World Mental Health Awareness Month
Every month should be a Mental Health Awareness Month. I am sure we can agree that there has been more focus on physical wellbeing. Meditation, yoga, and gym are all part of our weekly, sometimes daily routines. When I speak with parents and ask what they are doing for their mental wellness, they usually seem pretty confused. They might mention that they will include more mindfulness activities or meditate more. But what are we doing when we keep postponing our mental wellness? Are we possibly hurting ourselves long-term for a short-term gain of finishing more tasks or striving to be perfect parents or partners? According to Bäuerle et al. (2020), a general increase in anxiety, depression and psychological distress in people is evident since the start of the pandemic.
We need to focus more on our mental wellbeing, but how?
We grew up with the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Although I don’t believe that to be accurate, I feel like we need to create a Mental Wellness slogan to remind ourselves of the importance of this focus. I believe I can manage many frustrations quite calmly through years of training, though. The one place where I think I take out many of my irritations is on the road – which is not the safest for myself or anyone involved. I have a mantra that I use when I feel these frustrations bubbling to the surface.
Breathe, float and forget. I chose this acronym because it reminds me of my best friend (BFF – best friend forever), who is extremely calm. B(reathe), F(loat) and F(orget). But what does this mean, and how do I implement it?
As soon as I notice an increase in my heart rate, how I feel, appear, or seem to others, I take a deep breath. It might seem extremely simple, but I can always guarantee you that it is the last thing we focus on when we need it quite urgently in those moments. I focus on my earlier yoga practice and teachings where I take a few deep breaths through my nose, hold it for a few seconds and gently exhale through my mouth. While I do this, I imagine the frustration getting blown away slightly by my breath.
This is more of a meditation practice, where I close my eyes (while still breathing calmly) and imagine lying down on the side of a beautiful stream. There are a few leaves in the stream, and for every worry or frustration that pops up, I gently place it on a leaf and watch it float away. I try and do at least 5min (if this is practical) of this before I go to the next stage of my mantra.
Moshi has a great guided meditation that helps you and your children visualize this even more called 5 Minute Stream of Calm with Yawnsy.
I understand that forgiving yourself for feeling irritated seems strange, but what is under our control is how much power we give this irritation. We can challenge the situation and ensure we are not worrying about things outside of our control (which is often the case), or not worrying in excess (also, quite often the case). We can then create a way to address this if possible. For example, if we are worried about an upcoming interview or work task, we can break it down into smaller steps, prepare for it and create short yet achievable goals leading up to the event. We can then forgive ourselves for worrying about this event as we have ensured we are preparing for it, setting goals, and letting “what will be, be.” That is all we truly can do – prepare and let go, gently.
You are doing a fantastic job, just being you. This Mental Health Awareness Month, try and focus on what you can do to create a calm space for yourself daily. You are the most important person in your life – give yourself the respect you deserve.
Bäuerle A, Teufel M, Musche V, Weismüller B, Kohler H, Hetkamp M, Dörrie N, Schweda A, Skoda EM. Increased generalized anxiety, depression and distress during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional study in Germany. J Public Health (Oxf). 2020 Nov 23;42(4):672-678. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdaa106. PMID: 32657323; PMCID: PMC7454766.