When we talk about mental health in a casual or in depth way, are we considering our audience?
If we imagine walking into a meeting in the cabinet office, we’ll see a committee of representatives discussing issues that may or may not impact us directly. In that case, we better sit down and try and make sense of the discussion in hand. We leave with a better grasp about what is going on but do that thing when something has been explained five times and we just nod our head in confusion with the fear of looking silly if we ask for it to be explained one more time.
Recently, you may have noticed that there are more discussions and public posts regarding mental health. You may have also heard the phrase ‘mental health effects all of us’, well sure, having a physical body effects all of us, but what is your point? When we post or discuss mental health, most often we assume people understand what we are talking about or agree with us. The reality is that for many individuals, they will not recognise that they are being effected by mental health issues, instead they may put those feelings down to the current circumstances and expect it will all just pass with time. This may be due to many varying factors, such as culture, generation or gender for example.
If this is the case, we must begin talking about mental health in a less general and intimidating way. If we are going nurture and care for our dynamic communities, we must first understand who we are talking to. This doesn’t mean we should generalise as a result about our assumptions about others, but what we should be doing is enable ’empathy’ and ‘accommodating’ mode in our communication.
An example of this (emphasis on example), we may encounter a friend or work colleague who may be acting energetically, excitedly and perhaps erratically towards their work or daily tasks. We may respond by saying something witty like “someone’s in a good mood today”. Okay let’s pause here and understand the concept that excitement and anxiety cause almost identical physical reactions. I’m not suggesting a few energetic days in work or home mean there’s an underlying issue, but it is responsible to recognise those changes that continue over a longer period of time or reoccur.
There are a wealth of resources available to us now regarding mental health, including blogs. By reading, hearing the stories and reflections of others, we can educate the judgements of our subconscious to see that mental health is more than depression and anxiety. Mental health is as dynamic as our physical bodies are. You know that intense pain that occurs when you stub your little toe on the coffee table, well we wouldn’t say days later “I’ve got this really bad pain in my arm… it must be from when I stubbed my toe”. We need to approach our own mental health and the mental health of others creatively and dynamically. As a result, we cease trying to fit into societies understanding of mental health and begin to accept that areas within our health existed before the pandemic and we can react accordingly.
Read a blog, visit the NHS website, write a journal, speak to a counsellor… wherever you are at there is no harm in expanding our perspective about mental health. If not for ourselves but for our families and communities.
It’s that time of year, when anticipation and joy is in the air. We enjoy the comfort of our cozy, festive homes and the tempting abundance of treats in every shop we visit. I honestly love Christmas and all the memories I have of Christmas are warm and happy. As a follower of Christ, I have always had this sense of celebration; not just for the gifts or prospect of a new year.
Jesus is my new beginning every day, He is the one that keeps me above water when the world is pulling me under.
Reflecting on the actual story of Christmas, I have thought about the journey Mary and Joseph made. For an expectant Mother and anxious Father, it would have been intense to say the least. They travelled strong by their faith in Gods plan and purpose. It’s the story we hear about in the Nativity plays and on the TV. But when we read further, we are reminded that the long journeys didn’t end there. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to seek refuge from the threat and persecution stemming from King Herod.
Reflecting on this part of the story with deeper thought and realism, I have feelings of despair of the unknown, pain for the those families whose sons were killed and an overwhelming sense of confusion. I believe the only way Mary, Joseph and the mourning families could see tomorrow after experiencing the murderous corruption, physically and mentally is by accepting that life is more than what is happening here, now.
In comparison, I think of the millions of individuals and families that flee from their homes, seeking refuge and the warmth of knowing their children are safe from the danger they faced. I want to speak carefully as I write this, as my understanding of the experiences people seeking refuge is so on the surface. All I know is that the level of pain and distress is in a category of its own. We hear stories of refugees in the news, always painted with a political stance. Politics has this dangerous way of minimizing the real experiences, it launches a load of questions and information our way that leaves us feeling overwhelmed by what is right and wrong.
This is where empathy is essential to us as a human race. If we first listen to story with empathy, we begin to find ourselves on the freezing cold journey, approaching a foreign land. We begin to think in a way which questions “what next?”, we stand in a pair of shoes that can only go forward.
Reading the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with baby Jesus, we know the details, we see the bigger picture. In that moment though, the reassurance Mary and Joseph had was their faith in God and the plans that had gone before them. They would have had very human experiences, very human pains and very human fears, but this was the only way forward for them as a family, a scorching fire was chasing them and they had to flee.
