As you will know if you read my blog regularly, health and fitness have always played an active part in my life, but have become increasingly important over the last few years. I’ve become more aware of how a healthy mind can influence your overall well-being and how we can support that by what we eat, how we behave and what we do.
As someone recently pointed out to me there’s also another important aspect which may get neglected over time and that’s our hearts! This may seem so simple to many of you, but it’s something which I have definitely neglected over recent years due to my tendency to put others first.
As it’s National Self Care week this week I thought it might be a good time to talk about my own experience of not looking after myself, how those around you and their actions can have such a long-lasting effect on the health of your head and mind!
For anyone that has cared or supported someone with any kind of mental health condition you will know how exhausting it can be, but as a carer of any degree, you tell yourself that it’s not you that’s ill so all the effort goes into supporting the person affected.
Because of my character to ‘look after’ and the sheer nature of how depression effects someone over time my needs and wants became less important, and I know now that I didn’t look after the health of my heart.
Now, when I say the health of my heart, I obviously don’t mean physically, I mean your needs/wants/loves etc. You know all the things that you want from life!
It’s a difficult thing to really describe to anyone that hasn’t been there, but if someone that you love is sick in any way, obviously your natural instinct is to want to fix them, but anyone that has a basic level of understanding of mental health knows that the only person that can do the fixing is the person going through it. yes, I know, hindsight is an amazing thing!
I think it’s incredible that mental health has been finally talked about more freely in recent years and I really hope that it helps those that are suffering, but I also hope it helps to relieve some of the pressure on those that are supporting friends/family through the illness.
I know for sure that I didn’t have the support I needed through that time and because the subject was always such a secret the responsibility of support came to me.
If there’s one lesson I can learn from supporting others is that without looking after your own health you are no good for anyone, and it will only have a detrimental effect on your own well being.
I recently read this article by Helen Wiggins, Carers Development Officer at South West Yorkshire Partnership, NHS Foundation Trust, which provides some great advice for all carers whatever their role.
On a personal level, many of my friends seem to now talk much more openly about the challenges they face beyond that of physical conditions. The added media focus mental health has received over the past few years has had a positive effect, but we still have a long way to go to move away from the ridiculous methods of the past which seemed to focus more on brushing problems under the carpet and hoping they wouldn’t raise their heads again, which they obviously do, usually tenfold!
For the younger generation, I hope that these stigmas are a thing of the past and there is greater awareness of all aspects of health, not just things that are obvious to the naked eye.