MAKING IT BETTER: Invest In Your Mental Health

This is Mental Health Awareness week and is as good a time as any to focus and bring attention to this very important and hugely misunderstood area of our health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as the state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease.

It further goes on to define Mental Health as a state of well being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

One of my favourite expressions is that you don’t have to be MAD to have mental health problems. In other words mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders and disabilities. It is an absolute integral part of our health and you generally cannot have any stable form of health without mental health. This is because mental health impacts both favourably or detrimentally on our physical health. This is ultimately determined by potential socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors.

In my line of work as a Mental Health practitioner and an Ordained Minister, I have had the privilege and pain of observing people experiencing the absolute break down of their mental health and in many cases the reinstating, healing, and repairing of it. I have also observed loved ones battle with the stability of their mental health. On a more personal level I have learnt over the years the triggers that threaten my own mental health and I am fiercely protective at safeguarding those areas.

What I have found out about the power and strength of mental health well being, which is one of the most significant reasons that drives me and keeps me determined to continue in this work; is the impact mental health has on people’s quality of life. Sadly in our part of the world, mental health is still undervalued, overlooked, ignored and worse still attributed to mythical, ‘spiritual or dark forces’ and we do this at our peril. There are a lot of behaviours that can be observed in friends, colleagues, family members, and even ourselves that suggest poor mental health. This may be  as a result of acute stress, depression, neurosis and may manifest in behaviours such as poor sleeping or eating, hyper anxiety, a very short fuse, an inability to be positive about anything and the list is infinite based on any individuals’ circumstances and constitution. On the more extreme of the scale are people who are actually in the throes of undiagnosed serious mental health problems such as clinical depression, psychosis, personality disorders, schizophrenia and others.

It is important to be clear that many people with the more serious conditions can and do function in their daily lives; they can hold down responsible jobs and maintain relationships. It’s a misconception that if you have the more serious conditions, you will be running down the streets naked or there will be some strange signal emanating from your being. Having said this, there is more likelihood for things to get worse and potentially progress to something more debilitating if un treated. The same can be said for the milder forms of mental problems such as depression and chronic stress. If left unmanaged or untreated, they can lead to more serious psychological problems.

Do something different and extra special for yourself this week. Think of and identify the things in your life that bring you the greatest joy, happiness, laughter and write them down. If you have a very long list and some things are not necessarily practical or easily attainable then pick out three to five things that are.  Then think of and write down three to five things that you know immediately impact negatively on your mental health (your triggers). Have these lists within close proximity and make the required preparation to address both lists when needed.

Several months ago during a period while I was convalescing and my mobility was restricted I happened to be going through some old pictures of when my children were babies through to infants and toddlers. I realised in that period, as I gorged on those pictures, that looking at them brought me so much pleasure it was almost unparalled, so I decided to start a scrap book. This entails placing these pictures in a book in a creative way, with ribbons, other artefacts, and writings to tell the story in the book. I realised looking at those pictures triggered memories of a time in my life I was extremely happy.

This is something I would never have thought about in the past, in fact I would ordinarily have ascribed scrap booking to little old ladies who play bingo and drink tea all day long. I was wrong! It also included people like me. I added scrap booking to my list of things that bring me happiness (I have been building my own personal list for some time now). I have found that different things work at different times. I have also found Prayer, meditation and affirmations to be incredibly powerful and soothing. I also recently started writing a journal, something i have tried unsuccessfully to take up several times in the past. There was something about my recent circumstances that created a conducive situation, time seemed right and I have not looked back

Thinking ahead of time on how to look after and protect your mental health is a useful and wise exercise so when you are faced with stressful moments when thinking clearly or objectively does not come easy, you have something already prepared that could be a resource to you.

You would be surprised at the very simple things that can bring you light or even great physical and psychological relief. I love nature so I have a house full of plants and flowers and I like getting my hands dirty with soil, so I am out in the garden planting as often as I can. There is something quite spiritual, communing with nature and being a part of creating life either through natural human birth or birthing other living things such as plants (I accept this is not an activity for everyone).

You will almost always hear music playing in my home. You might also hear my attempts at singing  although I cannot vouch for my having dulcet tones!. The kids tell me they have memories growing up of always hearing laughter in the house, of always coming home to a fragrant house or hearing music (not much has changed!). They still live at home and I have noticed they are replicating the same things in their own lives. They burn fragrant candles and oils in their rooms, I hear the wonderful sounds of their own laughter together. It certainly keeps my mental health at a very good  place.

Your home must be the place where you can return to find succour and solace from the big bad world. It must be the place that envelops you with love, surrounds you with the spirit of peace and joy, where you have established and invested all that is good and healthy so it can work for you when you need it most.

I have left the best mental health tonic for the last and that is about relationships! Building and maintaining healthy relationships is unquantifiable. If you have invested and nurtured healthy relationships with partners, children, friends, colleagues, community, you will know that what you  can potentially reap from these relationships is immeasurable and is literarily life saving. It doesn’t even have to be any earth shattering, major intervention or the provision of an elaborate gesture on their part that does the job. Some of the simplest forms of communication can make a difference. It is the quality rather than quantity of the interaction that matters. A case in point is last night,  I was a little low in mood and starting to engage in a little pity party (feeling sorry for myself ).Then I got a text and it was from my dear friend and sister Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi (editor AW). I smiled as I always do when I see her name pop up on my phone or my in box. It was a short communication between us, but just hearing from her lifted my spirits. It is my hope that I also have this effect on my family, friends and clients. I have other friends that as soon as we get on the phone, even without any actual conversation, we just start laughing; I interpret this to be an involuntary instant recognition and response of the pleasure we derive from each other.

May this week and those that follow severally be filled with all that supports your best mental health! Below are some prayers and thoughts for you, beloved readers.

We hope you continue to read and support your favourite website, Above Whispers.

 

I offer Prayers for those who are wanting,

Those with broken hearts and broken life’s

Bless them with healing. Change their circumstances.                                                                                           

Cause peace and prosperity to come to them in abundance.

I pray for protection for our children from any kind of mental illness.

I pray for protection from serious depression and anxiety.

I pray that your life’s be filled with joy and your minds be healthy

I pray that you are exempt from the burdens of

Stigma, misunderstanding, brokenness and darkness

I pray that only light will guide your path

                                                                                AMEN

Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a holistic counsellor and an ordained Minister

 

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2 Responses to MAKING IT BETTER: Invest In Your Mental Health

  1. John Martin May 21, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks for the great post! It really helped me a lot!

    Reply
  2. maveedah June 7, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Ameeen….oh my oh my ….inspiring article

    Reply

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