Last week I talked about managing uncertainty by sitting with it. This week I want to think about a different skill which I think is more important than ever in these times. In the time I’ve been working in mental health there has certainly been a shift in public and media attitudes. There is now much more awareness about looking after ourselves and keeping ourselves mentally healthy. People prioritise going to the gym, know to make sure they sleep enough and talk about what they can do to give themselves a break. This is really amazing progress and whilst we still have a long way to go challenging the stigma about mental health, this does feel like a positive step. However in this focus on the self and on staying well I fear we’ve missed a vital piece of the puzzle.
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”
If we start from the purely selfish point of view, then we can still make an argument about being kind. The scientific evidence shows us that people who help others feel happier themselves. So if you’re trying to do something to improve your mental health, do something for others. Win-Win.
I’m used to working in a profession helping others and I take immeasurable comfort from that. But still, at the start of this pandemic I have to admit there were times when I felt a bit at sea. Then, in early march, just when the fear was mounting and we really didn’t quite know what was going to happen, but it felt bad, another psychologist posted that she was offering free therapy to hospital workers and added the quote “when you feel helpless, help others”. For me this was really helpful guidance and focused my mind on how I could use the skills I have for good. I started making webinars to put out on you tube about how to manage the anxiety we were experiencing. (see this one for children and this one for adults (longer version) or (shorter version) as a start). It didn’t make the situation less scary. But it did give me something to focus on. And it gave me real pleasure to see how many people watched the webinars (3.4k and counting!) and hear the comments from people that they were helpful. I was grateful for them. It helped give me an anchor when so much was changing and things felt difficult. I’m certain it had a positive impact on my mental health.
So, whilst we live in this situation of uncertainty, whilst things try to carry on as normal, in a year that’s not been very normal, whilst we’re adapting our lives to masks and distancing and rules of 6 or one household or shielding or isolating, let’s get in touch with something that helps us and others. There are skills that you have that you could share. There are things you could do that could be helpful. It doesn’t have to be big, grand gestures. It could be something small, just a little act of kindness. Thank the person in the supermarket. Wish the postman/woman a nice day. Drop something off for the food bank, give your time to a project done over the internet, call a friend, post something nice on insta/shapchat/facebook/twitter. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind, but it can do you the power of good.