Embracing the Ups and Downs of Mental Health

It's Okay Not to Be Okay: Embracing the Ups and Downs of Mental Health

Oyindamola Shobande

During Mental Health Awareness Month, it's important to ask ourselves: how are we really doing? Remember that time your friend asked how you were doing, and you automatically replied, "Fine," even though inside you were crumbling? We've all been there. Sometimes, we wear a mask of normalcy, hiding our true struggles from the world. But the truth is, experiencing ups and downs is a normal part of the human experience, and this applies to our mental health just as much as our physical well-being. It's time to acknowledge these fluctuations and learn how to manage them constructively.

In this blog post, we'll dive into why it's important to normalise mental health challenges, explore practical strategies for those tough days, and discuss how to find the right support when you need it. Let's start talking openly about mental health because it's okay not to be okay.

Normalising Mental Health Struggles

  • Challenge Stigma: For too long, mental health struggles have been shrouded in shame. We might worry about being judged as "weak" or "crazy." This stigma creates a dangerous barrier, preventing people from reaching out for the help they deserve. Remember, mental health challenges are just as real and valid as physical ailments. They are not character flaws and don't make you less worthy.
  • Mental Health as a Continuum: Think of your mental health as a spectrum, not a static point. Some days, you might feel on top of the world – energised, optimistic, and ready to take on anything. On other days, you might experience sadness, worry, or a general sense of being overwhelmed. These fluctuations are a natural part of the human experience. Just as our physical health varies, so does our emotional and mental well-being.
  • Common Conditions: Many people experience recognisable mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. While everyone's experience is unique, these diagnoses provide a framework for understanding our struggles. Acknowledging these conditions helps us understand that we're not alone and allows us to connect with others who share similar experiences. It's a crucial first step towards finding the right kind of support.

Practical Strategies for Managing Difficult Times

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: When tough emotions hit, it's tempting to push them away or numb ourselves. But the first step towards feeling better is allowing ourselves to feel. Take a moment to name your emotions—are you sad, frustrated, anxious, or overwhelmed? Avoid judging these feelings; simply acknowledge their presence. It might initially feel uncomfortable, but this acceptance is key for moving forward.
  • Self-Care Toolkit Everyone's self-care toolkit looks different. Experiment to find what works for you. Here are ideas to get you started:
    • Mindfulness & Relaxation: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature can help calm your mind and body.
    • Movement: Exercise, even a brisk walk, can release endorphins and boost your mood.
    • Journaling: Writing out your thoughts and feelings provides an outlet and helps you gain clarity.
    • Connection: Reach out to a trusted friend or family member for a listening ear and support.
    • Creativity: Engage in activities you enjoy, whether painting, music, or building something – creative expression can be therapeutic.
  • When to Seek Professional Help: Self-care is incredibly powerful, but sometimes we need additional support. If you're experiencing the following, consider reaching out to a mental health professional:
    • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness that interfere with daily life.
    • Difficulty controlling worry or anxiety.
    • Significant changes in your sleep or appetite.
    • Intrusive thoughts or memories that cause significant distress.
    • Thoughts of harming yourself or others.

Where to Find Support

  • Types of Therapy: Mental health professionals offer a range of therapies to address different needs. Here's a brief overview:
    • Talk Therapy (Individual Counseling): Provides a confidential space to explore your thoughts, feelings, and challenges with a trained therapist.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to mental health difficulties.
    • Group Therapy: Offers support and connection with others facing similar challenges, led by a mental health professional.
    • Other Approaches: Many other effective therapies exist, such as art therapy, mindfulness-based therapies, or family therapy.
  • Online Resources: Reputable websites provide valuable information, resources, and communities centered around mental health:
  • Crisis Hotlines: If you're experiencing a mental health crisis, immediate help is available. Remember, you don't have to face this alone.
    • Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI). Helpline: 08091116264; 09080217555
    • Suicide Prevention Initiative Nigeria (SPIN): 08062106493; 08092106493; 09080217555; 07086000000; 08058820777 – (Toll-free lines)
    • Find a Helpline – This website lists crisis lines worldwide.

Building Resilience

  • Focus on Strengths: It's easy to get caught up in the negatives during difficult times. Take a moment to reflect on your strengths. What have you overcome in the past? What qualities do you possess that help you cope? Maybe you're resourceful, compassionate, or determined. Recognising your strengths serves as a reminder that you have the power to navigate challenges.
  • Reframing Negativity: Our minds can be our own worst critics. Notice when you fall into negative thought patterns like, "I'll never feel better" or "I'm a failure." Gently challenge these thoughts. Are they true? Look for evidence to the contrary. Reframing negativity takes practice but can shift your perspective and make tough times more manageable.
  • The Power of Support Systems: We were never meant to go through life alone. Lean on supportive friends, family members, or mentors who offer encouragement and understanding. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If you don't have that close support network, consider joining an online mental health community or a local support group. Connecting with others who understand your struggles can offer a sense of belonging and validation.

It's Time to Take Action

Throughout this post, we've explored a crucial truth: it's okay not to be okay. Mental health, just like physical health, has its ups and downs. Acknowledging our struggles, rather than pushing them away, is the first step towards healing and growth. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of incredible strength and self-awareness.

While there may be tough days ahead, know that things can and will improve. You have the potential to build resilience, challenge negative thoughts, and find the support you need. The resources and strategies we've discussed here are tools to equip you on that journey.

If you're struggling right now, please take that first courageous step:

  • Reach out to a friend or family member you trust and share how you feel.
  • Explore the resources listed earlier in this post.
  • Engage in a self-care activity that provides you with even a small moment of relief.

You are not alone. Help is available, and you deserve to feel better.

Related Posts:

Celebrating 5 Years of Busha: Reflections from the Co-founder, Users, and Staff
As Busha celebrates its fifth anniversary, it’s a time for celebration and reflection on the journey and accomplishments thus far. In this special blog post, we delve into the insights shared by Michael, the Co-founder and CEO of Busha, and some heartfelt testimonials from some of our users and
A Festival of Colors: How Busha’s End-of-Year Party Went
We kicked off the new year with a bang, hosting our vibrant Festival of Colors-themed end-of-year party at The Amore Gardens in Lekki, Lagos, on January 3, 2024. The lively atmosphere, colourful outfits, and exciting events made it a night to remember. The Festive Theme This year’s theme, Festival
How To Set Financial Goals for 2024
Here is How To Set Financial Goals for 2024: Analyse where you are financially, Set clear goals, and Build a solid financial portfolio and budget