Portfolio of Hope

‘Mental Health’- those two words hold a lot of weight, and still have an awful lot of stigma attached to them, unfortunately.

Whilst this stigma is certainly starting to fall as more people are speaking up about their own experiences, people still have the misinterpreted view that only individuals with a pre-existing mental illness need to think about their mental health. However the fact of the matter is that this could not be further from the truth. In fact, having the belief that mental health is only a subject for a certain demographic to talk about is incredibly damaging.

A similarly damaging belief is the narrow-minded view that we can only have ‘good’ mental health, or we can only have ‘bad’ mental health. Viewing it from this perspective fails to take into account all of the people across the world who consider themselves to be; ‘somewhere in between.’ I certainly fit into this middle category.

It can be hard to be in this situation- in the ‘middle category’- because as I know from personal experience, you can wake up one day feeling on top of the world, ready to conquer whatever the day has in store for you, but then you can wake up the next day feeling empty and at a loss as to what you’re even doing here.

On the days when my mind does feel foggy, what some would describe as being a ‘bad’ mental health day, I have to remind myself that looking after my mental health is a lifelong commitment, not a mere afterthought.

I therefore have to make a conscious effort to do the things that boost my mental health every single day, regardless of how I feel in that present moment, and you should strive to do the same.

Here’s why:

  • Mental health is something that we all have, and therefore we all need to look after it, regardless of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we perceive it to be.
  • On this basis, we must therefore seek to reframe our thinking about mental health, striving to remove all the stigma and preconceptions we have, perhaps subconsciously, attached to it.

Something I find helpful in achieving this- something we should all practice more often if we wish to develop greater understanding, in any part of our lives- is the ‘art’ of being still.

So, how can we do that?

By just stopping for a minute,

and thinking.

Think about how our mental health can be likened to our physical health.. Both require the same level of maintenance in order for us to stay well.

An example I like to use and reflect upon, is this; we wouldn’t go for days without brushing our teeth, regardless of whether they are currently clean or not, therefore we shouldn’t go for days without looking after our mind. If we did neglect our teeth because we thought; ‘why bother looking after them, they’re fine as they are’, we would more than likely find ourselves with some potentially serious dental issues in the not too distant future. Similarly, if we don’t look after our mental health due to the widely held belief that; ‘it doesn’t effect me’, it wouldn’t surprise me if we all ended up with a referral to the mental health services some time soon.

To avoid this happening- to avoid ‘the scales tipping’ into poor mental health territory- we must all take steps to maintain our mental health, with the same level of commitment we have to maintain our physical health; getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, etc.

To reduce the likelihood of our mental health faltering, it is also incredibly important to remember to keep on top of our self-care routine, whether that looks like getting lost in a good book, or having some down time in front of the TV.

Try different things until you find what works for you. It doesn’t matter what it is/what it ends up being, all that matters is that it brings you happiness– pure, true happiness. And when you feel that sense of happiness, I hope that you realise your own strength, for you have done something many people fear. You have taken your mental health seriously. You have put yourself first. And for that, you should feel a sense of immense pride, for I am proud of you- I am proud of your bravery beyond words…

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