It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I’ve been so excited to see all the shares and activity around this year’s theme – Kindness. Mental health is at the fore now more than ever because our world has changed in the midst of the pandemic and we are conscious of the way that the lockdown, isolation and social distancing are affecting us and our mental health. I welcome the increased awareness because in general, I believe that we should be thinking and talking about mental health more than we do.
This week we will all remember Kindness. We’ll put it at the forefront. We’ll write about it and talk about it and do many grand gestures and random acts of kindness. But what about next week and the next week, and the week after that?
I’ve been thinking about that, and my solution is to take a Valentine’s Day approach to Mental Health Awareness. I read back that sentence and it sounded crazy even to me the person who wrote it – but please let me explain.
I love Valentine’s Day. I know there are people who say “It’s a made up corporate holiday! Don’t give in!” – but I don’t care. For Valentine’s Day I go all out. My house looks like love exploded. Heart shaped balloons and cookies are always involved, and there are gifts and gestures and a lot of love. But here’s the important bit. On Feb 15 once the day has passed, I don’t suddenly stop showing and telling the people I love that I love them. I continue to do it throughout the year in smaller, less pink and red, yet equally meaningful ways.
And so I’m not saying we shouldn’t use this week to promote the awareness of mental health, mental health issues and kindness. We absolutely should. There’s a list being circulated of 50 random acts of kindness in honour of the week. Let’s do all 50 of them … and maybe a couple more for good measure. A big yes from me to all the grand gestures, all the virtual check ins and all the hashtags.
However, in addition to all of that good stuff, I hope that as we reflect on mental health, we spend time thinking about how to keep it and kindness at the forefront of our collective consciousness when this week is over.
My suggestion is that we each choose 2 things that we can do to promote mental health that are sustainable over the rest of the year: 1 thing for ourselves and our own mental health and 1 thing for others.
In the spirit of sharing, my commitment to myself is to go for a walk every day. This is something I’ve been doing since the lockdown started. I go really early in the morning because I love the quiet. Everything is still and beautiful. It helps me relax, and focus at the same time. It’s when I think my best thoughts. That little walk sets the tone for the rest of my day and I realised quite early on that when I skip it, I don’t feel as mentally resilient. My daily walk is something small and sustainable that I can do for my own mental health.
For others, my simple plan is to be more deliberate with my check-ins, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. In my first days of motherhood I remember getting a text message from a friend asking how I was. And I replied to give a little update about the babies and the reply came back: “Yes. But how are you? Honestly.” I still remember how I felt in that moment – valued and cared for and loved. My commitment is to do that for others. I commit to regularly asking the people I care about how they are, really wanting to know the answer and taking the time to find out more.