Having a faith is a bridge that opens a path into tomorrow, into a tomorrow better than today. Even if we don’t see that straight away, one day we will reflect and see the resilience, wisdom and character that our experiences has gifted us with. Faith varies all around, however you see yours just know that it is as essential as the blood flowing around our bodies. It is what breathes us into our future.
Have you ever heard the phrase “sleep when you die”? What do you think of when you hear it?
As a counsellor by trade and an all round sensitive soul; words impact me greatly. I recall being taught in university that every word and phrase is valuable in the process of communication and therapy. I tapped into this as I truly believe that the words we choose or our subconscious chooses to use, expresses more about what’s being said. This effected my practice and relationships in a way that was both a curse and a cure.
If you didn’t already know, I’m Welsh by heritage. In Wales it’s quite common to see individuals speaking with their hands and using phrases that although spoken in English are a bit trivial and sound like a joke. “I’ll be there now, in a minute” as amusing as it sounds, when determining an ETA this makes complete sense to me. Not quite now, not quite in a minute but very soon!
Wherever you come from, we can agree that communication from destination to destination and from one relationship to another. Being understood is the difference between our personal opinions and emotions being valued and undervalued. As I’ve blogged about before, our personal stories are to be treasured and not to be thrown out into the open sea to be caught by any wave passing by. The same goes for the reverse of this. If we catch on to any opinion, trend or emotion that flies our way, we open ourselves up to be deeply affected by things that hold no benefit or positive outcome both ways.
In real time, imagine being a parent in the school yard who socially attracts many individuals! You are unoffcially the friend, the Mum, the teacher assistant, the governor, the mediator and the taxi! How exhausting. Your capacity to offer quality understanding and support to each of these roles fluctuate, people will feel let down and you will burn out emotionally. The same goes for the content we expose ourselves too on a daily basis.
The phrase “sleep when you die” to me is a backwards motivation to get stuff done. It bothered me for a while, with 2 kids at the time and one on the way, all I wanted to do was sleep! Even now with 3 young children, sleep in my constant goal. I had this pressure taunting me though, that people were achieving more with their time, while I was cleaning up after kids and craving sleep.
These type of phrases communicate to a very impressionable generation, that you are going to miss out if you don’t chase that money or promotion! In reality, in order to create a smooth path of wellbeing and professional success you will need more than lack of sleep.
By surrounding yourself with stimulation for your mind, whether this is reading a new book or blog! Creating a daily space to find peace through meditation and prayer, eating well and most importantly listening to your bodies call to rest. We may not be able to control all the trends or communication we come in contact with, but how we react is down to each of us. We may have to feel the pressure of fire phrases before we understand if it’s relevant or not, but the next time we know to do a U turn and seek positivity in our interactions with this world.
As we move into December, there’s the usual sense of winding down, pressing pause and signing off another year.
Yet this year has been a rollercoaster of pausing and winding down… with not much of the life we know in sight. 2020 has been defined by… well you know, I don’t even have to say whatever you’re reading this from.
It’s all sort of shaken up my perspective of the way I’m approaching my time and the things I do with it. There is a common view that the start of the year is where we place our annual goals and the end of the year is where we start thinking about the whole process again.
With a year of so much negative potential, we may feel like not much has been achieved. The new normal is definitely made itself at home but there is a sense of determination to push through, back to the normality we knew way before 2020 began.
In this season when workplaces would be on Christmas outings, schools performing live Nativities and families gathering to eat, drink, laugh and celebrate together… we have the prospect of a slow end of the year. For someone who is an introvert; I can deal with a quiet season but even for me… I’m craving the frantic buzz of last minute shopping, busy restaurants and the comedy of the school play. In the back of my mind, I’m aware that in a year of so much suffering for many many people, we are prompted by our own good human nature to be grateful for each day as it comes.
With a grateful heart for life and breath and thoughts of “I wish we could…” we have an opportunity to view next year, next month, next week, tomorrow in this new normal that I believe many of us are experiencing. Whether we like it or not, we’ve all been exposed to the reality that we are not invincible and have had real moments of fearing for our lives this year whether that be physically or mentally. Being grateful doesn’t have to lessen our goals, there’s no need to undermine our dreams just because our conscience is more aware of the value of life. Instead, we can use this understanding of value to enrich our short and long term goals.
We also can’t ignore the sense of community that has occurred from this year. In everything we do, we are encouraged to respect each other and be safe. Although this may differ from country to country, we can grasp this idea of looking up and recognising that we’re not the only ones going through this. What can we give back into our communities? Whether this is county wide, in the school yard, in work or even when we’re out and about. What difference do you want to stay or design into tomorrow?
