The only certainty in life is uncertainty! Strong mental health requires a variety of healthy coping skills for whatever adversity life throws your way. It is impossible to prepare yourself for every experience in life, but you can develop a strong skill set to help you when the unexpected happens. One way to increase coping skills is to reach out to others. Social support can benefit mental health and can teach different ways to cope with life’s challenges. Our experiences make us unique, our emotions make us human. Your life experiences will be unique compared to those around you, but your emotional experiences are not that different from those same people. The same emotions are observed across a variety of cultures, amongst both men and women. However, despite our shared emotions, it is common to feel alone.
I have often felt that no one understands me because they have not had my life experiences. In a sense this is true, no one has experienced the same things as me. However, the empathy I have given, and received, has taught me that the belief of being alone is both false and unhealthy. With that in mind, technology provides people an opportunity to connect with others from all over the world who face similar emotional challenges. Online support groups, message boards, and virtual meetings allow individuals to come together, learn from each other, and take comfort in the sense of community. Regardless of how alone or hopeless you may feel, countless others are ready and willing to support and help you through your struggle
In light of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we decided to ask several individuals to submit their own thoughts regarding mental health.
Mental health is something that I believe many people overlook. It's become something that we can or need to throw aside in order to succeed, move forward, and seem stronger. I have seen many kinds of people in my life, many of them scoff at the idea of bettering their mental health. Even I myself at one point thought it was fine to just let it go, ignore the anxiety and depression that fought with me day and night.
Your body knows when your brain is not at its best. It is not considered a weakness to take care of yourself, to take time off and figure out what you need. I follow something called the spoon theory. Basically, it's the idea that you start every day with a certain amount of spoons. Some people don't know how many they have, some start with different amounts each day. Everything we do costs a spoon. Washing the dishes, going shopping, talking with others, working, going to the gym, or going to the movies. Do you notice yourself feeling drained from certain activities or interactions? These are things that cost more spoons or took up the last of them. When you run of spoons, you've run yourself down. You feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Being around people can make you feel annoyed like one stupid comment will make you want to scream. You feel like you just need to eat a good meal and sleep. Sometimes even eating sounds like too much. Another way that I explain this, especially to moms, is if you have a glass and pouring from that glass is how you take care of others and your responsibilities, what do you do when it's empty? You can't physically give any more to anything or anyone. What does that mean for those that need you? It doesn't mean that you give less or stop when you run out. It means that you work on finding ways to keep your glass full.
Of course you can always gain back these spoons by taking care of yourself or doing something that grounds you. Some turn to food, others meditate. I know someone who works out or goes for a run. (This particular person actually has a treadmill in their office and jog after a bad interaction with a client or coworker.) Think of activities that make you feel good and refreshed. Things that aren't stressful and help you get out your frustration, sadness, anger, whatever it is that is making you feel bogged down. People watch, have lunch by yourself, doodle, take up kickboxing, what works for you may be something that no one else would think of. The important thing is that what you choose is a healthy option. Don't turn relying on substances or taking it out on others. What makes you feel better shouldn't be harmful to you or anyone else.
Those of you who suffer from some type of mental health issue, whatever it may be taking care also means getting help. This is something that is very difficult to do. For the longest time I was afraid of going to therapy. It was because I was afraid of being seen and crazy or weak. But because I was afraid of what they would see in me. I knew I was overly anxious and had major symptoms of depression but I was afraid of what it would mean if my mom found out or if something worse was wrong with me. I was so afraid of being broken. There were things I didn't want to talk about that I actively blocked them from my memory and feared that they would be forced to the forefront of my mind.
I later realized that that's not how therapy is supposed to go. You can set the pace and you can find a different Therapist if you don't feel comfortable with the one that you have. It's important for you to feel comfortable and safe to divulge what you've been through. Needing therapy doesn't mean that you are broken, weak, or crazy. It takes strength to go through your trauma and burdens and to get yourself to a better place. You are human, it's ok to need help. It's ok to admit that you can't do it by yourself. The amazing thing is that you are doing the work by yourself. You are the one that's pulling yourself out of whatever it is that you are stuck in. The therapist is just your guide to help you realize what you need to do.
It's important to take the time for yourself. Therapy is for everyone. Whatever it is you are going through, or if you just need someone to talk to that you can't go to friends or family for, therapy works for that. Work on keeping yourself strong in whatever way you are capable of. Keep track of your spoons and don't feel bad about having less than someone else. Work with what you have and be proud of what you can accomplish no matter how small it may seem.
~ Amber Escobar, M.A.