Turning mental hell into mental health
The idea for this article came out of my morning meditation. What a cliché. The entrepreneurial freelance millennial, that wakes up before the sun rises and meditates first thing in the morning. What a lie too, as I usually meditate with my freshly brewed single-origin coffee from a country I can barely pronounce the name. Another cliché.
What does this all have to do with Mental Health? What is Mental Health all together?
The truth is, whether we know it consciously or not, we're all creatures of habits that need routines and grounding rituals. Especially these days, where everything seems to be available, yet so difficult to get. We can work from anywhere, anytime. We date, breathe, connect, live on and from our phones, and we have more additions than our parents could have ever imagined. We quit smoking, quit plastic, quit meat. We buy local, support our like-minded communities and wear second-hand clothes. We share our souls out, have dozens of friends, maybe hundreds, and thousands likes on that amazing #livingparediselife selfie on Instagram.
We can be whoever we want and do whatever we have always dreamt of. Yet, we feel lost, disconnected, both from ourselves and others. And anxious. So much freedom in our hands, but so little security in our homes. What does this all have to do with Mental Health? What is Mental Health all together?
Before starting to write this post, my day has been something like this. Waking up without the alarm at 7am, walking the dog, drinking coffee over meditation, journaling on what I want to achieve over the next half-moon cycle, having a healthy breakfast - already with my laptop open on my work e-mail, catching up on social media and WhatsApp, buying a plane ticket to London. It's 9 am and I am full-on.
This is not my average day. Not rarely, I wake up feeling anxious. Anxious about how to squeeze all my self-care rituals and still arrive to work on time. Anxious about the hours I am leaving my baby dog by herself. Anxious about leaving work on time so I can make it to a Yoga class. Anxious about getting my work approved so I feel good about myself and that sensation of 'job is done'. Anxious about having another task added to my to-do list when I can barely think properly between the current ones. The list goes on. And I don't have kids.
According to The Harvard Business Review, people want their employers to talk more about mental health. Back to the initial question, the term Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, defining how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices, meaning it affects all parts of our lives. Interesting enough, it is still a bit of a taboo, often seen as something secondary or that should not be addressed openly.
However, taking care of our Mental Health is as important as taking care of our physical bodies. If we shower, eat and sleep every day, why shouldn't we be able to meditate, journal, practise yoga, go for a run or meet friends on a daily basis? I am not saying we have to do them all every day, even though meditation was my lifesaver in London, when I was a workaholic. It still is these days. The question I want to ask is, how do we get to times in our lives where we neglect our mental health so much, we end up feeding our bodies with cortisol and coffee, not taking enough rest and most likely addicted to checking our e-mails and chats over 100 times a day?
I don't have all the answers, but I do have small tips that can help you to create self-care practises that you can incorporate in your day-to-day life, improving your mental health - and general wellbeing. Today, I was invited by The Web Summit team in Lisbon, one of my clients at Pause and Flow, to talk about Yoga and Meditation as self-care tools that can help us to balance out our work and personal lives. These were the key take-outs of the session:
1. Plan: Your self-care rituals, workday, meals, treats. Star small. Make it work for you.
2. Do it: Learn to say no, learn to say yes. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
3. Journal: Start a gratitude journal. Buy a beautiful one. Today.
4. Soften: It is ok to go back to old patterns. Be your BFF when this happens.
5. Share: With friend and family what you are going through. Ask for help if needed. Also, take care of them.
Last but not least, keep breathing. Keep coming back to yourself. In and out. Again and again, and again.
If you want to know more about Yoga, Meditation and self-care, both at work and home, don't be shy to reach out.