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Mental Health Awareness Month - May

The month of May welcomes Mental Health Awareness month. This is a time to focus more than ever on our own mental health and that of our loved ones, family, friends and colleagues.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, it's important to speak out, seek help, and navigate the road to recovery.

Small steps lead to big changes. Working as a private practice therapist, those who contact me have often tried a wide range of therapeutic or counselling support options. They can be (and often are) at crisis point. Some are aware they are slipping down the mental health wellbeing continuum and recognise the need to seek help.

There are lots of avenues to explore to get the right help, so it's important to remember you aren't on your own.

In order to reach our goals in life, e.g. gaining happiness, enjoying our free time, getting along with others, having a good job with good pay etc., we owe it to ourselves to be emotionally healthy human beings. This often means we need to develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unfortunate and unpleasant.

Life doesn't always work out the way we'd like it to and when we learn to accept this reality and change our beliefs of how people or life should be, then we can better reach/achieve our goals.

Working with my clients, I focus on psychoeducation and resourcing (coping strategies) before exploring the trauma or difficulty. This allows for a safer approach - it also strengthens the therapeutic relationship as the client learns new life techniques.

How can mindfulness be of help?

It really helps to accept the things we can't change. The alternative could lead to stress, anxiety and at best to procrastination and rumination. Learning to accept what we can't change will help calm and regulate your body and mind.

This in turn will support our ability of reaching our goals in life.

How can we reach our goals in life?

I often start therapy sessions with this "check-in" exercise, especially when a client is visually distressed. I also practice what I preach and use this often to ensure I am feeling emotionally and physically healthy too.

When we discover negative feelings, it's important to sit with them and establish why we feel this way. Going for a walk will help due to the therapeutic benefits of bilateral stimulation.

What is Bilateral Stimulation?

Bilateral stimulation is a stimulus that occurs in a rhythmic left-right pattern. Bilateral stimulation, including tapping, has a relaxation effect which includes a decrease in physiological arousal. It also provided an increase in attention flexibility, i.e. your thoughts become less stuck around what is bothering/upsetting you. Walking can help to distance yourself from the problem - it seems smaller and has less effect. Most importantly, bilateral stimulation decreases worry, stress, anxiety and panic symptoms.

What mindful focus strategies work?

As well as bilateral stimulation, the pomodoro technique is a great strategy for enabling greater focus and concentration - particularly on those jobs we love to hate.

My nemesis is diary management, which I need to do every week. I used to dread it and it seemed to take forever, but now embrace it using this technique. I feel on top of the world when my diary is organised at the end of each week.

Releasing the pressure means I can focus on the accuracy of it and then go off and enjoy the weekend.

How do I create calm space?

I remember when I started work as a civil servant some 30 years ago and my trainer would chain smoke (overflowing ashtray) and have countless cups of tea with tea stains all over their desk, plants, pictures and so much paper and files strewn all over the place.

It's probably a far cry from our more paperless society of today, but at the time I never thought about it, or dare to question it. I remember setting up my own workstation that way - minus the cigarettes and ashtrays and tea stains. It wasn't until many years later in my career when I realised how chaotic an untidy desk was and made the liberating decision to tidy up and minimise clutter. Even now when I feel myself becoming a little chaotic, I spend a bit of time decluttering and it brings an internal sense of calm.

The real message of Mental Health Awareness is about being mindful of the importance of self-care, self-kindness and self-compassion.

How will you achieve mental health (a state of mental wellbeing)?

Self-awareness is achieved when we have a positive attitude towards ourself. Personal growth is achieved when we develop a feeling of continued development and realise our potential. Having a purpose in life is key, i.e. having life goals, aims and objectives. Developing/maintaining strong relationships, i.e. having warm and satisfying connections, being able to show empathy, affection and intimacy.

All of this take determination, the ability to think for yourself and possibly some professional intervention. You've got this! Let the month of May, with Mental Health Awareness, be the month you change to a more positive philosophy of living. Good luck, Sandra, SCT Therapy xxx.

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