Ashamed? Embarrassed? There’s no need to be!
Have you met Bob? He’s an amazing guy. Bob works so hard, never takes a lunch break, rarely takes all of his annual leave entitlement and he’s always the last one to leave in the evening. Bob never says no to anything- need anything doing ask Bob!
Maybe you know Lucy? She’s one strong woman! She’s a tough negotiator, always in control and nothing gets past her. She juggles so many things and never drops a thing. Lucy is an inspiration!
Sure we all know a Bob or a Lucy and may well look on feeling slightly in awe of them. Their strength, their ability to keep going and to have it all is quite awesome. Yet none of us know what is really going on for Bob or Lucy. Think of it as an iceberg – we see the tip that sticks out of the water, which shows these alleged qualities. We don’t see what lies beneath which may well be something completely different…..
We live in a world where ‘qualities’ such as those described in the characters of Bob and Lucy are seen as admirable. We live in a world when the answer to the question ‘How are you?’ is generally ‘ oh busy, really busy….how are you?’ To which the response is generally ‘oh I am SOOO busy’. Busy is often used as an expression of our own importance, our own worth. If I was rubbish at my job, if I wasn’t the life and soul of the party I would not be in demand and therefore would not be ‘busy’. No, I am successful, I am in control therefore I am ‘busy’.
Given this backdrop, imagine if actually what lurked beneath my own iceberg was something so very different to strength, control and reliability. Imagine if actually what lurked there in the deep, dark waters was bouts of anxiety that had the power to paralyse me, stop me in my tracks and make me want to hide away from the world. Imagine if rather than feeling like the life and soul of the party, I felt lost in my own, isolated world of doom, gloom and despair.
In this fast paced world where success is often defined in terms of a Bob or a Lucy, finding the courage to admit your personal struggle with anxiety, depression and overwhelm can be extremely challenging. Fear of others’ reactions or embarrassment at being perceived to be weak can often go hand in hand with anxiety and depression and so begins this vicious cycle of trying to keep going, trying to mask what really lies beneath and running from the reality of our situation. Surely if we run hard enough and fast enough it will never catch us…..it will.
Instead of continuing to chase the image of ‘success’ that this busy, modern world has created how about we all agree to get real instead? We are (only) human afterall. The real power, strength and wisdom comes in the form of being able to admit ‘I’m feeling a little uncertain’ ‘I’m feeling stressed and anxious’ ‘I’m scared I’m going to drop something’ ‘I’m worried I’m going mad’ ‘My relationships are suffering because I have no energy, I’m not sleeping’ ‘I’m petrified that this is how my life will always be’.
The real power and courage of humanity is in the support of those who express these concerns. Maybe such concerns are ignored or belittled because we can’t bear ‘weakness’ in this world or maybe it’s because actually such words may be a reflection of our own situation; acknowledging them in others somehow means we have to acknowledge them in ourselves and that’s just way too scary!
According to Mind UK, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. There’s a growing body of research to show that mental health is strongly associated with lifestyle factors, things like diet, exercise, self-care, sleep and stress. Worryingly, it appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
Come on folks, let’s get real: there is no place for shame and embarrassment and there’s no place for a society that refuses to acknowledge the reality of the situation.
We feel passionate about good mental health and as a result of our own experiences of poor mental health, have developed a new Wellbeing4Life course. The Health Improvement Programme: Break Free of Overwhelm is a 6-week course which begins on Thursday 6th September. It’s for men and women who recognise that what may lie beneath their own iceberg is not necessarily what is showing at the tip. The course will support you in getting clear about what triggers your own sense of overwhelm and will provide real, meaningful strategies to break free of overwhelm and live life to the full. For more information on the programme please click here.
In the meantime we’d like to leave you a few tips for managing anxiety and overwhelm:
- Free yourself up from shame or embarrassment and talk to a trusted friend about how you are feeling…a problem shared and all that.
- There’s a ton of evidence about the link between a healthy gut and a healthy mind so focus on a diet that is full of good nutrition.
- Move more: Exercise releases endorphins the body’s own feel good chemicals so creates a natural high. Exercise also helps to use up the excess stress hormones like cortisol which anxiety creates.
- Learn to take care of yourself. Self care is not a selfish act, rather the opposite. To be there for others, you first of all have to be there for yourself. Decide what self care looks like for you: it may be a long hot soak in the bath or it may be a walk in nature, half an hour snuggled on the sofa reading a good book or leaving work half an hour early.
- Sleep! Easier said than done right when those anxious thoughts do their very best to keep you from sleep. Practice a good sleep routine: turn phones, computers, TVs off a good hour before you plan to go to bed. Create a clutter free peaceful space that encourages rest and relaxation. Make sure the bedroom is dark. Enjoy a sleep meditation just before you turn in for the night.
We know that anxiety, depression and overwhelm can make you feel alone, isolated and like you are the only one in the world feeling this way: you are not! If this has impacted you in some way please feel free to get in touch, to reach out to a friend or maybe consider joining us on our new HIP programme. We are in this together!