We all have a life story. One that we are currently living – full of schedules, to-do lists and many more. And as you’re taking some time out of your story now to read this, I’d like to invite you to just take a moment and place your hand on your chest. Feel the tempo of your heartbeat…allow your chest to slowly move up and down as you take each breath…Have you ever wondered how it all works together? Our lungs allowing us to breathe deep, our hearts pumping oxygen and allowing life to continue moving in and through our bodies…our legs taking the next step, our emotions, desires, and thoughts encouraging us to move, eat, speak, feel, connect…there must be quite a few things working together to help us efficiently live every day and own our to-do lists! So how does it all work?
Well, we are made holistically. We are created out of so many different parts that work together to create the beautiful, complex human beings we are! As we live out our stories every day, it’s important that we make sure we are healthy in every area of our being. This includes physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental health… our minds, believe it or not, has an incredibly powerful effect on how the rest of the areas work together! We go to the gym when we want to enhance our physical health. We make an appointment with the doctor, whenever we feel sick or have pain in our body. We enjoy participating in spiritual practices such as going to church or worshipping. We hang out with friends to fill our social buckets…But sometimes, we tend to forget to nurture ourselves mentally and emotionally. Why is this?
According to statistics, mental health is one of the biggest areas within healthcare and society, often misunderstood and stigmatized. As a therapist and huge advocate for mental health, you’d think I’d have it all figured out, winning at life and beating challenges. I’d love to think so too. But the truth is, I went through a season where I allowed parts of my life story to play exactly into the stigma and negative misperceptions of mental health. Even though this was entirely unintentional, it left me neglecting my mental health completely, which eventually influenced the physical, spiritual, and social areas as well. I was going through quite a traumatic season with challenging family situations, and I was trying so hard to keep it all together. I kept it all to myself and isolation was the game. What would people think if they knew?
Even though feeling depressed and anxious was a perfectly normal and healthy response to what I was going through, I could not allow myself to acknowledge the strain these situations took on my mental health. I was sitting with feelings of guilt, shame, frustration and many more. And somehow, after about the thousandth time, I’ve read that God has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, I still seemed to have forgotten the sound mind part. Completely forgot! Do I not have enough faith? Should I just pray more, then I’ll feel better…I’ll just exercise more… Unfortunately, enhancing other areas of health while trying to make up for one that we are still neglecting, does not make things better, especially not while isolating. We are made holistically, remember?! This requires balanced attention in all areas. After having hit rock bottom and forced to slowly heal from the repercussions thereof, I went on a journey where I dove into what it really means to nurture mental health. Perhaps it would be helpful to identify what mental health is NOT so that we can fully understand what it IS and how to efficiently look after it…
Where physical pain shows up in our body, mental pain can show up in our behaviour and emotions. And often, neglecting our mental health can actually cause physical distress as well! Like any other area of our being, mental health needs to be addressed. The question is, how do we do that? What do we do when we’re not feeling our best mentally? And when we finally do, how do we ensure that we stay that way?
Well, in the wonderful world of psychology, you’ll be able to find decades of research and tools on how to nurture and enhance your mental health – some of which I will add to this post. However, there is one tool that I’d like to emphasize. One that is so powerful, it can be used both as a preventative measure and, dare I say, a cure! One that I would prescribe to every human being that has a heartbeat. This very powerful tool is…community. Yes, I know, you’ve heard it before and yes, it sounds cliché. However, as predictable as it sounds and as difficult as it may feel, history has showed us time and time again what the indescribable power of community can bring to the table. And this can be seen especially now as we’re navigating our way through a world pandemic that requires us to find new ways of interacting. Recent studies have shown the damaging effects of decreased social interaction on our mental health and well-being, to such an extent that these effects of isolation can be seen as the “second pandemic”! Why is this? Because one of our most basic drives as human beings is to connect, to feel that we belong and that we’re being heard. Believe it or not, there is something biologically happening in our brains when we engage in social interactions and share our stories with others. This has an enormous psychological benefit on our mental health!
That said, fighting the battle for advocacy in mental health can be hard. And you’re not alone. As we enter this month of Mental Health Awareness, I would like to encourage you to be intentional on reaching out. Tell your story, share your thoughts and emotions with someone you feel safe with. And listen to stories told by others. Be community and live community. We’re complex, messy, interesting, breath-taking human beings…creations of holistic nature. Let’s allow ourselves to tap into that, into the beauty and fullness of who we are. And let’s do that as mentally nurtured individuals in community.
For more information and resources on mental health, check out the links below. If you’re in a place where you feel you need to reach out and talk to someone, feel free to send me a message or email. Sessions are available in person and online.
068 384 0234