Today is Mental Health Awareness Day, something I’ve been reminded about a number of times by Facebook posts and Instagram images - how ironic that I should be reminded by those methods when research shows that social media is very damaging to our mental health, something that my lot of Gen Xers I’m sure shudder to think of in our own teenage years. But as parents some of whom work, some give time, some have 3 or more children, some have kids with developmental issues or illnesses and so on, are we really protecting and looking after ourselves in order to have enough in our own bucket to give to all those that depend on us?
As a Mum to 2 young kids I know how hard it can be to step back and think of yourself, and harder still when your kids are acting out, pushing your buttons or sleeping badly, however one thing I’ve really learnt with the benefit of hindsight is that my daughter (eldest) is a wonderful (and terrifying) reflection of myself and my needs. When we had massive issues with her around the time our son was born and for a year or so after, the advice we received was to bring her in, get closer, love more fiercely and do whatever she wanted for as long as we were able - it’s called Love Bombing and to be honest it was harder than I thought it would be to just let go and live how she wanted us to. When Big La La needed to be closer and delved into more deeply, I realise now that that’s actually what I needed too - she was telling me through her own childhood intuitive sense that I wasn’t looking after myself and needed to. I was at a point in my parenting “journey” that meant I was beyond the end of my tether - that tether was so far gone I’d forgotten there even was one: I somehow expected perfection from myself and my body and I found myself lacking, I somehow expected it all to be OK and of course it just wasn’t. What I needed was some time out, a sit down and either to cry a bucket of tears, to have a massive hug from someone that wasn’t trying to solve my problems in one go, or to give myself some consistent loving time to restore every day. I needed to “Love Bomb” myself!
As today’s national day reminds us, we can all be affected by mental health issues, whether it’s as simple as the expression: “I’m struggling” or “I can’t cope”, or whether it’s an issue that creates more distress - a breakdown, unexplained physical issues or recurrent illness. Although quite often it’s not as clear as that, there are no physical or outward signs and you can’t put into words that you’re not coping well. We can all take some steps to support others by checking in, take time to listen when a friend says “urghh I’m tired”, or “I don’t know what to do” or something that gives you a sign they’re not quite OK, and also we can take time to ourselves to give us time to feel what we’re feeling without pushing it away, to love ourselves unconditionally and give time to ourselves for restoration and nourishment, to not allow being “terribly busy” to become an addictive habit, and to put down those phones and tablets to reduce the anxiety they cause. In the picture here are 50 ideas for spending time giving yourself some care - it might not cure the onset of a breakdown but it will give you some space and time to realise there might be an issue and get some objectivity on it.
You know yourself better than anyone, if you don’t feel right, say something, to anyone at any time, people want to support you. For me it took me totally blowing up and deciding I needed to run away to the Lake District for a weekend of walking - just the thought of a whole 4 hours on my own on the train was enough to calm me down! Enjoy nourishing yourself, you deserve it x