Imagine a society where where emotional vulnerability is viewed as a strength and not as a weakness.
- Where being honest with yourself about how you are feeling is brave.
- Where it’s second nature to connect with your emotions.
- Where you feel empowered to open up to others for support.
- Where talking about our mental and emotional wellbeing is as normal as talking about our physical health.
- Where you are honest with yourself about how you are feeling
- Where you create space every day to connect with your emotions and see how you really are
- Where you can find the strategies that work for you
I am very passionate about the area of mental wellbeing. It’s a critical life skill and I think it needs to be taught in primary and secondary schools as much as reading, writing and arithmetic!
Proactively putting in emotional wellness steps for some will prevent the development of stress related emotional difficulties – depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, panic attacks etc. I call this area the ‘Red Zone’.
Being in the ‘Red Zone’ but possessing some mental fitness skills means that you will spend less time in there. Indeed, with mental fitnes, you will become aware if you are in the ‘Amber Zone’ and have the skills to get back into the healthy ‘Green Zone’ where you are living with passion, vigour and excited.
We all know that regular physical exercise is important so it’s time to put some mental wellbeing too on your agenda so that you are living with wellness and quality. If the foundation blocks to physical health are nutrition, rest, cardio and strength training, you may ask what are the foundation blocks to mental health. I propose they include the following:
· How to communicate and relate to ourselves and others
· How to cope with powerful emotions
· Build resilience to manage stress
· How to accept and nourish our body and our minds
· How to be mindful and stay in the present
The Power of Relationships
Life is about relationships. If you think about what causes you the greatest distress in life generally it’s when relationships with family, friends or work colleagues break down. Equally, the relationship you have with yourself is critical. Do you think you are unlovable, worthless, helpless, scared or flawed?
Mental fitness gives you the tools to challenge your core beliefs and allows you to tackle low self-esteem so you believe you are lovable, fearless, self-reliant, worthwhile and contented. Imagine and practice your inner voice as a coach and not as a critic. What would your encouraging coach say?
How to cope with powerful emotions
We all get powerful emotions but some people struggle when they are negative. Mental wellbeing tools help us understand that every time we have a strong emotion, it is driven by an irrational thought that we can change.
Try this technique the next time you have a strong emotion such as stress, worry or sadness. Ask yourself what am I feeling? What am I thinking?
Stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself ‘is there another way I can think about this? What would I say to a friend who had this thought? Will this really matter in three years time?’ Remember this Covid-19 period will pass.
Bouncing back from adversity
Building resilience is key. The way to build resilience is is to:
· Develop an optimistic view of the world
· Volunteer and give back.
· Connect with something beyond the material world – be it spirituality, faith or prayer
· Find meanings and passions and fill your life with them.
· Learn to laugh at yourself.
Be Your Real Self
Be your real self. Accept who you are. Put your energy into yourself not into a social mask which will only leave you unhappy. In my practice I see too many people who neglect their real self. Believe me you deserve a life of contentment, authenticity and happiness.
Mindfulness a key skill of emotional wellbeing
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present. The skill of meditation is at the heart of mindfulness. This skill can be introduced into the primary school cycle and reinforced in secondary school.Taking this on board would allow for a more relaxed, emotionally intelligent contented child and teenager. If depression is about being stuck in a negative past and stress and anxiety is about being anxious about the future, mindfulness is about now. The present it’s the best gift we can give.
Practical tips to practice mental wellbeing:
1. Power Moments - Make a log of the great emotions in your life. That is those times when you were at your best, at home, at school, with friends, etc
2. Exercise – Take regular exercise, it improves psychological well-being and can reduce depression and anxiety. Joining a local walking or athletics club connects you with new people sharing a common goal.
3. Take up a new hobby – Take up a new hobby every three years. It can bring pleasure and balance in your life.
4. Set personal goals – Make them short and medium term goals e.g. read a book, learn to play bridge, call a friend instead of waiting for the phone to ring. Whatever goal you set, reaching it will build confidence and a sense of satisfaction.
5. Learn to laugh at yourself – Life often gets too serious, so when you hear or see something that makes you smile or, share it with someone you know. A little humour can go a long way to keeping us mentally fit!
6. Volunteer – I have heard Volunteering being called the “win-win” activity because helping others makes us feel good about ourselves.
7. Learn to treat yourself well – See yourself as important and your needs as important. Whatever you choose to do, do it just for you.