This post mentions a wide array of mental health issues and has the potential to be triggering to some readers.
The words you can see above are just some of the phrases we’ve all let fall from our lips and that we have had spoken to us and inevitably digested to help fuel the unhealthy idea that there is a problem with mental health.
Mental health issues affect us all in varying degrees. Perhaps you don’t have a name for it, maybe it manifests differently than some of the stories you’ve heard or read about, but be it stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anger management, panic attacks, disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive, phobias, hyper manias, post traumatic stress, psychosis, sleeping problems … every person you know will have suffered with their mental health at some stage of their lives.
It can be a little intimidating to realise that, statistically, you are likely to suffer a blip in your mental health, but the stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be eliminated for that intimidation not to become fear and exacerbate any potential issues you may have.
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Working in the arts mental health is something affects me daily. In a report done by the Victoria University in Australia it was found that people in the performing arts are ten times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than the average population. Ten times. The report goes on to say that symptoms of depression are five times higher and statistics suggests they can be linked to issues such as financial instability and poor working conditions – which, of course, are proven catalysts for ill mental health in themselves.
I can put my hands up and say I’ve experienced that anxiety. Sure, I get to do what I love, and its a given that your life will be in flux. But the strain of living your day to day with no idea where you’ll be in a couple of months with little financial support, and sometimes poor living, working and travelling conditions, whilst having your very best demanded from you daily is exhausting.
The same goes for all of us, really. Every single day our responsibilities, our relationships, our jobs, and everything in between demands everything from us, and we often do our best to give everything that we have. But sometimes that drive to perfection or that desire to do our best leads us to the ends of our tethers – which can often be our weakest point.
The only way to really tackle these issues head on is to be completely open and honest about them, in order to remove the stigma and get us all talking. Mental health problems are always going to be there, so the priority needs to be making them easier to cope with. So here are some of my top tips for helping yourself, and your friends and family, deal with mental health awareness.
- Talk About Your Feelings – Whether we were told not to cry too much or to stop being too sensitive, we’ve all got memories of being shut down by someone or something when we have tried to talk about how we’re feeling, but please don’t give up because of one ill fated moment. Keep talking, even if you find it the hardest thing to do. I remember a time where the idea of discussing my emotions or problems seemed like a harsh imprisonment, but eventually I found a person I could talk to, and then people and brick by brick, I was able to tear down the wall I had been keeping up for so long. Its hard, but let people in. Let them know that you’re struggling. If its a stranger or a best friend, reach out, and let it out. You don’t need to have it all figured out.
- Take a Break – Life has a way of trapping us into routines and tough schedules: keep working with yourself on taking breaks. It’s okay to just give yourself a minute, to just sit with yourself and your emotions and process. I have recently started using the app Headspace (hashtag nonspon) to add to my normal time of meditation and prayer and its been working wonders on helping me start my day off in the right frame of mind.
- Keep in touch – It’s super important to have time on your own to recharge your batteries, but its also often a symptom of depression or anxiety to want to pull away from even our nearest and dearest. Try your best to do the opposite. Ask people to check in on you so that you are accountable to someone, so that you have light coming into your life.
- Do Something you’re good at – Ego boosts can be good for our mental health and self esteem – and absolutely vital for somebody who feels like they have no talents to speak of. So do something that you excel in. If that’s duvet days, give yourself a gold star for best PJs. If that’s visual art, set up your materials and get to work. If that’s cooking, you better season that meal to the heavens. Do you!
- Accept who you are – I know what’s like to feel like I’m not enough. We all do. We often flip and flop between feeling like we’ve got this and don’t need no man, and feeling like we are dirty little gremlins and pox upon the earth. The latter is not true. No matter what we’ve done, what mistakes we’ve made, where we fall short – we are enough. Yes there is always room for growth and learning, because life is about that, but you need to know there is no one else like you and that is amazing. The world can’t be as it is without you and I for one am grateful you exist.
- Ask for help – Do not be afraid to reach out. Easier said than done, I know, but if there’s one thing we can think the internet for its access. We are suddenly open to things we never used to be, and when it comes to mental health and resources we are open to a whole new way of getting help. If you need urgent help please know there are things you can do! We are here for you! So many of us are, and maybe you’ve heard someone say that before and they have let you down or maybe you just find it hard to believe, but take one last chance and one more and one more and more and reach out because there will be a hand to take yours!
- Care for others – Pay if forward baby. There are times when we feel on top of things, there are times when we don’t. If you feel like you’re in a stable place right now and you owe it to all the people that have helped you, show your gratefulness by being there for someone else. Give your time to a friend in need, volunteer, be vocal with your own experiences, share links to resources on your social media platforms. Talk about mental health even when it isn’t affecting you, because an open and ongoing conversation is the only way to completely end stigma.
Everyone’s self care when it comes to mental health will differ, but we are all united in the fact that we must look after ourselves, our mental health and each other. None of us our perfect, we all have the things that we’re battling, but what’s important is that we fight together!
You’re not alone. You are enough. We will do this.
National Suicide Prevention
0800 273 8255