What can we do to look after our overall state of mind? — #MHAW17
This post was written for my 7 day mental health blog takeover, in support of #MHAW17.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is “Surviving or Thriving?”. The Mental Health Foundation are asking why so few of us are thriving with good mental health, and why so many are merely just getting by.
I’ve written many motivational posts for those suffering from mental illness, but what steps can we all take, including those with no history of mental illness, to maintain a good mental balance and avoid conditions brought on environmental factors, routine or high levels of stress?
Having a mental illness makes you sit up and take notice of your thoughts and feelings. People like me have to pay so much attention to our mental health, that we train ourselves to spot signs of deterioration and we discover not just the things that make us feel worse, but also the things that make us feel better.
Today, I wanted to share the most effective methods I have found of maintaining a balanced overall state of mind, even when the symptoms of my mental illness are increased.
Make a clear distinction between work and home life
I work Monday to Friday in digital marketing, and spend my evenings being emzae. Though I adore my musical life, there are more administrative aspects of it that can sometimes turn it into a second job.
Working all day on one screen, then going home and transferring to another screen can feel as though you barely have a presence in the reality around you.
I have found that it really helps to create a clear point in your day where work life ends and home life begins. A moment in time when you decide consciously that all work-related thought is prohibited for the rest of the day. If at all possible in your line of work, you may decide not to check or reply to any e-mails outside your contracted work hours. I do not feel it pays in any career to be switched on 24/7. You’ll only wear yourself out and start to perform below your best.
In order to juggle my day job and music ambitions, I have a set period of time each day in between finishing one and starting the other where I try and think about neither. If you never take a break — even a five minute one — you’ll probably find yourself in a bad place.
Always make time for those closest to you
I’m a big believer in the fact that no matter how busy you are, you always have time for your family and friends.
It’s possible to get so caught up in yourself — your plans and tasks — that before you know it, you realise it’s been quite a while since you had a proper conversation with any of them. I’ve been writing lyrics about that recently — the accidental process of being so obsessive over your own life that you start to lose touch with those people who occupy your heart. It’s such an easy mistake to make, however selfish it may sound on paper, and that’s why I think it’s so important for your overall state of mind to keep in touch with the people you love as much as possible. Make the effort to spend time with them and be present in the moment. If you can’t physically be in their company, send them a message or give them call as often as you can. Take a genuine interest in their lives and their feelings, because you do have one after all.
*note, however I wrote that last sentence it sounded accidentally insincere haha*
For me as a twenty-something, there is an age-old feeling of pressure to succeed and become comfortable in life as quickly as possible. I write a lot of music about that feeling, too, and the impact it has on my mood.
I have a tendency to speed off at 110 mph, planning the next thing and the next thing. I make the mistake sometimes of not giving myself a chance to celebrate an achievement before aiming for another. The consequences of that can be mistakenly allowing your emotions to be governed by your level of success or failure at any given time.
It is vital, in my view, to define what is truly important to you in your heart. For me, it is enjoying the company of the people I love. Making memories, enjoying my time on earth, caring for others and above all being happy.
Success is also important to me, but not at the sacrifice of the former. When things get tough, which they do for everybody, it is therefore important to maintain a focus on why you truly get up each morning.
Laugh as much as possible
They say laughter is the best medicine, and whether ‘they’ have scientific evidence to back that up or not, I wholeheartedly agree.
However I’m feeling, I always find something to laugh at. I have even been known to crack dark-humoured jokes about my own hard times.
Recently, i’ve been turning to my favourite comedy of the past few years (apart from peep show) Brian Pern, and perhaps surprisingly, political satire and impressionists.
I also write a few paragraphs of my ridiculous, probably-never-to-be-fit-for-public-consumption comedy novel if I have a spare few moments that I feel could be filled with sheer stupidity.