Life Coach Janice
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Mental Health - practicing what I preach

In February I became a Mental Health First Aider after attending the 2-day adult course run by Mental Health First Aid England – MHFA. I loved it, and learnt more about how to assist someone who is developing a mental health issue, or who is already in a mental health crisis. As a coach, I knew this course would be useful and provide further learning on such a crucial topic. As a human being, I quickly realised this information was not only critical to me, but also to those closest to me as well.

In any one year, approximately one in four people experience at least one diagnosable mental health issue, and the World Health Organisation forecasts that by 2030 depression will be the single leading cause of the global burden of disease. I found this statistic shocking, as did the other delegates on the course with me.

On the first day we did an exercise called the stress container. We were asked to empty everything in our heads concerning work, study and home life into a triangle shape (on paper) with a tap on one side. I filled mine up to about two thirds full, and felt happy that this meant I had plenty of space left for feeling resilient and had capacity to control my stress. But, on the train home that evening as I looked at my stress container again, I realised I didn’t feel very resilient at all, and I wasn’t using the tap efficiently to release my stress.

2018 had its challenges for me, and it dawned on me that I was feeling absolutely exhausted, with little or no energy in reserve. I wasn’t practicing what I preached to my clients – take time for yourself, relax, meditate, do one thing for you each day, take regular holidays, get plenty of good quality sleep, be realistic with your time and what can be achieved in it and most of all laugh more!

Soon after completing the course I had a weeks holiday, and I took a long hard look at how I was really feeling, both mentally and physically. I was doing too much, and at the same time, expecting too much from myself, and in turn, those around me. I listened to the warning signs, and took action. It was time to do more ‘being’ and less ‘doing’.

I took long woodland walks, I practiced yoga and meditation daily, I cut down on sugar (dark chocolate stayed!) and alcohol, put myself to bed earlier and added in a multi vitamin specifically aimed at menopausal symptoms. Within a week, I started to feel a bit more human again, and after 2 weeks I had more energy, and ran a laughter yoga session and floated home feeling like me again. A timely and precious reminder of the huge health benefits of group laughter. I could literally feel the endorphins rushing through my body squashing the unwanted cortisol. A couple of friends commented that I looked brighter and seemed happier – I vowed to keep up my increased efforts of self-care.

Focusing on doing more of what I love, and less of what I don’t, has really changed my perspective on my own mental health. I am grateful for the MHFA England course that raised a red flag that I luckily saw in time, before I burnt out completely.

These simple steps which social media constantly remind us of are easily missed or dismissed with excuses like ‘I don’t have the time’, ‘I can’t afford it’ or ‘I’m already doing that’. Actually, we cannot afford not to look after ourselves, and it is our responsibility to do just that.

I am very grateful to have another resource in my tool kit providing me with further practical knowledge and understanding of first aid for mental health.

What will you do this week to support your mental health? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

Janice Leahy