My favourite section of any bookshop has long been the self-help section. I love reading books on wellness and mindfulness and anxiety, basically anything to do with improving your mental wellbeing. For a long time I was always a little nervous of heading into that quiet corner of the shop. What if someone saw the books I was looking at and wondered what was ‘wrong’ with me?
More recently I was sitting on the bus with a guided meditation app playing in my earphones when it suddenly occurred to me to make sure that the screen was off so that no one saw what app I was using. As someone who is quite happy to talk about their mental health, why do I feel so uncomfortable if people find out that I’m making a conscious effort to look after it?
We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad. Some people can take care of theirs without much effort, some need a little more help, whether that’s through therapy or medication or self help books. And whilst I know there’s nothing embarrassing about that, there’s still some social stigma around people knowing that it’s effort for you.
No one would bat an eyelid over you stretching your legs to make an injury feel better or popping antacids for some indigestion, so why do we feel embarrassed about looking after our mental health?
Maybe some people find having a positive outlook easy but for me, it’s definitely something that I have to work on. I frequently overwork myself or don’t give myself enough credit and as a result I often overlook the positive aspects of my life in favour of the negatives. Over the past couple of years I’ve made a real effort to do everything I can to make sure that my mental health is just as good as my physical health is. I exercise regularly, I aim to get enough sleep every day, I have a mood tracker, I do yoga, I practice meditation, I set myself goals, I don’t drink too much alcohol (most of the time).
Whilst I talk about lots of those things on my blog, I would rarely tell anyone in ‘real life’ that I meditate or that I fill in a mood tracker every day. For me, on some levels, it does feel a little embarrassing that I need to make the effort. Surely everyone else doesn’t have to go to the same lengths to keep their mental health in peak condition.
But on reflection, looking after my mental health doesn’t feel so much different to looking after my physical health. When I go to the gym and eat well, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud for taking matters into my own hands, for working hard and for seeing results when I look in the mirror. When I look after my mental health, I should feel the same. But at the moment there’s definitely a wall there for me.
I hope that 2018 is the year that I can proudly tell people that I meditate because it makes me feel calmer, that I track my mood so that I can see if certain days, or times of the month are good or bad for me and that looking after my mental health isn’t something that comes as easily to me as my physical health.