8 Thoughts About Mental Health
Tuesday October 10th 2017 is International Mental Health Day. To mark the occasion we asked a Maynooth student to share their experience in relation to Mental health. Here, Emily Murtagh relates her processes for keeping her mind in check.
I have a theory that humans have a malfunction within them that leads them to forget way too quickly the things that make them happy and slip back into patterns that do the opposite. This list is a little collection of thoughts and processes that I have found helpful in [attempting to] keep my mental health on point. One’s inner life is the most unique and special thing that any person has, so what’s helpful for one person may not be for another, but hopefully it might spark you to make a list of your own, or open up a new conversation where you can exchange ideas with people around you.
Make a Self Care List:
Make a conscious list of things you love the most, the times where you felt most energised, and then start to adapt more and more of these into your life.
Make thankfulness part of your conscious routine:
One of my friends and I text each other a couple of times a week with three things we are thankful for. This doubles as a way of keeping in touch with what is going on in each other’s lives. Whenever that message comes through, I know I have to shift my thinking away from what I might be worrying about, towards the good things that have gone on that day. This ranges from the profound to the most everyday things.
Situate what you’re feeling within a wider context:
As someone who experiences emotions on quite an intense level (don’t we all), sometimes it an emotion is so overwhelming it can feel like it is the entirety of our being. I have found adopting some form of little saying to say in those moments to be useful in understanding what is going on. One I read recently that has stuck with me is the “storm and the sky”. If during those moments of an overwhelming emotion we can visualise it as a storm, and situate it within the sky of our being, which is so much larger, that we and our world are greater than this emotion or feeling that we are experiencing. That perspective can help to move beyond what we are feeling and not let it negatively affect other aspects of our lives.
“If you’re happiest running around a field – run around a field”:
This one is a bit of maternal wisdom. It is her way of saying that our health is the most important thing that we have, and thus it shouldn’t be sacrificed for anything else. If a part time job, or an aspect of your course is really chipping away at you, take action. Can you do a different module next semester, can you invest time in finding a job that suits you better? My cousin and I have a mantra in relation to this - “Hope begins at the moment you decide it doesn’t have to be this way anymore”, which is kind of powerful. There are plenty of things in life that are outside of our control, acknowledging that and then taking meaningful action on some of things that you can control, can be very fulfilling.
See yourself through someone else’s eyes:
I think often we invest so much time in trying presenting ourselves as the perfect-selfie-unreal lighting-fresh-make-up version of themselves, while secretly viewing ourselves as being the equivalent of I-just-accidentally-turned-on-the-front-facing-camera version. Situating your true self as somewhere between the two can be really helpful. In this regard, taking one minute to see yourself through the eyes of someone who both fully knows you and fully loves you; maybe it’s your partner, your best friend, a niece or a little brother who thinks you’re absolutely class. They know you are far from perfect and still love you and maybe you can begin to see yourself a little bit like that too.
Get out of your own head:
It’s a really natural thing to crave moments of escaping, moments of self-forgetfulness. While we can sometimes be drawn to things like alcohol or just mindless online scrolling for these kind of experiences, there is other ways that this can be done which may be more productive and effective in the long term. Get involved with something that means for at least a few hours a week you are completely distracted from yourself, and totally engrossed in something or someone else that deserves your full attention. This could be helping at a homework club or washing dishes for hours at a service for homeless people. You will leave feeling a lot more refreshed than a day off spent scrolling.
Recognise the early warning signs that things are out of balance – for different people it’s different things. For me I know if I’m not sleeping things are gone haywire. Try and identify what the core belief might be behind destructive or unhelpful behaviours. “I’m eating more, because I’ve gone so far from my diet plan that it doesn’t even matter anymore”, “I’m not sleeping because there’s too much to be done, and my achievements are what makes my life meaningful”, “I am reading old messages, because I am holding a false optimism about the past and giving it priority over the present”, from there you can begin to work on replacing these false beliefs with something more truthful and work on changing the behaviour from there.
Chat with a doctor or other mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed:
A doctor’s role in your mental health goes far beyond just doling out a prescription and if any time the phrase “seen and heard it all before” rings true it’s in relation to GPs. There is something very comforting in how unfazed they are. College years are the time for taking full responsibility for every aspect of our health and having someone listen and respond compassionately and pragmatically can be very empowering. On a personal level, surround yourself with people widen your imagination, have had very different life experiences who encourage you, and who you trust. A lot of overwhelming feelings lose some of their power when they are given a voice, so be brave. Your person, your experience is incredible; loved, lovely, and loveable, and your mental health so worth protecting.
Emily Murtagh is a currently studying for her masters in community and youth work at Maynooth, alongside working as a youth worker in Kilkenny.
More about Mental Health: http://msu.ie/welfare/mental-health.html