Have you ever thought about the flexibility of mental health? It’s almost like an elastic band in the way it sometimes feels like it’s stretched to breaking point but then manages to flex back to its natural settling point.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt overstretched at times during the pandemic. When I reflect on this, I think not being around people is a huge contributary factor. I didn’t realise how much those daily interactions help me process and deal with the ups and downs of life. Without people to share my journey with, life has felt a little flat. I’ve been through some major life events during the pandemic, some traumatic and some joyous and not being able to celebrate and commiserate with people has probably been the hardest part.
It would have been very easy to hide within myself, and at times I did, but I realised this was going to cause me more harm than good so I made a decision to have more authentic conversations where I was honest about what I was going through, not in great detail but enough for people to know that I too was struggling at times.
What blew me away by this approach was that it encouraged others around me to be more open and honest. It seemed to give them the permission they needed to talk about their own mental health, offering the opportunity to get some much-needed support.
Whilst I shouldn’t be surprised by this, after all it’s something we promote all the time, I think I was cautious in sharing my own experience for fear turning the spotlight on myself which isn’t what I’m here to do. But what I noticed was that it gave credibility to my work because I wasn’t just speaking from a place of knowledge but also from a place of experience.
If you’re reading this and it resonates with you, I would encourage you to take some positive action:
Make the decision to have authentic conversations. This doesn’t mean pouring out your whole life story, its about speaking honestly about how you are, be that good or bad, and showing your ‘real’ side
Get help when you need it. There is no shame in reaching out. Whether it’s a chat with a friend or colleague or with a professional, the sooner we speak up the easier it is to deal with those ups and downs
Find time to be around people. Many of us have become comfortable with our own company during the pandemic, making it harder to interact with others so we may need to be a bit more purposeful in meeting up with others
Share the ups and downs. Looking after our mental health isn’t just about talking when we find life difficult, it’s about our whole selves. When life is good, tell people and celebrate that moment!
Helen Tester (She/her)
National Wellbeing Lead
St John Ambulance
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