Why we should normalise not being okay all the time
Do we become vulnerable when we spell out what we cannot endure?
It has always been a given — if you are successful, surely you’d be in the best of health physically and mentally. Through the years, we have watched numerous competitive sports and have cheered on our favourite athletes. When they win, we call them ‘gifted’, ‘mentally tough’, a ‘true sportsperson’ and we applaud them. But should they slip or fail to deliver an expected performance, we assume that they have choked, and we expect them to toughen up, getting back to the game, winning and dominating.
How easy is it to forget that these athletes may be high-level performers but they too can crumble under external pressure of the game or even other demands like media, sponsors and public appearances. And it is not just the athletes, several people across the world have faced deteriorating mental health recently. The past 15-18 months have been anything but normal. The stress, anxiety, fear, and loss brought about by the pandemic has had its impact on most of us. And forecasts show that many of us will still be struggling in the months to come. It has become more crucial, especially in these times, to prioritise self-care and normalise mental health issues.
Loss of mental and emotional well-being shows up in the body, and it can weaken the immune system, making us easily susceptible to colds and other infections, especially during emotionally difficult times. Also, when we are stressed, anxious or upset, we are less likely to care for our health. It gets easier to skip that workout, emotionally binge on processed sugary foods, have emotional outbursts at work or home, strain a loving relationship, make hasty decisions and develop other unfavourable habits. That rapidly sends us spirally downwards, making it harder to rise up again.
Our body is intelligent. If we listen closely, we can pick up signs of poor mental health in good time and seek a helping hand. Some of these signs include: back pain, headaches, high blood pressure, general aches and pains, weight loss or gain, chest pain, insomnia, listlessness, loss of focus/interest, etc.
Mental healthcare has been one of the biggest unmet needs of our time. It is high time we normalise mental illness and seek assistance.
Here are some things we can do to look after our own mental health and help others who may need support:
Realign your routine: If your pre-pandemic routine no longer works, create a new one that aligns with your life.
Watch what you consume: This includes what you eat and also the conversation you have, the thoughts you entertain, the media you read/watch. Try to minimise those things that drain your energy and limit your intake of disturbing news.
Maintain social contact: It is so beautiful to connect with the energy of those you love. Keep in regular contact with family and friends, it helps to keep your vibration high.
Exercise regularly: Allocate a few times a week to doing something physical, whether it is an at-home workout or getting outside for a walk.
Me time: Make some time for yourself, be it in meditation or doing something you enjoy and take your time with it.
Sleep: Only you can decide how much sleep is enough for you. Make sure you get good quality sleep.
Here are some simple ways to start a conversation and help end the stigma around mental health:
Educate yourself: Researching the facts and myths about mental illness will help you better understand it and feel equipped to talk about it.
Use your words wisely: Don’t be so quick to judge someone with negative stereotypes like “lazy”, “crazy” or “loopy”. By being mindful of your language, you can help improve the dialogue around mental health.
Be kind: Simple acts of kindness — a smile, greeting or inviting someone for a chat — can help open up the conversation. Drop judgement and any preconceived ideas that you may have.
Unconditional support: Sometimes simply being there for people you care about can be the first step to recovery. Be vulnerable to them and let them share what they feel so you can find a way forward.
Talk about it: Two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. Be open to having an honest chat with someone who is suffering mental health issues.