20 Ways of Staying Afloat...

...when others are Sinking under Pressure

Mental distress in whatever form it takes triggers a whole range of responses from people. When I ask a group of people to list any words, terms or phrases which in some way relate to mental disorder the list is surprising long. Many of these terms would be seen as slang, archaic, non-PC or even offensive but the list is easy to collect and very long. The real question is why so many words? Why so much slang in all cultures?

Seeing mental distress in friends, family or acquaintances creates a response in many people where they try to trivialise it, depersonalise it, distance themselves from it all to deny its existence, separate themselves from it, or avoid thinking about it. They may be fearful of how it is impacting someone they know or love, how much the person has changed or worse still for them the thought it might even impact them. They may even believe that it is infectious.

All of this comes from a lack of understanding; limited knowledge regarding the conditions, the causes or treatments, and an underlying fear and insecurity about ones own sanity.

In the past people with a mental disorder would be sent away to a “place of safety”, to an asylum where they could be looked after to protect them and also to protect others. Also it was where they could be hidden away from the rest of society except for the times when the public went inquisitively to open days at Bedlam to find out what madness was all about.

Improved treatments, increased individual rights and community care policies have resulted in the closure of the old long stay psychiatric hospitals and the focus on the treatment of the individual in the community.

There is still as much mental distress in our community today as there has ever been and in fact probably more so with the increasing pressures and demands of life.

Mental distress is not limited to one group of people, class, culture, education, or financial means. Being rich and famous does not immunise you from emotional issues and mental distress.

So what can we do?

The key with your mental health is the same as with your physical health.

First, you need to take responsibility upon yourself to look after your own mental health.

1. Physical health and well-being helps with mental health. Physical exercise impacts the whole of your being
2. Eat healthily
3. Ensure you have the right amount of sleep
4. Avoid dependence on chemical substances whether legal or illegal
5. Do not live continually for the next adrenalin rush in whatever form this takes, continually living on the edge takes its toll
6. Keep a breadth of interests in life
7. Keep yourself motivated with goals for your life
8. Keep your commitments under control – especially your finances.
9. Take an interest in how you look, your cleanliness, clothes and home
10. Ensure you have a place for fun in your life
11. Do not overfill your life
12. Maintain a good balance in your life between work, home and recreational activities
13. Know when you feel stress increasing and take steps to take control of it rather than it controlling you.
14. Consider the needs of others.
15. Aim to leave a positive impression on others with what you say and do
16. Ensure that you have a good circle of friends. This needs to include a few with whom you can share the deepest needs/worries/desires of your heart.
17. Finding a life partner with whom you are able to become one with and share everything. Finding one is not good enough on its own, you need to work at it as well to maintain the relationship.
18. Be faithful to your spouse, loyal to your friends and true to your conscience in all you do
19. Be willing to forgive others when they hurt or offend you. This releases you from holding on to internalised bitterness and pain.
20. Finding a faith in someone greater than you. Belief in God is not fashionable today but knowing forgiveness through Jesus and access to God in prayer have a truly positive effect.

Second look out for others who are struggling with mental distress.

1. Watch out for others who are under pressure.
2. Understand their situation, challenges and problems.
3. Show them compassion.
4. Be a friend to them.
5. Do not be afraid to encourage them to seek professional help if needed

Premier Lifeline is a Confidential Helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective. Open 9am to Midnight everyday on 0845 345 0707 also email on lifeline@premier.org.uk 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

For a free copy of “Hurry Sickness” a fact sheet looking into how we can protect ourselves in a world in a hurry. www.premier.org.uk/life/response/products or call Premier Response on 08456 525252 option 8.
Jonathan Clark, 15/01/2009