As I write this I’m thinking about those of us who, for whatever reason, struggle at this time of year. Whether it’s because of the coming of winter with its short days and cold, wet weather; or because our thoughts turn to people who we’ve loved and lost; or because we’re burdened by debts, illness, fear of homelessness or benefit sanctions; or whether it’s the pressure we feel under, to live up to all the expectations to feel festive, buy Christmas presents, be sociable – there are all sorts of reasons why, for many of us living with mental health problems, this is a tough season.
So, how can we take the best possible care of ourselves (and by the way, this list of suggestions is for everyone, not just those of us who struggle with our mental health)? Here are a few things I’ve found useful, during 30-plus years of living with mental health problems. Everyone’s different, and what helps me might not help you – but I hope there’s at least one thing here that is useful to you, or to someone you care about:
- Be kind to yourself – I’m still working on this one, but if we can become our own best friend rather than our own worst enemy, and give ourselves some tender loving care when we have a setback, or make a mistake, rather than blaming ourselves and beating ourselves up, we can recover and move on more quickly from upsets
- Do the basics – and some days that might just be getting out of bed for a few hours, let alone having a shower, getting dressed, eating well, having a regular sleep routine....
- Do something physical – I’m not talking marathon running here, although for those who can, running is great. Simply getting some fresh air for a few minutes’ walk, or being in a garden, park or open countryside, is proven to benefit our mental health – as is singing
- Reach out to others, to get support and to give it. When I’m struggling, my default position in the past was to withdraw and not “inflict myself” (as I saw it) on others, but I’m learning slowly that being able to ask for help is a strength, not a weakness. And for me, peer support – a supportive relationship based on shared experiences – is hugely valuable. It’s because I’ve benefitted personally from peer support for my own mental health, that I’m now working for Solent Mind. Mind’s Elefriends online peer support community is available 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day. And, if you live in Southampton or the New Forest, there’s our Side by Side peer support programme which offers a variety of peer support activities – find out more here
- “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight”. My son is a keen student of karate, and there is a Japanese proverb used by many martial artists to represent Tamashii, or indomitable spirit. The saying is “Nana-Korobi, Ya-Oki” which translates as “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight”. I have found this very useful in helping me to keep going despite bad times. Another way of putting it is to say “Never give up”, which is rather neat, as one of Solent Mind’s Values is Unstoppable – we never give up
Best wishes to you all,
Sue Forber, Head of Peer Support