Mental Health is part of our DNA that can impact on how we think, we feel, and we relate to and with others. Mental Health is impacted by our environment and experiences that can enhance and detract from our emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
World Mental Health Day should be a reminder of how important it is to reflect on ourselves as people. Our thoughts, our actions and our behaviours are all impacted on how we are feeling in the moment. Our mental health can seem settled and calm one moment, and then change to feelings of anxiety and worry in the next. Sometimes we need others to help us to recognise what is happening for us. We become so embedded in the feelings that we cannot see the impacts or even a way clear.
In our daily work we support children and young people who have experienced significant trauma from violence, abuse and neglect. “Pain, fear and isolation becomes the shapers of their childhood” (ACF, 2023). “Traumatised and stressed children and young people have little space left for learning. Their constant state of tension and arousal can leave them unable to concentrate, pay attention, retain and recall new information. Their behaviour is often challenging in the education environment. They struggle to make positive peer relationships.” (ACF, 2023)
Sound familiar? As adults we can carry our own childhood adverse experiences and be impacted by stressors where it may be challenging to concentrate, recall and retain information. When we are feeling stressed, it can be difficult to problem solve and complete even simple tasks. When you are feeling overwhelmed, add the layer of working with significantly vulnerable young people and recognise the ‘weight’ this can sometimes feel. Without attention to your own wellbeing and your own triggers this can lead to an implosion of self-neglect. Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are actual physical and psychological health concerns. We need support to remember we are responsible for our own self-care to support how we feel, react and view the world.
I ask the question: How do any of us actually know what self-care means?
“Most employers want to support the mental health at work, but it can be tough to know what to do and how to get started” (headspace, 2023).
Headspace, (2023) suggests “the building of your resilience, developing self-awareness and confidence” can assist individuals to manage busy lives and workspaces. Learning to manage ‘bite’ size tasks, building to complete larger tasks through being nurtured and guided is vital. Acknowledging you are human and can only do one quality task at a time. Using my brick analogy, “you can place one brick at a time to build the foundations”. The strength in the brick wall foundation can only be achieved with solid determination by placing one brick in place at a time.
…. just a brick in the wall. Jan Borita
Staying active also supports a healthy mental health space. Working to find time to be active physically and mentally to support vital pathophysiological aspects of health. To walk, to meditate, to paint, to play with your pet, to talk with others, to journal, to visit friends and family, to bake, to do everything and do nothing, to shout out to the crashing waves at the ocean, to watch goldfish swim, to cycle, to play Chess, to read, to watch TV, to play music, to pivot to what makes you sing…
To find you is vital for centring yourself and promoting your own mental health.
It just takes one small step to seek something positive. Aboriginal communities from the Daly River region in the Northern Territory have used Dadirri or ‘quiet contemplation’ or ‘deep listening’ in their practices. To sit still and be aware… Western cultures may use yoga practices and meditation. All cultures embrace in gatherings and connections to seek comfort and a sense of belonging. Faith across cultures teaches us to be mindful, be uplifting and to be kind to others.
Whatever you do, be adventurous, take risks and try new things. Talk to the person on the other side of the office you don’t know as well. Bake a slice or a cake and invite others to bring a plate to share for morning tea. Stop for a break, regularly, and be kind to you and set the scene in the workspace to be positive and a place you would want to be. Setting the scene for positive energy and emotional regulation promoting optimal mental health.
Be kind, be humble and connect with others who are all working with you, doing a small part of a big picture through supporting vulnerable children and young people, supporting ourselves to be our best. Let’s play our part promoting and making mental health shine.
Julie Collier, Director Therapeutic Services
Artwork retrieved from: www.who.int
Australian Childhood Foundation