Today is World Mental Health Day. I have long felt that quality of life is as important, or more so, than length of life. As such, I feel mental health is as important as physical well-being.
I cannot imagine that there is anyone who does not, or has not, at some point suffered from some form of mental illness. I do not know why there has ever been stygma associated with mental illness or why our society has such a problem understanding the need for mental health care.
My biggest struggle with mental well being has always been anxiety issues. I realize my issues are not as traumatic as many others, such as schizophrenia or anorexia or any number of serious conditions that others deal with on a daily basis. The problem is, to compare it to physical conditions, a broken toe may not be close to battling cancer, but it is still a problem. When you suffer from an anxiety attack when you are driving to work, it is a big problem. When you have to deal with anxiety, regardless of what routine or extraordinary task you are doing, it is a real problem – it makes everything so much harder than it should be.
Over the years I have tackled my anxiety issues in a number of ways and I have come a long way. I know everyone is different and what works for one does not necessarily help another, but here are some things that have worked for me:
1) Seeing a professional counselor. I have seen three different counselors during three different life crises. The first one was a great help. One trick he taught me was to focus on something mentally challenging when my stress level was out of control. That helped a lot. The other two counselors were worth the time to see but mostly because they gave me a safe place to talk through stuff I was going through.
3) Writing daily positive affirmations. The written word is so powerful for me. I pick new affirmations to start every new year but I always include my favourite by Louise Haye. “I am at peace with my own feelings. I am safe where I am. I create my own security. I love and approve of myself. “
2) Self help books. I generally find there is some helpful bit in every self help book but my favourites have been – every book be Wayne Dyer, every book by Louise Haye, Alter Ego by Todd Herman (specifically for vanishing my inner demons – great chapter) and From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett (this one helped me get over my anxiety attacks behind the wheel – huge help)
4) Positive pillow talk. When I struggle, I give myself pep talks as I am falling asleep. I quit smoking years ago, using this method. I also find it helps me get to sleep quickly, so that helps me feel better in the morning.
5) Confronting my fears. My first memory has always been one of absolute terror. As a small tot, my Mother would take my sister and I for a walk which included crossing a swinging bridge that terrified me. That my older sister loved to jump and run on it to make it swing harder did not help. A couple of years ago, my husband took me ‘home’ to cross my bridge from hell. Fortunately, the bridge had been rebuilt and was much more solid than it had been and my sister was hundreds of miles away. I crossed the bridge a couple of times – absolutely fearless! I still have the memory, and the sister, but that day did wonders for my confidence going forward😉
If you or any of your loved ones struggle with mental health issues, keep working on it, keep helping others who struggle. You will never do anything more important in your life.
Happy World Mental Health Day.