An estimated 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in the next 12 months, with Britain now having the highest rates of Self-harm in Europe, it is clear that the rise in Mental Health problems is an issue we can no longer afford to ignore. With 10th October being World Mental Health Day we have decided to take a closer look at this often taboo subject and what you can do to promote your own emotional, and thus physical wellbeing.
We have all experienced moments of anxiety, depression and helpless in response to the stresses of modern living, but what happens when those feelings don’t pass or they become unmanageable? In Chinese Medicine there are several factors that can cause ill-health including over work, insufficient rest and poor diet etc, but this ancient system of medicine has long recognised that your emotions also have a direct impact upon your health. An excess, (or lack of appropriate emotional response), of any one of the standard emotions of joy, grief/sorrow, overthinking/anxiety, anger/frustration, fear, and fright can cause disharmony within your body. For example, often when we are anxious we may experience physical symptoms of palpitations, shortness of breath, or insomnia to name a few. Likewise any physical or energetic imbalance in the body can manifest with symptoms of emotional imbalance. Often the two are so intertwined so it can be a hard to distinguish which came first a bit like the chicken and the egg – are you experiencing a mental health issue because your body was already imbalanced making you more susceptible to mental illness? Or are your mental health problems causing physical symptoms within the body?
Whilst I rarely see severe mental health problems with patients in my private practice I would say that around 80% of my patients suffer from some form of anxiety or low level depression, or have done in the past. Often patients don’t like to admit to how they are really feeling for fear of being labelled crazy, hysterical or being told it’s all in their mind and to pull themselves together. Whatever the cause of your symptoms the simple fact is that there is an imbalance somewhere within the body that needs to be addressed. So what can you do to help yourself:
- Talk to someone – it’s ok to say how you are feeling, we are all feeling beings and often talking through how you are feeling with someone with whom you trust and feel comfortable with can help release all pent-up emotions, put things into perspective, and get the advice you need.
- Write it down – we all have bad days and it can be unhealthy to keep those feelings bottled up. If you can’t tell someone else how you feel or you just don’t want to sometimes writing it down can be very cathartic. The point is that you are letting go of those feelings so you can move on. I always advise my patients to write it down and then throw it away in a symbolic act of letting go of anything that is negative to their health.
- Relaxation - we all lead fairly busy and hectic lives and are constantly on the go. Your body needs physical time to rest, relax, and repair its-self so take the time to have some relaxation time everyday or as often as you can, be it having a massage, a long hot bath/ shower, or going for a walk outside – find something you enjoy doing and do more of it.
- Mediation – I can’t stress enough the importance of every single one of you developing a mediation practice; the health benefits are immense and extremely powerful – even five minutes a day can make a profound difference to your wellbeing. As I have said many times before meditation does not have to involve sitting in silence staring at a spot on the wall for hours on end, if that’s what you love doing great, if it’s not there are many many other styles of mediation you can try. New to mediation look for classes in your area, try guided meditations (there are many on you tube), find a practitioner who can help guide you with this, or just simply practice mindfulness. Find what suits you best personally I like sounding and moving meditations but that’s not for everyone.
- If you need help get it – if you do feel that you cannot cope with how you are feeling please speak to your primary care physician, counselor or other healthcare professional who can help you get the help you need. The Charities Mind and Anxiety UK have lots of helpful information on Mental Health issues, how to help yourself, others, and where to get help if you need it. Try these two websites - Mental Health Foundation and Anxiety UK.