After the year(s) we have had, mental health awareness has never been so high up on the agenda. People that may have never needed to know, or never really had it on their radar will surely, at some point during this pandemic have either had difficulties with their own mental health, or know someone who has. It’s talked about on national news, notable people and celebrities have shared their own struggles, and the term is thrown around in parliament on a regular basis.
It's almost like a script; we know the words, we can recite the things we are meant to say but do we actually practice what we preach? Do we take the time to ‘check in’ with ourselves and do we ask ourselves whether we have any time? Despite all the media and perceived awareness, if feels to me that a lot of us only seek help when it’s gone wrong.
The Theme of Nature
For this year’s mental health awareness week, the theme is nature. Very fitting, when nature has served many of us as some sort of saviour throughout the pandemic.
Nature can act as a cure and also a preventative measure, which is what I would like to focus on in this blog. Rather than focusing on when your mental health takes a dive, I want to look at how we can maintain our mental health in a world where we may be constantly stretched and stressed as well as how nature can help us and how technology can support this. I hope this can help me learn too!
This is especially important for the people I support via the helpline. Teachers and the children’s workforce have surely had one of the most trying experiences of the pandemic; as if the professions aren’t stressful enough! On one hand, we have a lot of people facing burn-out, trying to navigate new online platforms and still provide a decent education, coupled with a pretty full-on return to “normality”. On the other hand, swathes of workers who have felt a real sense of unproductiveness not being able to fully support the young people they work with.
What can I do every day to help maintain good mental health?
- Get out - Sometimes it’s the last thing you want to do but that is the thing you need to do most. Self-love and care is not all about pamper nights and face packs, sometimes it’s forcing yourself out in the mizzle, getting soggy socks but feeling accomplished when you get back home. For days when you have the time, you can look for interesting walks in your area.
- Look for something new - When out on your daily constitutional, find something new in nature or something you don’t know the name for. There are loads of apps out there to help.
- Take note of what is around you - Even in the most urban of settings, there are signs of natural life everywhere. Marvel at the weeds growing out of a wall (how do they do it!?). Personally I’m quite invested in the fights between the birds in my garden, sometimes the resident squirrel also gets involved! I might even join in ‘the big garden birdwatch’
- Forage - There is something so basic and satisfying with the process of finding an edible plant, picking, and making it into something delicious. I started to dabble in this last year and found some really helpful groups on Facebook. This time of year, there should be plenty of wild garlic or three-cornered leeks about, both can be used in lots of dishes or whipped into a butter for the ultimate garlic bread! Use your app to identify, check in your FB group and use the internet to find recipes
- Grow - even if all you have is a window sile, grab some seeds from your local supermarket and see how It goes. This year I grew runner beans and seeing them sprout was a proud moment, I made life! Find out more here
You might be thinking, “that’s all well and good, but I don’t have the time”. I’m telling you to make the time, I’m giving you the permission you need. You simply cannot be the best teacher for your students and school community if you yourself are exhausted. If that means leaving a bit of admin for the next day or making that call a bit later than planned, do it. I hope after having gone through this all together, we can all be a little more understanding of each other’s needs.
If you need someone to talk to go to;