The theme of this Mental Health Awareness week is Kindness. I was unsure on this theme at first, and has a few concerns. I wasn’t keen for these reasons:
First, there is an important distinction to be made:
Everyone has “mental health”, just as they have physical health, and ups and downs
NOT everyone has a mental “illness”, just as not everyone has physical illnesses/injuries.
Mental health can be improved by being kind, mental illnesses cannot be cured through kindness, but often require complex medical and/or non medical treatment.
Because of this, I felt uncomfortable with the theme being “kindness”, when many will take that to mean if they are just kind to people, everyone will be ok. This is really not the case. I felt that it perpetuated the myth that people with depression are just “sad” or people with anxiety are “shy” or “nervous”
However, I’ve taken time to reflect on this, and while I still think this is the case, I have decided to talk about how kindness can help people with mental illnesses/ struggles in a different way. The power of kindness is vastly underestimated in terms of being kind to ourselves.
What do I mean by this?
Being kind to ourselves can be manifested in many different ways. Arguably the most crucial one being positive self-talk. Less of the “I can’t, I’m rubbish, I’m worthless” and more of the “I’ll try, I’m getting there, I have value”. Obviously this isn’t much easier said than done, but with a conscious effort is more than possible. If we catch ourselves being negative, without any real evidence to support it, we can begin to question the viability of those thoughts. The easiest way to do this, is to ask “would I say this to someone else, or is this harsh/ unfair?” If that’s the case, why do you say it to yourself?!
Especially at a time like this, where the world can feel a little overwhelming, it’s important to not beat ourselves up if we aren’t as productive as we “should be” or don’t achieve what we wanted. Give yourself some slack.
Another aspect of being kind to ourselves revolves around being a bit more selfish. This doesn’t have to mean neglecting others, but rather taking the time to focus on ourselves; learning to say when enough is enough. A mistake I made was to take on everyone else’s problems while I was also struggling myself. Sometimes it seems easier at first as it distracts you from your own demons, but eventually that does catch up to you. While it’s often incredibly difficult short term, the best way to deal with our demons is to face them. That being said, always remember to do it at your own pace.
Perhaps the most important thing in my opinion, is to stop making excuses. When we make excuses, we know deep down that they are just that, and that knowledge allows us to begin to have those feelings of guilt and worthlessness. However, not every reason is an excuse. There’s only one person that can identify the reasons from the excuses, and that’s ourselves. This self awareness is so important if we want to change our mindsets. As important as it is to not make excuses, it’s also important to make a conscious effort to not feel guilty about genuine reasons, especially those out of our control. This self awareness is crucial, and is a skill you can learn and develop. Focus on the things you can change, and make sure you congratulate yourself with every step of progress you make. No matter how small.
1. Make that inner voice more positive! Praise yourself for every achievement, and don’t beat yourself up over setbacks. Failure is not a negative, but a lesson.
2. Be more selfish. This doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be at the detriment of others, but make sure you make time for yourself, and remember you can say no.
3. Stop making excuses! Only you can truly change your mindset. That being said, don’t beat yourself up over genuine reasons! It may take time, but you can learn to identify one from the other with practise. Self awareness is a skill that can be learned.
If anyone wants any help/advice or has any feedback etc, I’m more than happy to help. just DM me or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org