talking with people, not exclusively but especially women, about Imposter Syndrome and how it’s affected them, I have heard stories of how it has impacted onto all parts of their lives and how it has crippled them with anxiety and fear. It has taken over to the extent that the person is constantly worried about their ability to do their roles (in whatever element of their life) and it has started to become self-fulfilling. Our self-talk is part of our mental health and wellbeing and it can have a positive or a negative impact, and yet we often ignore it, putting addressing it into the to do pile…somewhere near the bottom.
We spend so much time taking care of others. Those of us lucky enough to have children place a lot of our focus on their wellbeing and happiness. Too many times, mothers tell me that they don’t really do anything for themselves or talk about a little treat as if it’s something to be guilty about. Many of us decide that our treat will be food or a drink; not the best choice we can make if we do this regularly. Our priority is usually on work and making sure that those we love are happy. Our own needs come way down on the list of priorities. And please don’t say that you get pleasure from your work and from making the people you love happy…I know you do, but you also have to put in a lot of time and mental and physical effort. Where is that all coming from?
Empty bags can’t stand; you can’t pour from an empty jug; you cannot serve from and empty vessel – whatever saying you want to use, they’re true. If you have no reserves, then you can’t give to others. That’s why I believe that your own self-care is so important. There are lots of causes for mental health issues but a failure to maintain good mental balance and wellbeing has to be up there amongst the biggest cause.
But, even though I say this a lot, and even though you know it makes sense, a lot of people won’t listen. They’ll continue to put their children, partner, job, family first; they’ll continue to empty their reserves and then will find themselves too stressed and suffering as a consequence. So, this World Mental Health Day, I wanted to give another reason why this is so important.
Children and young people learn how to behave from the people around them and in particular from the adults in their lives. If I am a complete stress-head around my daughter, I am teaching her that the only way to be successful is to be constantly working and stressed. According to the Mental Health Foundation mental health problems affect one in ten children and young people. They say, “The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health” and that the mental health problems they face are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
We know that growing up is hard, and there are lots of things that make it harder with the pressure of exams, peers and image. We have the ability to teach our children some techniques to deal with this pressure just by taking back control ourselves. If we prioritise our self-care, especially when the pressure is on, we are showing young people that scrapping all the things that bring them joy when they’re working towards exams is not the right way forward. If we pick ourselves up after we have a failure, acknowledge, even celebrate it, learn and move forward, we’re showing our children that failure is a normal, if not essential, part of life. The examples we set our children and young people probably have as big, if not bigger, impact on their behaviour than our words. So, please consider what you’re doing, what examples you’re setting the young people around you, be they your own children, relatives, people in the community or young adults within your work environment.
This World Mental Health Day I wanted to leave you with one more message that I’d like to ask you to believe and remember:
There is nothing more important than your mental well-being.
No deal; No deadline; No errand; No salary. Nothing.
So, treat it like the precious jewel it is.
Feed it; Tend to it; Shine it