Friday, 26 August 2016

Psychological armour

The most important takeaway from this blog

I am not really sure how to start this blog, I want to be as honest as possible, but emotionally I might find that a little tough. My favourite quote at the moment, is a micky take from a Desiree song, ‘life, oh life’ because life is funny, fickle and yet fantastic. However, I do have a strong belief that the people around you dictate whether life is fun, fickle or fantastic. The people around you enable you to stay true to yourself and be the best you can be, a bit like in my previous blog where I said ultimately your partner should bring out the best in you, the same can be said of your friends, colleagues and basically anyone you choose to associate yourself with.

A very simple piece of advice on the face of it, but how do you identify that in others? Also, how do you find the strength, courage and independence to stay true to finding in others everything you wish to be? Loneliness can be misleading as can low self-esteem, which we can all suffer from time to time. We can chase the wrong things, start ‘acting’ out and ultimately causing yourself some serious mental damage as you clash and clatter with your core values.

Living against the grain of who you are is not healthy and focusing on first world material objects causes a tumultuous tirade of negative thoughts. We are naturally hard wired to be kind, that’s how societies were developed and that’s why we have the word ‘culture’, we came together to work together to feed each other, to shelter each other, clothe each other and protect each other. It is the core of what makes us happy and what helps make us resilient. Yet, as a first world we are losing this, notice I stated ‘first world’.

We focus on the negative, we allow a small moment in our day, a tiny molecule of our life to ruin a week… a month or even a year. We focus and obsess over it, I am not criticising this (hence the we)… It’s a first world problem we have created by focusing on the wrong things. The promotion, the new car, the new house, the new iPad, the amazing body... and even when we achieve it, it is not enough and it creates anxiety and depression. We have created, as a society, our own plethora of mental health issues. We can even be guilty of belittling our fellow humanoid who is struggling with depression/anxiety by not acknowledging it is a very real problem. A problem we have created through the way we live.

Don’t believe me? There are small villages in third world countries, with no bed, no shelter, no water… Who have no idea what suicide is! They literally cannot comprehend that someone would take their own life because they are unhappy, when they are fighting so hard to survive. They obviously don’t have a bureau of statistics in these tiny villages, but they estimate 1 in 85 people have a mental illness. Absorb that fact – no water, no shelter… Not even a bed to sleep in. Now compare this to Australia, 1 in 4 adolescents have a mental illness and scarily 1 in 7 primary school kids. Absorb that too.

I am not belittling these issues at all, the reason I am talking about it, is mainly because I have just been through an episode of my own battle. Do you know what the hardest thing for me to do was? Admit it. Why? Because of the stigma attached to it. I functioned, I operated and I got up every day going through the motions – that was literally what I was doing, I was acting but inside I was falling to pieces and a darkness descended upon me and there was no escape. I gave myself a very hard time over this – the self-talk I gave myself was horrible. Which leads to another thing we do not do anymore – be present – aka meditation, turning off our thoughts. We are absorbing 50 times more information per day than we were 20 years ago, that is insane and our brains are constantly absorbing, translating and interpreting what we see and hear. We put ourselves under so much pressure, yet we would not speak to our friends the way we talk to ourselves. I would never belittle a mental illness to a friend, and yet I have to myself in my own head for months!

Think about it… Years ago, before smart phones… I used to walk to the bus stop and I just walked... Sometimes I would listen to my Walkman… But I just walked. Imagine that, totally present and just walking. We don’t really do that anymore, in fact, how many of you are reading this now as you’re sitting on a train or walking along? Again, I’m not criticising, I love technology but sometimes we need to switch off.

We also need to stop focusing on the negative, stop focusing on what we have materialistically and wanting the next best thing. We need to be grateful for what we have right now. My darkness descended from not being where I think I should be and putting pressure on myself, undue pressure and I lost sight of the usual things I am very happy with: My friends, my experiences, my music, exercise and laughing - genuine laughter from genuine human interactions.

Every day we should stop and think of the following three things:
  1. What was the best thing that happened to me today?
  2. Who am I most grateful for today and why?
  3. What am I looking forward to most about tomorrow?

I am just passing this on from a presentation I attended called The Resilience Project, you should look it up. If you can get your work, school or a group of you to book it – you absolutely should. Even if you are currently dancing on air, you never know when a traumatic event can hit your usual happy state and you need to mentally be at your most resilient. Hugh van Cuylenburg is an awesome speaker… I cannot recommend enough. 

I am not trying to be all dancing on air and OTT with isn’t life great, because sometimes it is genuinely shit. Sometimes life is unfair, but don’t ever, EVER, let that feeling escalate to the point that you no longer want to experience it. Because, my goodness, there are some amazing things that suddenly come along and they literally come from nowhere. When those things happen then you realise why you were on the path you were, again that is so clich├ęd but you don’t realise how true it is until something comes along that blows your socks off. It is really worth staggering through the tough times, and how you stagger through is as I explained above, (it has been proved by science with data and everything.) you need to build your resilience, or a psychological armour if you will. So to emphasise how you do this – gratitude: ask those three questions listed above every day, mindfulness: meditate and stop your negative self-talk, and finally, empathy: do something nice for someone else – think of other people.

I say this quite often to my friends, because I want there to be absolutely no doubt in their minds that I don’t care how trivial they think something is: if it is 3am in the morning and they need someone, then they call me. No problem is too small, any problem should be shared and you should always feel like you can call. All of your friends would say that to you, always remember that and never feel alone. It's ok to say you're not ok.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author. 

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