During Mental Health Awareness Week, Shaniqua shares some of the steps she took to look after and improve her mental health.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we had a great series of conversation on Instagram Live on Wednesday, with me talking to Elliott, Mhairi, Daniel, Demi and Elisha. Their shared experiences and tips were insightful, brave and informative. Every year we do something mental health related for YPI, I learn a whole lot and I look forward to learning more, because we still have a lot of work to do.
I know that I still have work to do on my mental health and mental state, but it has considerably improved over the last year. Despite the inner conflicts, insecurities and crises of confidence that plague me every now and then, I’ve not been struggling like I was in 2018, or fiercely battling with myself mentally like last year.
I’m in a better head space than I’ve been for a very long time and more positive, which isn’t by chance, but because I’ve taken steps and put in work to get here. I thought I’d share some of those steps and tips with you to spread the positivity and hopefully help you to boost your mental health.
The arts are a great way to express yourself and release some of the turmoil inflicting your mind. As someone who has battled with self-harm for over 10 years, poetry has been my saving grace – when I’m in a bad emotional state, instead of picking up a knife, I pick up the pen. Mhairi and Elliott also shared that they used writing as a way of aiding their mental health. If writing isn’t for you, then try painting, collaging, singing or dancing.
Dancing leads me on to my next point, which is to get active. Exercise is often recommended as a way to boost your mental health, and it has definitely helped Daniel. Exercise relieves stress, releases endorphins and improves your mood. So dance like nobody’s watching (I love doing that), go for a walk in the sunshine (I also love doing that) or lift some weights (I’m not so keen on doing that).
Talk to Someone
When you’re struggling, it’s important not to suffer in silence. I’m an expert at suffering in silence, which causes me to feel lonelier and more down. I’m still working on it, but I do try to speak to my sister and certain friends more when I’m struggling now, and I do miss having a counsellor at times. They say that a problem solved is a problem halved, so reach out to a family member, friend or counselling service, and offload what’s on your mind.
Take Time to Breathe
This is very important and often ignored – taking time to breathe. I don’t just mean breathing in a literal sense – although taking time out of your day for some deep breaths is beneficial to your mental health – but I mean taking time to breath from the busy rush of life. Not taking time to rest and let your brain catch up with itself can drive you crazy, which was the case for me and Daniel. Resting is important, productive and healthy, so don’t feel bad about it. We all need to recharge.
Take Social Media Breaks
Social media can be a blessing and a curse. The good, funny and useful is wildly interspersed with the negative, ugly and fake. Scrolling and continuously seeing alarming news stories, hateful keyboard warriors, people living “their best life” and all the rest of it can be a lot. It also can also breed comparison, which can lead to insecurity and imposter syndrome, and that isn’t nice. That’s part of the reason why I not only take social media breaks, but also go on social media a lot less. Enjoy time of the screen doing what makes you happy, speaking to people in real life and focusing on you.
Get to the Root
One of the great tips Elliott gave on Wednesday was getting to the root of the problem, which I couldn’t have said better myself. You cannot move forward and heal fully unless you know the root of the problem. I’ve been able to heal a lot mentally by reflecting and meditating on the root of a lot of my problems, and it has done wonders. Take some time to tap into you, maybe write it down or reach out to a counsellor to hash it out.
For those of you that are praying people, I cannot emphasise the power of prayer enough. When you are impacted by poor mental health, talk to God about whatever you’re going through and pass all your burdens on to Him. You will feel lighter.
Be Kind to Yourself
Most of all, be kind to yourself. We can often be our own worst critics and harsher on ourselves than we are on everyone else, which can sometimes hurt us. Compliment yourself, celebrate your achievements, set aside a self-care day and forgive yourself – I cannot stress this enough. There is only one you in the world, so show yourself the love and appreciation you deserve.