I think this is a really helpful article from Alisa Camplin and our partner in health AIA Vitality. Alisa shares what she’s learnt about addressing mental health challenges by looking inwards and reaching out. I have shared the complete article below. If you find it helpful there are more just like this at AIA Vitality.
I’ve outlined four key pillars to mental wellbeing: connectivity and the importance of personal support systems, being present in the moment with mindfulness, goal achievement and personal growth, and bouncing forward with resilience.
Linked to these four key pillars is mental health, and asking for help when you need it. Stress, anxiety and depression all exist on a spectrum. At one end of that spectrum, you can experience a little bit of discomfort, which is completely normal, especially when stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to grow.
But what happens when that pressure becomes too much and you’re at the other end of the spectrum? For people suffering poor mental health, or those struggling to deal with life’s complexities and challenges, it’s important to know that there are strategies you can use and actions you can take that can help you regain some control of your life.
Identify the signs
To achieve mental wellbeing, we need to be in tune with ourselves, and we need to be honest. We need to stop, check in, and identify signs when we’re not coping as well as we could be.
It might be poor sleeping patterns, or not taking care of ourselves physically. It could be feeling down on ourselves, becoming too critical, or isolating ourselves from others. Or it could be using numbing behaviours like drinking, overeating, or even online shopping at an abusive level to hide from bigger issues.
When we recognise these behaviours in ourselves, we need to ask, ‘Why am I self-sabotaging, and what is it masking?
Trying to identify the deeper source of your problems can be achieved in several ways, l. Like talking it out with someone you trust, or journaling and reflecting on the triggers and patterns of your emotions. However you go about it, it’s important to admit if something doesn’t feel right and to ask for help early, without the fear of judgement.
There’s no shame in needing help
I don’t feel that there should ever be a taboo around asking for the help that you need.
I’m married, but I’m not an expert in relationships. So if we hit an insurmountable hurdle down the track, I’ll ask for help from a marriage counsellor. When we lost our son Finnan when he was just ten days old, I recognised that I was experiencing extreme grief that I was not equipped to deal with, so I went to an expert who knew how to help me process my heartbreak.
We’re all wired differently and predisposed biologically, through our DNA, to respond differently to the pressure, stress and demands of life. We shouldn’t believe that we have all the answers – plus the ability to deal with everything life throws our way – within us.
Sometimes we need to look outwards. We need to make a choice to reach out and ask for professional help with our mental health, and draw on the knowledge and resources that are available to us.
Think of it this way: if you had a broken arm, wouldn’t you go to the ER? We have no problem asking for help with our physical needs, so we should feel comfortable asking for help with our mental and spiritual needs, too.
We’re fortunate in our day and age that when we’re beyond the capacity to deal positively with our own mental wellbeing, there are amazing resources we can access, especially in a country like Australia.
Organisations like beyondblue, Sane Australia, and Headspace all provide support for people suffering mental health challenges, whether they’re one-off or ongoing problems that you need help with. Asking your GP about a mental health care plan is another way forward.
It all comes down to prioritising ourselves and taking action before we reach breaking point. We don’t have to get burnt out, or be in the depths of despair and isolation, before we acknowledge that a shift is needed.
Each and every one of us is important. We need to practice greater self-care and know that we are both entitled to and worthy of support. The first step is usually the hardest, but it’s also the most crucial. Being able to say, ‘something is not right’ and reaching out for help, is the action that will change things for the better.
Alisa Camplin is Australia’s first ever female Winter Olympic gold medallist, a working mum and dedicated resilience and high performance consultant.