What mental health means to me

Posted on: 22 May 2020

Normally at this time of year, I’m called in to write something about mental health. For the last six years I covered everything from eating disorders and  depression to creating a psychological tool-box and seasonal depressive disorders. However, this year is a little different. For the first time in my life-time at least, almost seven million people are being forced to adapt to a situation; most of our mental health is compromised in some way or another.

Whether it be the lack of human touch and company, the comfort of sitting in our favourite local coffee shop to do our morning work or the loss of a loved one, the current state of our world continues to be one where we are at loss with our time, our relationships with friends and family and most importantly our relationships with ourselves.

I’ve always been one to emphasise that mental health is a spectrum. It’s much easier to make it binary: we have a mental health disorder or we are perfectly happy but the matter of fact is that bad and good is not human. Humans are messy. Humans wake up happy one day and wake up the next feeling like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Humans start and end relationships, they overeat and undereat and sometimes they get hit with an unexplainable fear about the past, the future and the present that they can’t explain. During Quarantine and as the days blur together, the mental health spectrum becomes even more blurred with them. I cannot tell you how many days I’ve woken but feeling lost but equally the number of days, I’ve found joy in the smallest things. I think the point I’m trying to get at here is that we can’t allow pride or expectation to foster blame for the way we feel. Humans are meant to feel and that’s okay.

My goal was to come up with a tangible list of things you can do in quarantine to maintain self love but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that what I do to find solace and joy is probably not the same as yours and yours is not the same as the other person reading this. Whether it’s cooking, watching youtube, going for a run or just lying in bed with your dog- everything you’re doing right now is right. 

What I can say is that the challenges and the pain we inflict on ourselves often arise from the expectation we put on ourselves. Did I think I could wake up at seven am every morning and head out for my usual long run? Of course. Did I do it? Most certainly not.

But I still ran later in the day and got a little more sleep. 

Trying to re-frame failed expectations or even losing the expectations we have of ourselves during this time has helped me significantly. Of course there are standards we should hold ourselves accountable to- being compassionate with ourselves and others for one.

So for this mental health week we don’t have any advice or any science for you. We just ask you to lose expectations and remember to hold onto self love, even though it may be a little harder than you thought.

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