Is mental wellness a full-time job?

Author
Liz

Does anyone else feel like this at the moment?

Last week I experienced one of those days where feeling down was unexpected. Recently I've been focusing on eating healthier, getting outdoors each day, practising yoga and meditation. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I've spent so long in a place of self-criticism and judgement that it is really hard, it takes a lot of mental energy, to learn to rewire your brain.

Is it that lockdown is exacerbating mental health issues that were already there because we all have so much time alone? Or is it that there aren't the usual distractions to keep our minds occupied and away from things we'd rather not think about? Or a combination? Maybe these two circumstances are two sides of the same coin.

Wake up. Make coffee. Mediate. Yoga. Walk. Work. Prepare a healthy lunch. Work. Do something after work. Have a healthy tea. Go to bed. Sleep. And repeat. Sometimes this feels so hard - like it’s a chore rather than self-care. Self-care isn't just taking a bath or buying something nice to cheer you up. It's a mindset and a way of living that isn't as easy as it its name would suggest. Sometimes the energy to take care of myself just isn't there -I've been dropping the ball the last week or so and am feeling the effects of that now. And I think it shouldn’t feel this hard to care for yourself right?

I recently worked with a life coach which was truly liberating. I was like - 'I can forgive myself?' 'I deserve to be happy and healthy?' Really? These seemingly simple and obvious statements are so loaded though. Whatever reasons each person has for their limiting beliefs, we, as human beings, are engineered to endure suffering to some extent. I learned that whatever I've done in the past that made (sometimes still makes) me feel unworthy and undeserving wasn't that bad, especially after saying those reasons out loud. But I have also learned that it really does take daily dedication to believe in yourself and that those limiting beliefs are not necessarily gone, but lying dormant, and are now trying to shout louder than my better judgement.

The world we live in is so structured to prioritise material possessions, what you have that others don't and vice versa, and using monetary wealth as a measure of success that so much has been lost that can enrich our lives, particularly in the west. Those that historically embraced eastern philosophies and practices were labelled hippies or new-agers, perhaps a reflection of the Cold War-era particularly in the 60s and 70s (that would be interesting research!). Was it a way of demonising the east in the minds of middle-America, middle-England etc? The 'othering' of the east is certainly a recurring trope in the UK - a way of differentiating between 'civilised' white society and the savage barbarians of the lands we were colonising.(1) I would argue that it was the west that lost out. Hugely.

I started reading The Yoga Student Handbook recently, and a couple of paragraphs into the book I felt like the authors were writing down my own thoughts!

Excerpt from the Yoga Student Handbook edited by Sian O'Neill

Anyway, I guess that was a bit of a segue but came to mind. The short version being, we can learn a lot from the practices of yoga and other eastern philosophies. Some of it may seem way out there or totally not applicable, but that doesn’t mean there is not wisdom and learning we can take from them to integrate into our own lives in ways that work for each of us. But I suppose because a lot of these concepts are so different from our culture, embedding certain practices can feel very difficult, requiring a lot of mental energy, but ultimately worth it. Writing from a place of feeling useless, hopeless, undeserving, I can say with absolute certainty that it is worth the effort! 

  1. Edward Said, Orientalism