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Let’s get personal for Mental Health Awareness Week

Let’s get personal for Mental Health Awareness Week

So as some of you know, many of you won’t…both my parents were diagnosed with cancer years ago. A battle we since thought had been conquered. This year however, has been a stressful one. Just when you think you have overcome one challenge, life throws another curveball straight at you. The point of this post is to show that although life on social media can seem perfect and positive, life can get stressful too, and it’s ok to talk.

MY STRESS STORY

What a year this has been for curveballs. Ahead of Zack & I jetting off to Singapore for our second wedding, my Nana was already ill in hospital and my dad had been told that his cancer had returned worse than before. You can imagine the struggle I had with myself, knowing that I was heading off to have fun and leaving my family to deal with this. Unfortunately the worst happened, my Nana passed while we were in Singapore. While my mum, who had moved back to the UK to look after her (while not feeling well herself), also getting her diagnosis of the return and spread of her cancer. March was undoubtedly a month of huge highs and huge lows for me. Knowing that I’d left my mum in the UK to deal with this by herself was heart-wrenching and stress levels were at an all time high.

THE STRESS STATS

This year for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 the focus is on stress. Research has shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this. While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it can affect us in so many ways mentally and physically. It can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, leading to depression, anxiety, self-harm and in the worst-case suicide. Continuous stress can also lead to physical health problems such as sleep and memory being affected, eating habits changing, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems. Although stress can be caused by many different issues, 36% of all adults who reported stress in 2017 cited either their own or a relative’s long-term health condition as a factor. This is why it’s important we talk.

IT’S OK TO FEEL STRESS

In the situation of health conditions it can sometimes be hard to talk to each other as you want to show strength for the person you love, and they want to show strength for you. And then when it comes to talking to others about it, I almost feel like some sort of fraud – it’s not my body that is going through this, I don’t feel the pain that they are feeling, how do I have the right to be emotional and seek empathy from others? But that is the point of Mental Health Awareness, that it is ok to talk no matter why you may need to.

There’s still a part of me that feels like, Well, it didn’t happen to you, did it? You’re fine. This isn’t your story to tell. But in reality it is something that causes me stress and that I should talk about. It is important for each of us affected by this to embrace and understand our feelings, they are valid. The key is knowing how to let yourself process those feelings and deal with them without them controlling your life.

IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK

There is a horrible stress of feeling useless and guilty when a loved one has a serious health issue. I have beat myself up for not having more disposable income at this point of my life so I could help them with private treatment, or take them on a holiday to make them feel better. I have been angry at myself for being so powerless at not being able to help the people who looked after me my whole life. I have been upset at the world for being so advanced in so many areas – yet so many people still suffer from this horrible disease. Trust me, I have felt all the emotions attached to loved ones being sick with you, and it’s ok to talk about it.

WHAT HAS HELPED ME

I am a very busy person with a completely erratic schedule. It is very easy for me to keep distracted and not think about, or process what is happening. I noticed I would never want to be in quiet places because that would mean thinking. I distracted myself with the radio in the car or with the TV at home, never giving myself a chance to process the situation because that would stop be being strong for my loved ones. That doesn’t help in the long run, it stopped me being present in moments with the people I loved. We have to validate our own feelings. Allowing yourself the time to sit and feel your emotions, even if that does mean having a cry, is OK. If you can give yourself half and hour each week with silence, to truly sit and feel your emotions. It will help. Then focus your thoughts on what you can do to help – how you can have a positive impact on your loved ones lives?

POSITIVITY

What I do also want to say is that through everything, my mum has been an unbelievable pillar of light, love and strength. She has been a beacon of positivity through these six years and I sometimes can’t believe that someone who has had to deal with so much can still have such a positive impact on other people’s lives. It’s important we also focus on the positives in our lives, don’t let the negative thoughts rule you. If they do pop in to your head, speak to someone.

For now, let’s make it ok to talk about stress, even if we feel we shouldn’t. You can read fully on how stress can impact our bodies mentally and physically HERE to help understand why it is so important we talk to each other. Let a friend know how are you are feeling and let them be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or simply someone who makes you laugh and brings some happiness to your day. If you are a friend reading this who knows someone who may be feeling this stress, reach out to them and show them some love, they may not know how to share their feelings with you.

Sending love to you all.

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Hayley X

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