If you’ve followed me over the past few years, by now you might have followed bits and pieces of my mental health journey too. It all started with my blog post “living with anxiety“, and since then I’ve gone on to share more via YouTube. Below is a summary:
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.”
As you may know, it’s always been a goal of mine to break down the stigma around mental health and encourage people to have more open conversations about it. That’s one of the main reasons I continue to share my experience, to help encourage others to open up about their own difficulties.
Now with COVID19 we are going through a public health crisis, but it’s also going to become a mental health one. That’s why it’s so important for us to have mental health conversations.
Most of Europe and the rest of the world has spent at least a month if not longer in various forms of lockdown. From not being allowed out without permission to partial confinement, our reality has changed a lot due to COVID19. With that, we are facing the new reality of spending a lot of time alone, and the implications for our mental health.
This blog post had been in my bank of ideas for a while, and now seems like a fitting time to write it. In case you’re reading this years later or have been living under a rock, right now we’re in the middle of the corona virus crisis. Corona what? Basically, a “flu like” virus that’s gone rogue and is causing havoc (don’t quote me on that scientific description). For a humorous interpretation see the below (in French)
But back to serious business, we are now collectively going through a time of uncertainty. And that can be scary, so what can you do to deal with it?
A few months ago I wrote a blog post called “Reflections on dance and mental health”. I wanted to explore the connection between our minds and our creative process as dancers (or artists). It wasn’t per se connected to mental health, except that I really believe the two are very closely linked, impacting our ability to feel “free”. Whether that’s free in our personal or professional lives or in other roles we play… That was the connection I was seeking to understand.
If you’re suffering from a moment of self-doubt, or feeling anxious and depressed, how does it affect your creative process? In my case: how is my mind controlling me when I dance? I decided to explore this topic further, looking more closely at “freestyle dance” (you could also call it improvisation) because I struggled with it for a long time, and only recently started feeling comfortable. I decided to go beyond my own experience, sending out a survey to other dancers and here we are.
You better grab a drink and some snacks because it’s going to be a long read.
Je ne vous cache pas que rédiger un post comme celui-ci en français me semblait une tâche bien difficile… Pour le coup il faudra m’excuser si le français n’est pas toujours bon ou semble un peu anglais parce-que bon, traductrice n’est pas mon métier…
Il y a quelques mois je rédigeais (en anglais) un premier blog sur la thématique de la danse et “le mental” ou notre état d’esprit, notre bien être psychologique. Mon but était d’explorer le lien entre nos pensées et notre processus créatif en tant que danseurs(euses) (ou artistes). Je partais du principe que les deux sont étroitement liés et que ça avait un effet sur notre capacité à nous sentir “libres”. Que ce soit libre dans notre vie professionnelle, personnelle, ou dans d’autres rôles que nous jouons, c’était le rapport que je cherchais à comprendre.
Si on est pris d’un moment de doute, qu’on se sent angoissé ou déprimé, quel est l’effet sur notre processus créatif? Et dans mon cas: comment est-ce que mes pensées me contrôlent lorsque je danse? Je voulais explorer le sujet plus en profondeur, et en particulier en rapport avec la danse freestyle (ou improvisation). J’ai longtemps eu du mal à me sentir à l’aise, et c’est depuis peu que j’y prends plaisir. J’ai donc décidé de faire appel à d’autres personnes en créant un questionnaire, et nous voici.
Je vous conseille de sortir l’apéro (ou préparer le café) car ça va être long!
Today I want to share another chapter of my mental health journey. This one happened towards the beginning so it was still early days and I didn’t know how to deal with this type of situation. Not to mention that nothing like this had ever happened to me before so of course, novel territory on all accounts.
As I sit here writing on a Saturday morning of March 2020, it feels like we’re really living in a strange world, or strange times. And I say this, as I am trying to ignore what’s happening “in the rest of the world”. I just spent 20 minutes dancing to disco music in my kitchen and that definitely lifted my spirits.
Still, I felt the need to write a short blog post because our mental health is going to be (if not already) impacted by the events, and we have to take care of ourselves and each other.
When it comes to good mental health, hopefully by now you know the importance of looking after yourself. This will look different for everyone, but I believe it’s a key element to staying on top of your sanity and being able to give your best in all areas of life. But as I was having conversations with friends and family over Christmas the question dawned upon me: is me-time selfish? Spoiler alert! In my opinion: absolutely not. Me-time is of utmost importance and is practically sacred.
Not a day goes by that we don’t hear the word resilience mentioned in some context. So what is it? Often it’s linked to the concept of recovering or bouncing back from setbacks. You might think of people going through incredible hardship and coming out the other side, or athletes going through an injury and coming back to compete.
While I certainly think this is part of the definition, I also find it a bit narrow. We all know life has ups and downs, and for some these are more extreme than for others.
Back in November 2019 I attended the Women in Tech Regatta and was inspired by several of the talks I attended. One of them was around “Integrating career and parenthood” and as I was sitting there, I felt that it touched upon some of the tensions we face in the workplace when battling with our mental health regardless of whether we are parents or not.
This got me thinking of the work-life balance again, and how we can create work environments that are favourable to managing the different roles we have in life.
There’s a lot of information out there about burnout, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? What is the message being sent to you from your mind and body when you burn out?
We can talk a lot about the circumstances that lead to burnout and in fact it’s easy to blame others, particularly employers. They overwork us, they don’t see us for who we are, etc. etc. But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves what the burnout was trying to tell us. This is something we don’t talk about so often, and yet it’s crucial if we want to be better able to understand and prevent burnout.
With the ushering in of a new decade, naturally I started thinking about what I had accomplished in the past 10 years. There were many different things and it seemed more sensible to break it down into categories, which is when I thought of the last decade purely in terms of mental health.
What happened, and what has it represented to me? I wanted to take the time to reflect and put “pen to paper”. After all, “That’s mental” wasn’t born out of thin air.
Welcome to my new blog and platform, “That’s mental”.
For those of you who may not know, the name is a play on words. Often people will say “That’s mental!!” and it can either mean really cool or super crazy and weird… I chose it because I like the fact that it can be both, and of course the reference to “mental” for “mental health”.