Today, 10/10/2018, is World Mental Health Day. You may be wondering what this has got to do with lingerie and your right to question it. I am writing this because it a subject that rarely gets spoken about for fear of shame thus contributing towards social stigmas pertaining to mental health and also because we are so consumed by social media that sometimes it can have a negative impact on our lives rather than a positive. I am not an expert on the subject and neither am I health advisor, but this subject does resonate with me on a number of levels and I just want to share a little piece of my mind.
A mental health day is where an employee takes a sick day off work for reasons other than physical illness. It is a day you can dedicate to stress relief. It is generally not a good idea to take time off work spontaneously (unless, there is a toxic environment in the workplace but that is another matter), but you can arrange this in advance. Last time I checked, Cyprus being an EU member state is also a member of the World Health Organisation.
Why do we need a mental health day? I can think of many reasons it is needed. We spend most of our adult life at the place of work. It is a second home especially if you are working full time, for some that may be 40 hours + per week. We are constantly juggling the work/life balance that it may feel like we are becoming a nation of live to work, not work to live. So by having a mental health day it is an acknowledgement that our health is not just limited to the physical, we all have emotions and they are a part of our health and by taking a mental health day it does not mean you have a mental disorder, it is time out to give to yourself for stress relief.
To the working mother, who is juggling all aspects of life, from work to home to children and at the same time the pressure of being a good employee, trying to better herself towards a career, reading and learning till late hours to get up that career ladder, paying the bills, keeping a roof over her family’s head, doing her best to provide for her children, to give her children a better life, to educate them, love them, nurture them, feed them, attend to their needs, and be a perfect wife or suitable match (for those who are single) and at the same time to look after her own health, her beauty, her looks, the list goes on. We can become so consumed looking after everyone else that we forget about number one, let’s not forget who we are before we lose our sense of identity. For some there is no one to confide in, the health care system may be limited to physical illness. A friend may talk behind her back. A relative may mock her. Even work may question her competence. For those who are single mothers and have limited help, I get the struggles you face on a daily basis to keep it all together. I have mentioned mothers as an example, but a mental health day is not and should not be limited to women or mothers. I am a mother and therefore I am able to express that point of view with some confidence.
For those who are also battling physical illness, such a cancer, MS, diabetes, heart disease etc. I understand that feeling of not being able to cope with daily life, to have your physical capabilities restricted or having to go through side effects of medications or to feel like society has placed you into a separate category, these struggles may lead to anxiety and stress and may creep up on you and in some cases if left untreated may lead to depression. We all feel low some days and it is OK to cry, better out than in, but if those low days are more than those happy days, if you start to withdraw take notice and seek help. For those who feel isolated, I understand that life can feel like a constant uphill battle.
To the children who may fear about the future, what they may become and what is expected of them, readily exposed to social media and glued to the phones for FOMO. Yes, I was a teen once too and even though times have changed the pressure to fit in, to choose a path, to become something and to work out who we are can be frightening and real.
Men on the other hand, have their own stress and worries and for those who are brought up as boys with the social stigma that they must be strong and must not cry and must not show feelings may be more prone to withdrawal or not wanting of help. It may be really hard for a man to ask for help especially from a woman (even if it is not related to health) or accept some truth into the needs of mental health care. I am not a man so I cannot give you a man’s point of view but from a relationship experience I can relate to the concept that a man may have a sense of pride and status for which he sometimes cannot let slide, it maybe the ego. For those in a relationship, the worse thing a woman can do to a man is to mock him, especially if he going through personal struggles and this is even more so if a man has confided his problem to a woman. A man asking for help maybe the hardest thing he will ever face. I say this from experience because I have not actually met a man who does not have some kind of personal struggle. Sometimes, those feelings may come out in anger. For those who have dealt with anger, as harmful as it may be and always safety must come first, the angry are normally the ones who need love and kindness the most. They are human beings with feelings which may be left unexpressed, men are more about actions rather than expression and this is one reason we may have a battle between the sexes. We may easily misunderstand each other.
In some cases problems may be avoided by substituting some type of self – medication, for example, drinking, turning to the bottle to help release that stress at the end of the day but if left untreated that may lead to alcoholism and/or other problems. I am not stating that everyone who reads this blog will fall into any category I have described nor am I trying to stereotype but these struggles I have described, I have seen with my own eyes and through life experience. I can go on and list several more but I hope I have mentioned enough to give you an idea of how life can easily take over. Sometimes it can be a build up of several little things, every day things, that may weigh us down. How easy it is to put on a smile when all we want to do is cry inside. How easy it is to feel unheard or ashamed or guilty or isolated for having any kind of feelings that may push us into this stigma that we are mentally unfit or unstable. How easy it is to feel the peer pressure to be in a way that appears to be acceptable in society. How easy it is to look at social media and see others with perfect bodies or perfect lives or perfect something that we may become jealous or feel inadequate. A mental day should not be a question of mental disorder, it is of knowing that time out to tend to our own well being whether mental, emotional or psychological is needed and required.
The way I see it, the more of us who come forward and request a mental health day, the less uncommon it will appear. If we all are to request such days off we can lessen the social stigma attached to mental health. I believe we have all been through at least one major life event that can cause some kind of temporary set-back, such as grief for the loss of a loved one, divorce, relocating, pressure to perform, loss of employment, bullying, violence, chronic illness, I could go on, but the point is if we are able to take the time out to address the issue with our dignity and respect in tact we are taking one step forward towards a kinder society. By becoming more aware of the why and how a mental illness can develop, we can establish a better network of support and we may be in a greater position to prevent it.
What can you do with a mental health day? Anything you feel you need to do to just realign. If you have been tired or over-worked, maybe a pyjama day and extra sleep is all you need. If you have personal duties you haven’t had time for which is causing you worry, maybe you could attend to them. A day at the spa may give you a chance to relax. A day trip may give you the pleasure of being outside. A day to journal your thoughts may help you gain better clarity. Some yoga or meditation may help you learn how to breathe correctly. I can list many things to do but that would be your personal preference but the main point I need to make is that we should feel we deserve to have this little bit of time out without feeling guilty. It is a part of life and part of growing that we often face struggles and we are certainly not the first and won’t be the last to face them. We owe it to ourselves, as we can only be as good for others as we can be to ourselves.