Mental Health: Surviving Vs. Thriving

As of today (10th May), we are nearly halfway through Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. This year, the aim of the #MHAW17 campaign is to get as many people as possible talking about their mental health, smashing the stigma that still exists around mental health problems. The theme of this year's awareness week is SURVIVING VS. THRIVING. Rather than asking why so many people today experience mental health issues, the campaign instead aims to highlight the difference between surviving and thriving, seeking to understand why the latter is becoming less common in modern society. So, in support of MH Awareness Week, I thought I would explore exactly this theme: am I surviving or thriving?

I've definitely gone through periods in my life where I was simply surviving. One of the worst periods in my life for mental health was during my undergraduate final exams. I was a complete mess. I couldn't sleep, had constant feelings of guilt and failure pervading every moment, I had absolutely no self-worth or self-confidence, and had panic attacks during revision classes to the point where I couldn't breathe. I wasn't thriving. I was just trying to get through the day. And really, that's no way to live your life. However, since then I feel like I am thriving to a far greater extent, all because I've made a few changes to how I perceive things and tackle the bad stuff.

Breathing Space
Have you ever rushed into work, school, or the library and felt totally overwhelmed with everything that you need to do that day when you sit down at your desk? Have you then been completely in a flap for the next 30 minutes trying to do fifteen different jobs at once? A year ago, this was me pretty much every single day. I was so overwhelmed with my mental to-do list that I couldn't do anything properly. But now, when I get in to the library, I will sit down and just breathe for a minute before unpacking my bag. I close my eyes and just focus on the next breath in, and the next breath out. Any thoughts of what I need to do are dismissed. This allows me to collect myself, and when I open my eyes, I am less hyped up and more able to prioritise the most important tasks and get my shit DONE.

Redefining Achievement 
Achieving things makes us happy. For the majority of my life, my self-worth has been very much attached to academic achievement. If I did well, I was content, but if I did not meet my own perfectionist expectations, I'd be utterly devastated. Recently, I have been trying to redefine achievement, basing my self-esteem on things other than the grade on my latest assignment. I now view smaller things as achievements: baking a great cake, writing a blog post that I'm proud of, creating something pretty in my scrapbook. All of these are achievements too, and it's damn time I started being proud of them!

Dealing with Others
Other people exist. And sometimes it feels like they exist purely to bring you down. This can leave you feeling so, so negative. Feelings of hurt, jealousy, and anger mean that we don't thrive in the ways that we'd like. I've let emotions such as this ruin entire days and weeks of my life before, and now I realise that it's just not worth it, especially when you've been hurt by a person who doesn't give you a second thought. Today, I thrive to a far greater extent now because try to be kind to people, and to forgive the bad eggs even if they don't ask for or deserve it.

Self Care
To thrive, you need to look after yourself. This very simple fact has taken me a stupidly long time to learn. I used to just think that it was lazy and self-indulgent to have a bit of me-time and take a bath or read a book for fun. Now I've learned that if I take care of myself, allow myself to have days off or just a lie-in, I'll be much better equipped to tackle the challenges that life throws at me, and to feel content whilst doing so. If you're interested in how I make sure to include self care activities within my daily routine, my Self Care Checklist post is the place to go!

Time to Talk
One of the most beneficial things that I've ever done for my mental health is to talk about it. I don't always talk about mental health openly on my blog, although I do refer to it occasionally, such as in my This Time Next Year post, but talking to trusted friends and family members really does take the weight off your mind. Keeping everything bottled up and just crying when I was on my own meant that I was merely surviving, not thriving. But by talking to others, especially when I'm feeling anxious, I am dealing with my feelings better through verbalising them. If you don't have a trusted confidant in your life but do want to talk to someone, you can contact The Samaritans by email or a free phone call.

 👑 I absolutely deserve to THRIVE, not just survive. And so do you. 👑

I am also tagging a few of my blogger friends in this post, in the hope that they will feel inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week to write a post about Surviving Vs. Thriving. All of these ladies are inspiring MH bloggers and you should definitely check them out:

Are you surviving or thriving? Start a discussion in the comments below, I can't wait to hear from you!

Until next time,

A x