Mental Health is so last week

Last week, 14-20 May 2018, was Mental Health Awareness week in the UK. What did you learn about mental health? How will you act differently over the next 12 months as a result?

As I write the title of this post, I am struck with fear - How will people react? Is it too try-hard? Will it trigger criticism? And I feel a sense of irony... Fear of criticism. Fear of rejection. Fear of judgment. These are precisely what someone experiencing a mental health problem might feel. Generating greater awareness can do a lot to dispel these fears and stop the stigma. But is this enough?

To be clear, I am not knocking awareness - it is undoubtedly the starting point. Before you change (or heal) absolutely anything, at an individual or a societal level, you need to shine a light on it. You need visibility. You need to see what hasn't been seen.

Sometimes seeing something is enough. When you become aware that you are doing something corrosive, greater awareness can be enough to trigger you to stop that action. But when you need to START doing something, then it’s more tricky. What do you need to start doing? How do you go about doing it? Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? How do you avoid going the wrong way?

If you were paying attention last week (and are from the UK) you will know that “research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this” as publicised by The Mental Health Foundation.

This means...

  • Every 2 in 3 of your co-workers will experience a mental health issue

  • More than half of your friends will experience a mental health issue

  • You are more likely than not to experience a mental health issue

Since this is likely to be a personal problem for you, I have a question: Are you personally doing anything about this? This is where I have a problem with stopping at generating awareness. We seem to be generating fear and anticipation of a problem, without coming up with ideas on how can individually be more proactive.

A slight tangent: As I write this in a coffee shop, I decide to ask the the woman sitting next to me for her opinion… Does she know it is mental health awareness week? Yes. Has she learned anything? Not really. What is it meant to do? Raise awareness. So that..? [Silence]

You might, reasonably, now ask me: "Well then, smartass, what should we do?" And I am happy to give it a go…

Do the Inner Work - Work on your mental strength daily

Consider that...

  • Mental health issues lie on a spectrum that is 0 to negative, whilst mental strength exists on a spectrum that is 0 to positive.

  • Moment-to-moment your mental state lies on a spectrum from negative to positive.

  • The more time you spend in negative mental states, the less enjoyable your life is and the more those negative mental states become habitual and easy to access - they become 'normal'.

  • If a negative mental state is your 'normal' habit, then you might be prone to developing mental health issues.

  • To prevent this, we can train ourselves to be in a positive mental state. We can condition ourselves and build up mental strength, just like a rugby player might squat big weights to develop powerful legs.

Over the coming days, I will be writing a series of posts outlining some practices that you can use to switch mental state and build mental strength. The intention is that these will allow you to enjoy a better mental state as well as possibly stall mental health issues from developing or snowballing. For me, this will be 'Mental Strength Week'.

Before starting on the techniques tomorrow, I want to offer you a favourite Bruce Lee quote:

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one

An expectation that a worthwhile endeavour should be easy will not serve us well. If we let go of the idea that developing mental strength should be easy and instead focus on the truth that it will be worthwhile, this attitude will serve us best. Then we are poised to succeed.

Do the Outer Work - Practice caring about people

Why? Because seemingly trivial moments of connection can radically change someone else’s day - this is your contribution to the mental strength of society. These moments will also get you out of your head - this is your selfish agenda.

  1. Seize every interaction with people. Ask how people are. Make eye contact with them. Acknowledge them. Wait for an answer before your mind wonders elsewhere. Be as concerned about their answer as you want someone to be concerned about you.

  2. Pick 3 people in your life whose back that you will have. These are your people who you will be there for. Set an intention to be aware of what is going on with them and that they will always feel that they have your support.

  3. Work on your listening skills. Set a reminder in your calendar once a month to speak to those 3 people. And speak to them properly.

At some point I will likely write a longer post on the wider need for compassionate communication but this should be simple and actionable enough for now.

So now what?

In short, I think that more can be done at an individual level to better ourselves mentally as well as support each other effectively. My intention is not to give the impression that I have universal answers but is certainly to give you tools that might empower you. Read the other 'Mental Strength Week' posts detailing simple practices you can implement in daily life (links below)

You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

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Mental Strength Week Articles, May 2018

  1. Mental Health is so last week - 21 May 2018

  2. Develop awareness with the perfect friend - 22 May 2018

  3. Does your mind drive your body? Or your body drive your mind? - 23 May 2018

  4. The "on" switch for your brain - 24 May 2018

  5. Why your cynicism is stronger than your celebration - 25 May 2018

  6. Self-sabotage will sneak up on you unless you train your mind - 26 May 2018

  7. The path to peak performance - 27 May 2018

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About the author: Sukh Kalsi helps people to replace chronic stress, anxiety and depression with peak states of being. You can find his online courses at https://www.WeFlowAcademy.com and find out how to work with him at https://SukhKalsi.com

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This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Sukh Kalsi