With a grateful heart and determination for life, what is your tomorrow going to look like?
There is a school, with on average two hundred and fifty students, teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, administration staff and of course the headteacher and deputy.
Imagine then, this school has a number of naturally excelling students who need little support. Then you’ve got children who need a bit more support and children who need consistent support. What happens when the headteacher says “I want only the students who excel to receive rewards for their work.” they have instantly created as divide among the school. Does this now mean that the children who require more support will be less motivated and lack confidence? Quite possibly. Now imagine, the teaching assistants resources have been limited, not only can’t they recommend rewards but they are being directed to split their time with other students who do not need support, in order to back up the students who are excelling.
In reality, a school like this would be called out to be dysfunctional, unequal and in the most extreme terms, corrupt. Just by writing this last sentence, my mind has sparked images of so many establishments, countries and governments.
We may have already heard of the corruption within African countries, today I want to talk about a beautiful country called the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country represents every kind of energy, the energy of love, suffering, culture, physical and mental. Once you have experienced this culture, you see what true patriotism is. My extended family are from DRC and when I say extended, I now have family in France, Belgium, Africa, the UK and USA. My children will have so many opportunities to travel and experience the diversity of their heritage.
How does a country with so much energy be exploited by the rest of the world? DRC is one of the richest countries in the world, it powers this laptop, it powers the phone you are reading this on and it has beautiful treasures that we can only imagine. The depth of the land, the vast ground holding so much potential that just needs to be left alone by the unwanted help. Surely we all understand that it is easy to look like a do gooder if we change the narrative of what’s actually going on and turn it into a more pleasing story for the westerners. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve spent fiercly discussing with my husband the changes that need to be made. I said so many time, the DRC government is corrupt, it’s got no solid foundation because of the past… this is the narrative I’ve been told by so many appeal shows on my UK TV.
Yes, many men, women and children are suffering world wide as a consequence of dysfunctional governments but do we stop there and accept that as the overriding reason? Obviously the information of what is really going on will not be handed over to us by Google that simply. Neither would visiting the areas where the landscape is being torn apart give us much more than a devastating insight into the hard work and unfit working conditions and pay the workers receive. This isn’t some conspiracy, it’s a reality that is ongoing. As the AOC said “the power is an illusion” until we start looking further into the roots and breaking that down, the face value of these international stories will continue to deceive us.
There is no quick fix for any of this, but I believe we have to start by educating ourselves, emerging our families into other cultures, understanding the ways of our neighbours and most importantly making sure the youngest members of society know that their voice has power. Their skills and character have the potential to impact communities and comfortable governments who lack definition.
Part time work and Motherhood seem to go hand in hand in this generation and those part time jobs are not always suited to the skills of the woman in that role. Do we open our eyes a little bit wider to see that actually, many women are being undermined in the workplace because they are seen as the primary carer for their children and require flexibility?
At 27, I have spent many of my years as a Mum being told that I will have plenty of time when the kids grow up to do what I want. In all honesty, now is the time I was to progress, now is the time I want the equal opportunities to earn that better wage and for it to fit around my family. And do you know what, I know I can do it because I worked 32 hours a week walking around a hospital ans then returned home to two children, all while heavily pregnant. I’m now on the sick because the rigid nature of my work place has torn me apart. I questioned family or work? So many times and my answer has not changed, I want both.
People are always going to procreate and family costs money, so I will need to work. But it’s not just about the money, its embracing the diversity of our abilities, the skills we have gained from school and from motherhood, we have so much to offer to so many different roles. On many occasions I’ve heard Mothers being described as individuals who pour out love and sacrifice their own wants and needs… Sounds like an angel. In the right context I agree with this statement (I’m not talking about sacrificing nights out for multiple orders of milk and story books), we give up a lot of things we would have done if we didn’t have children and that’s personal to each individual. I challenge the reassurance that “you’ll have plenty of time when your kids have grown up”. Actually I want my sons and daughters to see Mummy sat at the table with a pile of books. I want them to see me balancing life with bags under my eyes. I want them to see me jump up and down when I get that job I’ve worked so hard for. I want them to see the better days when we’ve spent the last month scraping the barrel in order to pay the rent. Why do I have to wait until they have left home to display to them the realities of life. I need them to see what type of person their Mum is because one day they will look back on these every day moments and understand a little bit about who they are and what they are capable of.
Now I want to ask you, how do we move forward with gender equality? How do we make it possible for families to care for their loved ones but also have a job that is fulfilling personally and financially?