Saturday May 23 , 2020
We are currently facing a global crisis, an invisible enemy destined to kill thousands. However, we mustn’t forget there has been a crisis of this magnitude amongst us for many years. An illness so consuming, a disease none of us can see yet many of us have been affected by.
Mental illness can and will ruin lives; depression, anxiety, self-harm and stress are just a few examples of the terror that can take control of a person’s life. Perhaps you struggle yourself, maybe it’s a family member or you’re haunted by the idea that there isn’t more being done to combat this problem.
This week is Mental Health Awareness week and this year things are quite different. In recent times, this week was used as an opportunity to raise awareness, hold fundraising events and for everyone to gather in the fight against mental illness. This year we have read about the significant rise in those feeling anxious and lonely in isolation, an increase in domestic violence and the risk of key workers developed PTSD following the extreme pressure caused by COVID- 19.
The government themselves have invested millions into the fight against Coronavirus in recent weeks, the main question being asked is ‘if this money has been available, why has it never been injected into the NHS for mental health services?’
We aren’t professionals, we do not possess the specific skills required to offer medical advice if you are struggling with your mental health. However, what we do have are a few tips to ease the burden of everyday life during this difficult time until the vital services you require return.
You are NOT ALONE
Although these difficult and uncertain times can feel lonely and frankly quite scary, you do not have to suffer in silence. Reach out to family and friends and if this is not an option there are some wonderful charities just waiting to take your call. It can seem as though there is a stigma related to mental illness however, you must put the judgement to one side, leave the negative comments behind and focus on feeling better.
Remember it is not unacceptable to feel this way and you are stronger than you think for even admitting you need help. Someday, someone will acknowledge your strength and it could change their life too.
This link will give you a list of helplines and support groups available and despite the current pandemic, they are still available remotely.
Look after your physical health too
You’d be surprised how closely linked your physical and mental health are. Regular exercise and time spent outdoors can give you a sense of clarity, fresh air and help boost your self esteem and feeling of accomplishment. Research shows that exercise releases ‘happy’ hormones into your brain and that buzz can improve your mental health.
There’s a common misconception that to ‘work out’, you must join a gym, purchase equipment or push yourself to impossible limits. DO NOT put yourself under any more pressure, exercise can be anything from taking the dog a walk to doing yoga or stretching on the bedroom floor. The effect it has on your health is entirely up to you!
A balanced sleep pattern is imperative to mental health. Being able to zone out, put any troubles to one side and sleep well can have a very positive influence on how you function effectively from day to day. Sleep deprivation will only negatively affect any progress you make and can cause detrimental problems long term.
Eating a well-balanced diet is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health. For the brain to function effectively you should limit your intake of sugar, caffeine and alcohol and increase a variety of healthy and nutritious meals.
Set yourself a goal
Nothing too dramatic but sometimes focusing on achieving something can alleviate the intrusive and over-bearing thoughts inside. For example, have you ever wanted to de-clutter the ‘black hole’, otherwise known as the dreaded cupboard under the stairs?
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano or how to knit. Anything at all, big or small, set yourself a goal and go for it!
You may feel as though your mental illness defines you, it does not! You must find your finest qualities and focus on them to become the best version of yourself. We can’t expect others to see the good in us if we are unable to find the good in ourselves. Strive to do better, know your limits and you can succeed!
It’s okay not to be okay
Luckily in recent years, mental illness has become more of a talking point and countless people have benefited from the slogan ‘It’s okay not to be okay’. Imagine living each day without the burden of external judgement, disappointment, and lack of understanding? This can delay any progress we make in our battle against mental illness.
Men, women and even children across the world; young, old and anyone in between can be affected. It could be your closest relative, your doctor, your housemate or your student, remember this illness is invisible and some have adapted their personality to hide their problems.
You do not have to be strong all the time, you do not have to hide away and mask your feelings. You do however, have to face these problems head on and prove to yourself that you are much more than your illness. It can be hard to keep motivated and focused, but this is something you can learn over time.
Believe it or not, some of the most inspirational and successful people have battled with their mental health. Many celebrities and world leaders have spoken openly about their troubles and they have even offered up some advice of their own.
Life is hectic under normal circumstances but with the current situation it is completely understandable when stress and anxiety take over. Reach out, ask for help and please don’t suffer in silence.