Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place 9 – 15th May, and this year’s theme is Loneliness. One in four adults have openly admitted that they feel lonely, and fear and isolation have affected both young and old alike. Never has there been a more appropriate topic to tackle as loneliness has now reached epidemic proportions, fuelled by the pandemic. We therefore need to find ways to re-emerge from the darkness, and venture, eyes blinking, into the light.
All of us may feel lonely, at various, different stages in our lives, and it is important to note that loneliness is very different from being alone. People who are lonely frequently admit to feeling so when they are amongst friends and family, and at social gatherings. It bears no relation to how many people you see daily; it is more intrinsically linked to life events or how you view yourself/situation. The following may apply:
- Moving to a new school/new area
- Experiencing a bereavement
- A significant life change/health issue
- Feeling ‘left behind’: getting older and outliving friends
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); comparing ourselves to others
- Lack of confidence and lack of self esteem
- Losing interest in our physical health
- Bottling up our emotions
The best way to tackle loneliness is to reconnect. When you are lacking in confidence, and your self esteem is low, it isn’t the easiest thing to do, but you need to ask yourself, what am I good at? What activities do I enjoy? This could range from meeting people who share similar experiences or share similar interests. Gloucestershire Libraries can help. Our groups are now returning and there are plenty of avenues to explore. Remember, you are not alone and attempting to connect is the first step to feeling better. Two excellent titles which encourage us to reconnect and join in are the following:
Together: Loneliness, Health and What Happens When We Find Reconnection by Vivek Hallegre Murthy
Our society is more technologically connected than ever before, and yet, Vivek Hallegre Murthy, a former Surgeon General during the Obama administration, observed that isolation and loneliness were on the rise. This excellent read demonstrates how loneliness can feed anxiety and depression.
'Brilliantly diagnoses what ails us in our personal lives and in society, and offers a prescription for enriching each other's lives - and our own.' - Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.
The Art of Showing Up by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
Rachel Wilkerson Miller demonstrates how we can improve our self-esteem, resulting in becoming more empathetic with our friends and family. A great self help book which encourages us to be kind.
Recognising the Signs
When things start spiralling downwards, we very often, Ostrich-like, ignore the signs and become more withdrawn. We think we are alone and feel reluctant to talk about our problems. The following books help us realise that we are human, and, as such, do need and deserve support:
The Mind Medic: Your 5 Senses Guide to Leading a Calmer, Happier Life by Dr Sarah Vohra
Modern life is overwhelming, and Dr Sarah Vohra teaches us to recognise when we need to slow down. Techniques using our five senses help us to attain the right balance. A life-changing book!
No Such Thing as Normal by Bryony Gordon
Bryony Gordon puts things in perspective. 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues, so it is not unusual. This brilliant read is both accessible and uplifting.
Looking After Ourselves – The Fundamentals
It goes without saying, that looking after ourselves physically is interlinked with taking care of our mental health, too. Unhappiness very often encourages us to disregard our physical health and wellbeing, including eating sensibly and getting enough sleep. Two books which address these needs are the following:
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This is a fundamental area we neglect – but at our cost. Sleep scientist, Matthew Walker, emphasises the importance of this little known activity.
Happy Cooking: Easy Uplifting Meals and Comforting Treats by Candice Brown
Candice Brown has experienced tough times, and this beautifully illustrated book encourages us to take up cooking, an absorbing hobby with a healthy dimension, and not feel guilty about having comforting treats.
Nature is Healing!
Do you know that fresh air is now on prescription? Many GPS are recognising the benefits of the outdoor life and are prescribing outdoor activities for those who are experiencing anxiety and low mood. This is something that the residents of Denmark have known for years, and they encourage this at an early age with their Forest Schools. Two great reads which encourage us to immerse ourselves in nature are the following:
Into Green: everyday ways to find and lose yourself in nature by Rose Ray
This beautifully presented book encourages us to venture out and become creative. Lots of lovely ideas. A project book with purpose, helping us to feel ‘grounded’.
The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim
Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk, teaches us the beneficial art of mindfulness, putting life’s stresses and strains in context so that they do not mushroom out of control. A brilliant book to restore much needed balance.
Positive thinking is essential if we are to navigate life’s ups and downs. We need to ‘own’ failure and put it down to experience. Who better to lead us than an elite, ex- SAS soldier:
Zero Negativity: The Power of Positive Thinking by Ant Middleton
Ant Middleton shares some of his life experiences and reveals what he has learned. When failure comes knocking, we need to embrace it, not blame others, and learn from our mistakes. Life is never all plain sailing. An inspirational read!
You are not Alone
Life may get tough, and we may sometimes feel we are alone in our despair, but others have trod that path, and we are lucky to view their footprints via life-affirming memoirs. Here are two powerful reads which encourage us to be resilient:
I am an Island by Tamsin Calidas
This compelling read has so many key ingredients: heartbreak; redemption; the healing quality of nature. It will encourage us to empathise and put our own troubles in perspective. If you enjoyed The Salt Path, this will have you spellbound!
The Marmalade Diaries: the true story of an odd couple by Ben Aitken
Let’s end on a very positive note. This new arrival is attracting much attention because of its feel-good factor, and quite rightly so. Winnie, 84, has recently been widowed and is looking for companionship and help with chores, and Ben, 31, is looking for a new housemate. They are thrown together during Lockdown, and an unlikely, lasting friendship ensues. A lovely memoir which emphasises the rewarding aspects of inter-generational friendship. A truly uplifting read! Why not check it out?