World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world.
The theme for 2019 is preventing suicide. According to World Health Organisation statistics every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide. So they are hoping we can all take “40 seconds of action” on 10th October to:
- improve awareness of suicide as a global public health problem
- improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide
- reduce the stigma associated with suicide
- let people who are struggling know that they are not alone
Life can be difficult for us all but I have found the added complication of a chronic illness has brought these issues much more to the forefront for me than before diagnosis. I have had to learn to recognise and embrace my own mental health issues and to try out different strategies for coping.
I'd like to point out straight from the start that I do not have this all figured out and am not the very image of calmness and serenity. I freak out, I cry, I despair just like everyone else. I acknowledge it and try to move past it when possible. One of my personal mottos/mantras is 'better out than in'
So here are some of the tools I use to try to maintain or look after my mental health
I started practicing mindfulness a few years ago using an app on my phone. Taking time to think and breathe has been invaluable for me
Talk to someone
I believe strongly in talking through problems. Family and friends can be great confidants but sometimes talking with a counsellor or therapist can be a relief. You don't have to worry about their feelings or upsetting them. Your care team should be able to point you in the right direction. Personally I do both so if a problem shared is a problem halved then I'll be grand.
I find writing my thoughts or worries down sometimes helps to make them seem less daunting. It can help me see more clearly and find a plan of action
Don't waste time and energy holding grudges or being annoyed. Particularly when it is you you're annoyed with. Try to let things go and embrace forgiveness. This is easier said than done but well worth the effort if you can manage it.
Life can be overwhelming and can't always be made better with a smile and positive attitude. Imbalances in the body could be contributing to problems like depression or anxiety. There is no shame in taking medication to help get through tough times. I have found antidepressants really helpful in my case. Talk to your care team.
Try to have hobbies you enjoy that don't highlight things you are worried about. For example, walking or exercising stresses me out as they remind me how limited my mobility is. So I try seated exercises or hobbies like jewellery making and board games. Fun activities that don't require lots of standing or exertion.
Write 2 or 3 things you are grateful for each day to try to encourage your brain to see the good things. It can be something as simple as having had a nice coffee at lunch. It will be hard to think of things at first but should get easier the more you practice.
Try to have realistic expectations of yourself and others. Other people don't know how you feel unless you tell them so don't expect them to know the right thing to do or say first time round. It's the same for you. You won't always get things right the first time. Be kind to yourself and try again.
So this October 10th, try taking 40 seconds to be kind to yourself, to call a friend you think might be having a tough time or to reach out for support for yourself. You might be surprised how good you feel afterwards.
Check out Grace’s blog, www.mycrazymslife.com for her perspective on living with multiple sclerosis.