The theme for this year’s mental health awareness week is kindness, and in light of that I want to talk about the importance of feeling supported when you’re experiencing mental health issues.
The Mental Health Foundation chose this theme because “kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.”
The research has shown that “millions of UK adults have felt panicked, afraid and unprepared because of the coronavirus pandemic” and I’m sure the sentiment is the same across most of the world.
Friendships and kindness
When I thought of what kindness means to me related to mental health, I thought of my network of friends. I also remembered that throughout these 2 years of uncertainty I have felt incredibly supported, and that has really helped me get through it. Previously I wrote a blog post on finding the people who understand you, and today I want to dig deeper into that.
In my experience feeling supported is incredible, empowering, and it gives you strength. That’s why it’s so important you’re able to feel supported, particularly when things go a bit pear shaped. Relationships are a cornerstone of good mental health, which is why we need to nurture them and recognize them as such.
Building friendships and supporting each other is also relatively “easy” in the sense that it’s free and should already be accessible to you as the majority of us have a group of friends. We’re also already generally kind with one another, or so I would hope. 😉
How to support one another
Below are a few thoughts on how your friends can help you feel supported, and what you can do too.
- Friends help you through tough times. Your closest friends are there to help you when you struggle. Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses to them, cry, and ask for help. I don’t mean “be a victim”, I just mean you should feel able to be honest and use them as a support network when you need it.
- Your network and friends should be your champions. When you believe in something, are making a decision, or taking a stand, they should be right there behind you cheering. It’s so empowering to feel supported in your decisions, particularly the difficult ones. When I decided to quit my job, I can’t tell you how helpful it was to have people encourage me as I took this scary decision.
- Accept compliments from your friends. Compliments are confidence boosting, and it’s your friends’ way of showing you support. When someone tells you you’re strong, fearless, an inspiration, brave, or whatever other nice things they have to say about you, learn to accept it. Sure it can feel a little awkward at first, but it will serve you well in moments of self-doubt, or when your morale drops. This is part of your support network.
- Accept help when you need it. It can be anything from someone doing groceries for you, helping you move, picking up your kids or delivering something to your parents. These may seem like small things but these acts of kindness are what make a good friendship. They can also help to relieve pressure if you feel like you have too much to do, or just help you feel like someone’s got your back. I’m notoriously bad at asking for help, but when I accept it I feel so relieved.
- Do nice things for one another. It could be a surprise, sending presents, postcards, baking a cake, buying a coffee… I get a lot of joy from giving people presents because I enjoy watching them open them and be surprised. Just writing about it is making me smile. Doing nice things for one another will make you happier, once again contributing to good mental health and making you feel loved.
- Pay it forward. Of course one of the best things you can do which will also make you feel happier is to pay it forward. Help others feel supported by showing up for them when they need it, and doing any or all of the above for them. Like that, you are also contributing to others feeling supported.
If you do an act of kindness, try writing it down. Later, look back on all the acts of kindness you did and see how it makes you feel to remember them.
As mentioned in my previous blog post and the Sanctus podcast, building meaningful friendships and relationships is key to good mental health. Particularly now, make sure you have a good network and look out for those around you. Is there anyone you know who might be a bit isolated? Reach out to them.
Feel like you might need support from someone outside your close circle?