Mental Health Awareness Week: Surviving or Thriving?

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s focus is on why so few of us feel we are thriving, rather than simply surviving.

All too often life can feel like a competition to see who is the busiest. Our lives are filled with rushing, stress, anxiety and exhaustion. It’s all about just getting through each day, ignoring tiredness and powering through. We’re less in tune with our bodies and minds and there’s little time left over to simply ‘be’.

It’s no wonder many people feel they are simply surviving day-to-day. When you feel like this it can leave you feeling tired, overwhelmed, anxious, irritable or low. It can also affect your sleep, work and relationships.

If we want to change this, I believe we need a pro-active approach to looking after our mental health, just like we do our physical health. Most of us don’t think twice about looking after our bodies on day-today basis. We do the small stuff on autopilot, like brushing our teeth, putting on moisturiser or cutting our nails. We book in for haircuts, see the doctor if we feel ill, go for regular sight tests and visit the dentist. Many of us go to the gym and take regular exercise to keep fit. We also talk about physical health with our friends and acquaintances, giving details about our illnesses and injuries. Overall, we know how to look after our physical health and have a good understanding of potential problems to look out for (even if we don’t manage it all of the time…).

Yet when it comes to mental health it’s often a completely different story.

It’s my firm belief that psychology is for everyone, not just those experiencing mental illness. My focus is on making psychology more accessible, explaining what we can do to look after our mental health on a day-to-day basis – just as we do with our bodies. Exercise is beneficial for everyone, not just those with physical infirmities, just as eating well benefits everyones, not just those trying to to lose weight. Mental health is exactly the same.

I aim to teach people to recognise the signs and symptoms to look out for, know how to tackle things like anxiety, low mood and sleeplessness and feel confident to talk to friends, family or employers.

It’s not realistic to expect to always be thriving. Life can be messy and we all go through difficult periods. Rather than on a linear scale, more recent thinking suggests that how we feel is circular, we move backwards and forwards, depending on how we’re feeling and research shows that negative emotions can help to build our resilience. When approached in the right way we can learn and grow from these experiences so that we move forward stronger.

There are really simple things you can do to look after yourself and stay feeling your best more of the time. As well as get over difficult periods in a more positive way. It’s this we need to be talking about too, so people really feel they are doing more thriving, and less surviving.

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