By Lin Griffiths, Relate Information and Digital Services Manager
It's interesting that so many of us work hard at keeping ourselves healthy and physically fit, but few of us, actually pay attention to our mental health and mental ability.
We sometimes notice when someone is depressed, and we certainly notice when someone behaves in unusual and unexplainable ways. However, it's difficult to work out where the line is drawn between a diagnosed mental condition (illness) and a lapse in mental ability to manage or perform in a reasonable way.
Most adults will experience some kind of mental health struggle in their lives. The support and understanding they receive from people close to them is vitally important to the short, medium and long term management and recovery from these struggles.
But how do we manage and take care of our own mental health?
Being present: Walking into a room and forgetting what you had come in for; attempting to put the milk in the bin instead of the fridge; driving without knowing what roads you have passed – these are just a few things that most of us have encountered. We smile, shake our head and “pull ourselves together”.
However, it is the brain - our mental agility - giving a message to us, to become “present”. In other words our mind is over active and elsewhere. By being “present” we stabilise the moment, check our behaviour and carry on, ideally by pacing ourselves a little better.
Mind and body activity: Keeping our minds agile requires regular exercise. Stretching yourself mentally is very beneficial. It is worth considering things like crosswords, scrabble, bridge, yoga, dancing, singing, etc.
Communication: Talking to others helps to connect you to the world you live in. Laughing and being social in general, as well as engaging with others in lively community activities, builds relationships. It can help to find inspirational messages that you can relate to and collecting some that have meaning for you e.g. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” (Einstein).
How do we manage our close relationships when there are mental health struggles for those we love?
Being “present” when things are tough: This helps you to focus and makes it more possible to support and notice the needs of the other person.
Information: The correct information is crucial to understanding and getting the help and support you need. A few links at the end of this article might be a good start to seeing what information is available.
Counselling: Relate, for example, can provide counselling for individuals and couples where there are mental health problems. Some counsellors have undergone specialist training for some conditions e.g. Asperger syndrome, and can help couples to understand and manage the impact of this on their relationship.
Enjoyment: It might sound obvious, but often by working out what you and the person close to you actually enjoy, and then doing more of it, you can transform your situation.
Mental health issues that are now more familiar include
Personality disorders, depression (including post natal), autism, phobias, mental breakdowns, psychosis, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, OCD, stress (including post traumatic stress), schizophrenia and there are of course, many more.
Tel: 0300 003 0396 to book a telephone counselling appointment
Relate offers counselling services for every type of relationship. Their counsellors provide a caring, supportive environment to help you work through any issues.
NHS - Live Well
Live Well provides advice, tips and tools to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393
Mind can provide confidential information on a range of topics including types of mental distress, where to get help, drug and alternative treatments and advocacy. With information for local areas as well. Their phone line is open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
Helpline: 0808 802 5544
Young Minds provides resources and information on emotional wellbeing and mental health issues affecting young people. It also has a helpline for parents open 9:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday.