By Esosa Noura
This year was the first time I became fully aware that there is in fact, a day dedicated to mental health. I’m so glad that it exists, and that mental health is recognised; but the truth is, mental health extends past one day or even one month.
The thing about mental health is that it is broad, each person has their own and to varying degrees. Our mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as we move through different stages of your life.
Luckily there are organisations which promote mental health and wellbeing through the year.
Here are a few to give you an idea of the types of both niche and general services out there:
- The Mental Health Foundation provides general aid and prevention. Their theme for this year’s world mental health day was suicide prevention. Through rigorous research and study, they pioneer change.
- Young Minds, aim to support and empower. They focus on providing information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person.
- On the other hand, Age Concern provides an Infoline on issues relating to older people from letting them know about their rights to helping them tackle loneliness.
- Anxiety UK a user-led organisation, run by people with experience of living with anxiety, stress or anxiety-based depression, supported by a high-profile medical advisory panel.
I got into the habit of journaling from a young age. Whether it was hidden under my pillow, down the back of the wardrobe or disguised amongst my other books, I always kept a journal.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and feeling easily overwhelmed, it has come in handy.
Truth be told, it is sometimes hard to express how we feel incomplete, comprehensive sentences because when things get too much it can be difficult to understand ourselves, let alone explain to someone else what the issue is that we’re having. At times like this I have two words: spider diagram!
Admittedly, this idea was inspired by an episode of That’s So Raven an old TV show. In the episode, Raven’s mum who ran a restaurant was very stressed and scribbled down all that had been vexing her before scrunching up the paper and throwing it into the lit fire in the fireplace before letting out a deep long sigh of satisfaction.
When I first started doing the spider diagram exercise, I did the same except I slam dunked it into the bin when I was done. Since then I’ve made some tweaks.
Here’s what I now do:
In the middle of the page write the most prominent emotion you are feeling. Stressed, anxious, lost?
Around it write down all the reasons why you feel that way. Those reasons may have sub-reasons or things attached to them that cause you to feel that way.
When you’re done, read each point back to yourself.
Next to each point (or whichever ones you feel like), write something positive in relation to it. Make it bright – use coloured pens or highlighter.
Focus and repeat those positives to realign your mind and way of thinking.
I soon realised that after emptying out all that was in my head, it was important to reinforce positivity by surrounding the things on the page with positive affirmations.
This exercise has helped to help me navigate the source of my anxiety and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
When journaling or doing the spider diagram exercise, there are no real rules, the most important thing is to see them as tools which aid our mental health journey and help make better sense of ourselves.