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Emotional health, you're so not alone

Mental / emotional health feels like a continually increasing pandemic effecting most of us. I believe we have all experienced it at one time or another and it can hit us at any age, often at any moment. Some of us don’t even know we‘re struggling despite common symptoms we put down to stress or work load. To us, many believe we’re on top of it regardless of how family and friends perceive things. It can often feel quite overwhelming when you know something isn’t quite right. For many, you’re not sure where to start or even how to start unravelling this overpowering cloud of panic. Having experienced this myself, and having missed a period of my life lost in my own woods, I’d like to share my own tool box with the hope that I can help others overcome any mental / emotional bleeps they may be encountering.

Firstly understand that mental health is an illness not an attitude. Though some may judge you for not participating or wanting to contribute, it is important for them to understand it’s not for being lazy or stubborn.
Under stress, trauma, loss, abuse or even lifestyle, the brain adapts causing a change in certain brain chemicals (Serotonin and Dopamine). Both Serotonin and Dopamine help regulate many bodily functions including sleep, memory, metabolism, moods & emotional well being. It’s the depletion of these two ‘happy hormones’ that can make your outlook appear bleak, inducing low moods and general lack of interest to help or save yourself. This can affect you even on the simplest of daily chores making it FEEL impossible to face or deal with.

For me it was a revelation to know that my brain was playing tricks with me. It was comforting to understand that my brain was distorting my outlook which in turn was effecting my decisions and energy levels. Mindful of the depletion of my 'happy hormones', I was able to identify myself as a passenger to my 'runaway chemically distorted brain', thus take on the job to commandeer my life back and get some happy rations back on board (contra to what my brain was still telling me!).

Running and exercise was always the thing for me. It seemed to turn negatives into positives. Oddly the more anxious I was, the fitter and stronger I became. The fitter and stronger I became, the more positive endorphins raged through my blood stream which in turn reduced my stress, warded off my anxiety and depressive feelings, it improved my sleep and boosted my ‘I can do this’ survival ability.

Exercise may not be a solution though. My running could be deemed that I’m ‘running away’ instead of staying put and dealing with the problem. It’s for those reasons why I would recommend adding these to your emotional health utility belt:

1. Be around positive people, steer away from negative influences as they can pull you back under.
2. Don’t overwhelm the brain. Limit yourself at first to coping with a handful of things to do a day, albeit only 1 thing a day providing you can look back and tell yourself – I did it.
3. Connect with an old hobby or learn something new. Finding something you enjoy can prove easier on the brain than something that triggers you back to square 1.
4. Talk openly about it to others, you’d be surprised how many people share a similar story or have experienced it in the past. It's very comforting to know you’re by far not alone.
5. Visit your GP, they deal with this regularly. They can advise counselling, coping strategies and other options including medication.

For me, accepting medication was a big day for me. And despite medication being seen as more of a mask than a cure, I’d say… 'sometimes in life you need a splint, a vehicle to help carry you forward'. Medication can help regenerate your happy hormone factory providing you are re-installing a happier environment around you, as I strongly believe the best cure will always be your surroundings and what you are exposed to.

My theory

I believe something as high as 60% of people have had or are living with a form of mental / emotional illness. My belief is that the other 40% are simply in denial!! In my own unique (now very healthy, fighting fit and eyes wide open) mind, often the catalyst to the 60% of us dealing with emotional health is due to the other 40% failing to recognise their own symptoms which in turn creates an eternal paradox of stress, resent, and unhappiness. We should be looking out for each other more than looking after ourselves. We need to be more open and be willing to communicate and appreciate that we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we have. If you have a friend that appears to be sinking into an emotional void, do something good for them. Take them for a run, a walk, a pint, send them a text, anything can make a real difference. That moment of support could be all it takes to keep them from falling. Chances being that one day when you may experience tricky times, they may be the one who digs you out of that rut too!

If you have or believe you may be experiencing some form of emotional road bump, I'm fully onboard to shoot the breeze to either listen or talk with you at any time. Being a huge advocate of 'better out than in', just an organic 60 minute chat can often be the greatest catalyst to help you get you on your way. 

Big love folks, we’re all in it together!

Mitchell Phillips
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