Today we have a guest post from one of our favourite bloggers, Katie from Scarphelia. If you haven’t already checked out her blog, you need to, honestly you’re just going to have to trust us here! She has written a post on the importance of looking after your mental health.
If you ask most people what they truly want out of life, the responses can usually be whittled down to two main overarching features.
When you ask the older generations what the most important things in life are, the answer is pretty much unanimous.
When all goes well in childbirth, the little one is presented to its adoring parents with two sigh-of-relief-inducing adjectives in particular.
All in all, good health and happiness seem like a pretty good place to start in anything, right?
They are the basis of life itself, yet one of the two seems to be peculiarly and indirectly overlooked.
The problems that arise with this are when people only see these two as mutually exclusive, and not independent areas that compliment one another, and that both require maintenance. They may think the way to happiness is to get in shape, that losing weight will make them like themselves more, or that converting to a strict vegan superfood diet will make them exude positive vibes.
Now, I agree that happiness starts from the inside out, but what so many overlook in their quest for a better life is actually where it all comes from, arguably the most important facet of being a human being altogether – our minds.
I mean it’s all well and good eating healthy and exercising regularly, but what good are those brain-boosting goji berry and blueberry super smoothies going to do when you have a mind fogged with anxiety and negativity?
Mental health continues to remain a predominantly taboo subject, which results in thousands of people suffering in silence for fear of being branded as crazy or dosed up with medication, when perhaps all they really need is someone to talk to.
The rise of blogging has allowed people to come forward and share their stories, shedding some much needed light and honesty on the situation – for example Zoella and Sprinkle of Glitter discussing anxiety and panic attacks in their vlogs – but it’s still pretty sad that in this day and age, as an overall society we choose to politely skirt around the issue as much as we can.
And it’s because we naturally fear the unknown.
Like with physical health, in mental health things go wrong, people get sick, and they suffer. But, unlike physical illnesses, the symptoms of which are often immediately visible or obvious, the symptoms of mental illnesses are almost always invisible, completely unknown to any except the one suffering from it.
I had a little think, and I thought of the perfect analogy to demonstrate this.
A person walking around a shop singing to themselves under their breath is considered completely normal. They’re singing a song, a song which someone wrote, a song which someone sings, a song which has a melody and words and was created and known.
A person walking around a shop talking to themselves under their breath is considered decidedly abnormal, and we are accustomed to assuming that they’re ‘crazy’.
Because no-one knows what they’re going to say, or who they’re talking to, why they are doing it or what they’re even talking about.
It’s the unknown and it scares us, so we shun it, yet the above two examples are almost the exact same thing.
Forgive the pun, but, it’s crazy right?
And so I believe there are two things which need to change to allow us to exist in a society where mental upkeep is just as important and socially accepted as physical upkeep, and remind us that the balance is crucial.
The first is to finally put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, as if struggling with it is something to be ashamed of or embarassed by. And the way we can do this is to accept it as a reality and discuss and deal with it sensitively and tactfully.
I remember when I was 17 years-old, I broke down in tears explaining to my then boyfriend that I’d been diagnosed with depression, to which he stormed out of the room shouting “Thanks a lot, how worthless does that make me seem then?” – So yeah, less of that.
The second negative behaviour which needs to stop is actually born out of a positive move gone awry.
I mentioned earlier how blogs and bloggers have helped raised awareness that mental health problems are increasingly common, but a worrying trait appearing in some sub-cultures of the blogosphere, especially on Tumblr is the glorification of having mental health problems. I can think of one blogger off the top of my head who proudly states ‘Anorexic’ in her Twitter and Instagram bio, and Tumblr is rife with images and gifs promoting self-destructive behaviour, as if having mental health problems makes you more interesting.
There’s even been backlashes from other bloggers against one another accusing them of falsifying stories or only writing about their mental health problems on their blogs for attention and sympathy.
This glamorisation is incredibly dangerous because it takes the notion way past the idea of normality and into the strange ethereal world of celebration… when the fact is, it is a debilitating and often fatal sickness. Imagine if your Tumblr was suddenly full of grainy black and white pictures of girls with chickenpox or artsy polaroids of boys with glandular fever, or people on instagram with usernames like Infectious_Measles_Girl.
When mental health takes a turn for the poorer, we should treat it with the respect and understanding we would if our physical health took a blow. Not turn it into a tourist attraction of our personalities.
But overall I think prevention is the best cure, and the best way to prevent ourselves from succumbing to mental health issues, is to focus on the maintenance of our mental health just as much as our physical health, as they are each as important as each other.
Ways to keep mentally healthy:
– Read often – Reality can sometimes super suck, and sometimes the best way to deal with it is to escape it entirely. For me, I find the best kind of escapism is reading.
– Do things alone – Go out to dinner alone, go to the cinema alone, go on holiday alone – once you actively chose to do the things you love with just yourself, you soon learn to love yourself too.
– Explore the world outside the screen – I find over-immersion in social media can be one of the most destructive things – getting way too caught up in insta-envy or who’s chatting to who can totally mess with your head. A strong real life-cyber life balance is just as important as a mental health-physical health balance.
–Surround yourself with positive people – And don’t be afraid to distance yourself from people that only ever seem to bring you down, even if they are your friends or family. Being around the wrong people is often far lonelier than being by yourself.
–Keep a journal – This is especially helpful if you find yourself getting down or inevitably slipping into a negative mindset. I always find writing to be the most therapeutic thing in the world because it is the only place you can truly express yourself honestly and wholeheartedly without fear of judgment or upsetting anyone. Plus it’s always quite nice to look back at a later date, when you have a much firmer perspective on things and you realise that thing which was bothering you so much, totally worked itself out anyway.
And by reminding ourselves to actively take time to ourselves and focus on maintaining high levels of mental health and well-being, we truly can live happy, healthy lives and become the best versions of ourselves we can be.