I recently attended the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at the Kingsway Centre in Scunthorpe. I have always been a first aider, probably over 20 years or so, but this was a new experience altogether.
The lady who facilitated the course, Debbie, informed us during the briefing that the course can have unusual emotional effects on those attending, and then handed a pack of tissues to one of us, instructing them to follow anyone who left the room to ensure they were OK.
Bit odd, was my first thought, but we were quite a mixed group - couple of steel workers, a lady from the food industry, a banker etc, so I observed patiently. On the first day, by mid-day, as we listened to stories and statistics it became apparent why Debbie had done what she had. Although no one actually left the room upset, it was plain to see all 8 of us were affected to some degree, me included. I found myself trying not to listen to parts and staring at my notes as male tears in public are forbidden - aren’t they? Haha.
So, why am I sharing this? And, yes, I have asked myself that very question. Well, as you get older and glance back in time, you realise you’ve had a mental tremor or two over the years. Now there are many reasons why we suffer these mental hiccups and I’m convinced humans have not evolved quite as fast as modern life, so inevitably we get overloaded from time-to-time.
So what do we do to support others who may have too much on their plate? Well, I’ve heard phrases used like ‘man up,’ ‘grow a pair,’ and ‘get a grip’ many times, but are they helpful? Absolutely not! We all have our experiences but no one feels like you right now and that’s the difference.
So what can I do, I hear you ask. Well, there’s no magic pill, despite what the Doc says, but there are a couple of things you can do for yourself or for those around you. Firstly, be absolutely clear that you can regain some control and things will improve. Secondly, muster some courage to tell someone how you are feeling - whether it’s your partner, a colleague, anyone you trust. I can assure you, you’re not alone.
Mental health is becoming a huge topic in so many circles now and this is no coincidence as stress of modern life is ever increasing. We must arm ourselves with the tools to manage it just like any physical ailment we might have, it’s just different with the mind. With a broken leg, you can use a crutch, but you can’t bandage a feeling as easily!
Think of your laptop or PC, how they tend to run slower when the drives are clogged up with cookies and temporary files, clear these and things improve. It can be similar with the mind. We have something called a stress bucket in our minds – some people have bigger buckets than others, which is why some can bear more stress. When our stress buckets are full, the results are the same - stress overload. We have to learn how to keep the bucket balanced as we cannot function without a certain level of stress, it’s what has kept the human race alive many times over the last couple of million years.
Now, I’m an eternal optimist, always looking for the positive, but still I have succumbed to dark thoughts that sometimes plague us. My wife on the other hand is a pessimist, mostly negative, and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying so. Not so long ago, we were talking about this subject and the glass half full/empty came up. Before you techies get excited, I did point out that there’s no such thing, as full and empty are absolute states so therefore cannot be half or part. She hit me and I laughed. It made her smile too, so job done that day - laughter is good therapy.
Another great tool for the mind is the list, have a read of Chas Goldring’s blog. His wife utilises the list to ensure stress free holidays and it’s been very successful for many years. A simple list can be used in many ways. Ever had your head so full of stuff to do that you get up and do nothing, because you can’t remember what needs doing? So frustrating! Make your list and start to tackle it when you have the time and you’ll be amazed at how you feel, just because you’ve written it down so there’s no need to remember. I use lists regularly and it does help.
The one thing that sticks in the mind when you do the MHFA course is this: don’t man up, SPEAK UP, and when someone else is talking, LISTEN.