I’ve written blogs recently about how organisations can improve the well-being and mental health of their employees, and as someone who suffers from depression, it struck me that, actually I need to go deeper and address the issue at a personal level.
I don’t want this blog to sound in any way patronizing or come across as trite self-help, box-ticking exercise and job done, you’re healed. But rather, coming from a place of compassion, empathy and being a touchpoint, that others can refer to, to gain comfort and strength, if at all, possible.
I hasten to add that I am not a qualified professional, but someone who lives with mental health issues daily. Whilst navigating, the pandemic, homeschooling, running my own business, dealing with a life-changing, life-long illness, I have developed coping mechanisms and things that work for me, that I wanted to share with you, as it has helped in my continuing journey and maybe it can help in yours too?
1. My first step was to seek professional help from a therapist.
Someone who is caring, compassionate, unbiased and can help you to navigate and express your thoughts and help put how you are feeling into a context that makes sense, and most importantly of all, someone who has got your back. It is really important for you to have a safe place, a safe space where you can express yourself without judgement and can be heard, understood and seen.
2. Forgive yourself and learn to love yourself again:
This has perhaps been the hardest thing for me to do, to accept myself as I am, with all of my flaws and failings. When you are at your lowest ebb, you don’t feel worthy, you don’t feel that you have anything of any value to offer anybody. It feels sometimes, like you are standing on the side-line and numbly watching your life play out in front of you, not in control and not present either.
With the help of my therapist, I can rationalise how I am feeling and have coping mechanisms in place to deal with dark moments and moments of despair, and I have come to realise that I am a survivor and an incredibly strong and compassionate individual. And the fact that I am still standing and still turning up each day to be the best me I can makes me very proud of what I have achieved and the work I have done so far and crucially, makes me very excited about the future, as I know I can achieve anything.
3. Surround yourself with cheerleaders:
I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. Always migrate to positive energy, to people, situations that are going to fill your cup up. Be aware of the leaky bucket and mindful of those situations, people, conversations that put a hole in your bucket and drain the water from it. Just like they are draining the energy and life from you. I have no bandwidth for constant negativity or people or conversations who try to (knowingly or not) dismantle my dreams, purpose or mental wellbeing. I am not saying that I cannot have healthy debates and disagree with people, or they disagree with me, but those who are just pessimistic because… see ya later.
This quote I found on Instagram by tinybuddhaofficial sums it up perfectly: “You can’t keep getting mad at people for sucking the life out of you if you keep giving them the straw”
4. Keep a diary:
I have never done this before and after recommendations from a close friend, I started to keep a diary from January of this year. What I love about this is that if I am feeling anxious in the morning when I wake up, maybe I have got a big day ahead and am lacking confidence or that I am not good enough, I can write in my diary about my feelings, thoughts and at the end of the day, when I go to bed, I revisit my earlier entry and give almost like an update on how I did, versus what I thought I could do and most of the time I smash it. If I don’t there is no criticism or judgement but self-love, compassion, learning and healing. This has been a real game-changer for me.
I know, I’m sorry, I said the E word! I know not everyone has access to or can afford to go to a gym, but there are a lot of online Yoga/Exercise classes you can do which are completely free of charge.
(I used to go to the Gym, (occasionally) before I became ill with a rare form of arthritis that affects my spine and hips and effectively meant that for 6 months, I couldn’t walk up the stairs, bathe or do anything physically that previously I had taken for granted. My wonderful husband became my full-time carer during the lockdown. Over a year, we finally got a medication pathway that worked for me and allowed me to move again without excruciating pain. The downside is that my medication completely suppresses my immune system, so I don’t go to gyms anymore as the risk of infection whilst Covid is still lurking around is far too high for me. Instead, you will find me jumping up and down in the sitting room with Joe Wicks or doing a cheeky bit of Yoga).
I exercise every day, not to run marathons, but to improve my mobility and most importantly my mental health. This has been another game-changer for me. Moving your body every day to music and feeling the joy at that moment is incredible. Try it!
There is no silver bullet and everyone has their own personal journeys and daily challenges to overcome. Just know that you are not alone and that your best today, even if it is different from yesterday or the day before is good enough and that you are good enough too. Try and stand in your power if you can and if that feels like too much right now just accept you, right here, right now and be kind to yourself and know that you are valued and loved with all of your imperfections.
Cressida Stephenson is the Founder and Director of EdenChase Associates, a D&I Search Specialist.