Time To Talk – Reaching Out For Support

The following read is intended to give you a little more guidance around what it really means to ‘talk’ about our mental health, and how to do it. Hopefully, you will see that there is no perfect way to go about having these conversations, but each small step you take has the capacity to make a huge difference. We are only human and we are still all figuring it out, so be kind to yourself and the answers will come.

Write it down …

Begin by writing down how you are feeling. In your diary or on a scrap piece of paper, get your thoughts down onto paper. It may seem a laborious task at first, but once you begin the thoughts will come spilling out. Take breaks, deep breaths and stop at any time you need. But it is common to find that once you begin to take the thoughts out of your mind and make them tangible and visible, it can be super relieving as well as easier to control.

If writing your thoughts down makes you nervous, maybe you are worried someone will find them, you can to the write & tear technique. Not only does this get rid of your highly personal thoughts and feelings, but can also feel empowering that you are in control of your thoughts and not letting them take control of you.

Give it a go yourself …

Before you rip up the piece of paper… try and work through all the points and see if you can come up with ways to ‘self-therapise’. Writing them down and tackling them can clear the fog inside your mind, and you may find that seeing certain worries written down, you come up with ideas and coping skills to manage them yourself. Give it a go!

Who might you turn to …

If you are struggling, you want advice or it’s too overwhelming on your own – make a list of people you feel comfortable around. Note – this doesn’t have to mean people you have spoken to about your mental health before, sometimes we don’t consider certain people in our lives until we realise that they actually make us feel comfortable – so we could go to them for support. And it doesn’t have to just be one person, sometimes having different people from different parts of our life can offer us different points of view that we haven’t considered before.

Start small …

It can be daunting to approach someone for support if you aren’t used to it, or if you feel like you do it a lot – but there will always be someone who cares. Even if at different times they are different people. Ease yourself in gently and let it come naturally. Begin the conversation maybe by text or call asking them how they are, and if they’d be up for a coffee or chat.

Follow up …

Follow up with honest messages – let the people close to you know you are struggling and in need of support – even if that means that they do something with you that distracts you rather than talking directly about the problem. Nowadays everyone is so busy and we don’t always stop to realise someone may be texting us for a deeper reason, and that isn’t their fault. If you let them know you need support, then you save yourself feeling rejected at the hands of someone who simply didn’t realise you were struggling.

Be realistic …

Don’t set too high expectations. Remember everyone is human, sometimes friends may be busy, they may not realise the gravity of your situation or they may be struggling themselves. Try not to take it personally. Also – try not to expect to come away from the conversation feeling disappointed because you hoped all your problems would be solved – opening up doesn’t always mean a resolution is found, but give yourself credit for being courageous and strong to take control of how you are feeling and seek support for it.

Comfort is key …

When you do see your friend or family member to talk things through, start by making sure you feel comfortable. You may get there and it doesn’t feel right or you don’t feel ready  yet – that is okay, there is no rush. Enjoy the company of the person you are with, you may end up finding this alone makes you feel better.

Tip of the iceberg …

It isn’t all or nothing – this isn’t your only opportunity to get everything off your chest. Let it be organic. You may only scratch the surface of what’s going on in your mind but what is important is that you recognise you are giving yourself the space to be open and reminding yourself that people are there for you. This is fundamental to feeling like we have a support network.

Remember this is a journey not a destination…

There won’t always be that magic moment where all your worries or bad emotions disappear, good days and bad days always happen, and it’s important to ride the wave, stay hopeful and continue to take proactive steps to make sure the good days happen more often than the bad. You’ve got this, but our brains are complex things and require time, love and effort to unravel the mess that sometimes forms inside.

Step outside of the bubble of your mind …

When we are in a bad place mentally, it can become all consuming and we can lose perspective. Escapism and realism ironically come hand in hand here. Find ways to distract yourself and escape from the mental strain – watch Netflix, do exercise, hang out with friends, cook a meal etc and then re-engage with the wider world – read the news, ask your friends how they are doing, catch up with a family member in a different town or country over the phone or Skype – it can be grounding and provide clarity when we realise we aren’t the only ones struggling, and also that we have a wider circle of people to turn to.

Talk to yourself …

It can feel cringey or strange – but try different techniques. It has been said that your own advice is your best advice – and that can often be true. You know yourself better than anyone else. Talk in the mirror, write in a journal, or converse with yourself via voice notes on your phone switching roles between the confider and the confidante – you’ll surprise yourself with the ideas you come up with for self-care and how much better it makes you feel.

Ultimately, these suggestions are here to make you realise that we appreciate talking about mental health is not easy. There are no quick fixes and it will be awkward sometimes. But as long as you are realistic, honest and kind to yourself, small changes will start to happen which will lead to big changes.

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