This blog has been taken from the talk ‘Dare to Hope’ by Graham Foxwell of Cedar Tree Mental Health and Wellbeing. It is used in the Cedar Tree Mental Health Awareness course.
I hope you are all well and keeping safe. Covid-19 has taught us more so than ever we need to look after our mental health those around us – family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and those we are caring for. Today I'm going to share some thoughts about mental health. But more importantly about hope. To give hope to those who are experiencing poor mental health themselves, or to those who are supporting someone, possibly a loved one with poor mental health.
This isn't just about ‘other people’ with mental ill-health, or the loved ones we may be caring for. This is also about you! The friend, parent, carer, or sibling of someone who is experiencing mental ill health - it’s about you, and your mental health too! I want you to understand that looking after your mental health is important too.
"We need to look after yourselves, if we are going to be able to look after anyone else."
Imagine you're on an aeroplane, heading off somewhere sunny. Yes, that would be great right now wouldn’t it. You're looking forward to sitting on the beach with your ice-cold drink! You have your 2.4 children sitting next to you.
When the plane suddenly starts to descend, and the air pressure drops. What happens next? The oxygen masks drop down. What do the cabin crew say is the first thing you should do?
Put on your own mask, before helping others; before helping your 2.4 children. Why? Because without it, you are no good to your 2.4 children. Without it, you are going to pass out! No good to anyone! We need to look after yourselves, if we are going to be able to look after anyone else!
"There is hope to be found"
Perhaps you’ve been struggling on for months, years, or even decades - waiting for someone to pick you up and dust you off and say it’s going to be ok! Well, if you are in this place, I can tell you from experience, there is hope to be found. When we choose to believe and understand, that the circumstances we find ourselves in may not change, but we cling to hope; we start to believe and know and experience life better.
We can let go of a desire to be safe and trouble free, hope sets in and recovery starts. When we ‘let go’ off the stuff causing us pain - the emotional, physical, and mental stuff, our “resilience” expands and hope takes over! We begin to have, peace, joy and calm in our lives. And love - that may have faded or been pushed to one side emerges. Including being able to love yourself. We also experience, patience, kindness and compassion. We feel secure, composed and in control. We have hope.
So where can we find hope?
Well that is different for everyone. I've taken the word 'Hope' and created an acronym to give you some helpful tools, strategies and coping to find that hope.
H = Help & Support
This can come from many places, and can be either professional or personal. We can seek help and support from:
• Spiritually. Many people, including me, find great support and comfort from having a strong faith. If this is something you are not accustomed too, or have been put off in the past, I urge you to explore the idea.
• Your Doctor/GP. Also ask about social prescribers and link worker.
• Your workplace. Talk to your boss and work colleagues. Some companies have mental health first aiders who are trained to help, support and signpost employees who are experiencing poor mental health. My organisation Cedar Tree mhw train people in Mental Health First Aid and other mental health learning. Some companies have an EAP - (Employment Assistance Program) these can be used to support you and sometimes you family with Mental Health issues.
• Self-help books, Apps, websites. There are 100’s of Mental Health support Organisations - Samaritans, MIND, CALM, Mates in Mind, Time to Change, Charlie Waller, Students against Depression, Papyrus, Young Minds etc. Stick to reputable organisations
• Support Groups. There are 100’s of local organisations, charities, mental health support groups, drop in & wellbeing centres and online groups. Again, please only use recognised, well known organisations.
• NHS IAPT/CAMHS/ (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) - NHS funded services providing evidence-based psychological therapies to people with anxiety disorders and depression. These services can be accessed by anyone, but are primarily for adults. CAMHS are the usual access point for young people. You can find your local IAPT service by looking them up on the internet here. Recovery College and Talking therapies may also be available in your area, do get in touch if you need help finding support
O = Open yourself up to new ideas
Try new things.
Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways.
It helps us stay curious and engaged.
Good for exercising our brains
It gives us a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-confidence and resilience.
We can do this by sharing our skills, joining a club, learning to sing, dance, enjoy art, photography much more. By trying new things we start to build & create relationships - which according to research, is the most important overall contributor to happiness. People with strong and wide social groups are happier, healthier and live longer.
Exercising – Why not take up a new sport? Our body and mind are connected. It is well known, that being active makes us happier, as well as being good for our physical health. It is also a very good treatment for all kinds of mental ill-health, from Depression to Anxiety to OCD, and more.
Caring for others. Helping other people is not only good for them, and a nice thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier. We can give our time, ideas and energy, and money. So get out and volunteer - with a local charity or club!
P = Positivity & Purpose
We can generate positivity in our life through:
Acceptance. We need to accept that recovery is a process and doesn’t happen quickly. We need to accept we are not perfect. No-one is perfect, so why should you be? How often do we compare ourselves to others. We need look at the stuff we are good at and stop dwelling on what we are not or be grateful for what we have and not what we don’t. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong will increase our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It is also good to accept others are not perfect too and to accept them as they are.
Positive emotions. Joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride, are not just great at the time. Research shows that regularly experiencing positive emotions, creates an 'upward spiral', helping us to build our resilience. Although we need to be realistic about life's ups and downs it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation.
Meaning, purpose and direction. People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression.
Resilience. All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our well-being. Recent research shows - resilience, like many other life skills, can be learnt, through therapy, support groups and training.
Let go – Sometimes we need to go off a desire to be safe and trouble free. Let go of the stuff causing us pain. The emotional, physical, and mental stuff. And through the letting go, Peace, Joy, Calm and Love take over.
E = Encourage
If you are experiencing poor mental health right now, I encourage you to do all of the H.O.P.E.
I encourage you to Seek Help & Support - I encourage you to Open yourself up to new ideas, be Positive & find Purpose - and I encourage you to talk. Don't try and just 'deal with it' or hold it in, talk. I promise you, it does help. Maybe not straight away, as sometimes it takes time, but it will help.
You may have to try different things before it works - you may have already seen a counsellor and thought, that was rubbish! Well I encourage to try another one. Why should the first one we see be the perfect one? Keep trying.
If you are supporting someone, who is experiencing mental health ill health, I encourage you to listen. Listen - don’t be afraid to just listen. Listening the most powerful tool in helping and supporting someone experiencing mental health ill health. Don’t try and fix their problems, just listen and try to understand. Even though everything within us is saying we should fix this. We can’t. Just listen!
*Note: Some of the material for H.O.P.E. has been derived from the 10 keys to a happier living by Action for happiness.
So what is your hope?
Find your hope and cling to it with all of your might. Dare to Hope.
We can either can stay in our pit of misery and pain, paralyzed by fear - or we can HOPE and experience recovery. Don’t let the little voice inside tell you you’re not good enough, you’re rubbish, you’ll never make it. It’s not true. You are good enough; you are worth it and you will make it.
And just remember - You might be that hope to someone else! Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you have you have found some HOPE from it.
Kind Regards Graham Foxwell – Cedar Tree Mental Health & Well-being.