Today, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, along with individuals and communities across NSW, will bring celebrations for Mental Health Month to a close for 2016.
However, it’s important for us to remember that every day, every week and every month we should prioritise our mental health and wellbeing.
For Mental Health Month this year we were encouraged to ‘Learn and Grow’ – learn about mental health, learn about our own thoughts and feelings and take action to grow towards maintaining our wellbeing.
Something we recognise as being an important part of this theme is how we learn and grow from life situations, in particular the challenges that come with transitions and change.
Life transitions are difficult and are often risky periods for poorer mental health.
We often think about transitions in terms of age-specific social changes – a child starting school for the first time, a young person transitioning from primary school to high school, a young adult leaving the education environment to get their first job, or perhaps an older person preparing for retirement.
Transitions can also occur because of life circumstances – changing a job, moving to a different location, experiencing a long-term relationship break-up or entering parenthood for the first time.
While all of these scenarios may be different, each can come with a sense of fearfulness about the future and lead to someone reflecting on who they are and who they want to be.
But it is how we get through situations of change and learn from our experiences that will help support our wellbeing and become more resilient for when the next transition comes along.
For the final day of Mental Health Month we’d like to share some tips developed by our team for anyone who is transitioning to a new life stage, or experiencing a sudden or planned change, to help you ‘Learn and Grow’:
Recognise that it is OK to have a range of feelings about the change. It is normal to feel sad, angry, frustrated, confused, fearful or overwhelmed.
Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to feel and function at a less-than-optimal level for a period of time.
Look after yourself. Eating well, sleeping well and exercising means you will have more energy to cope with emotions.
Don’t feel you need to go through the change alone. Sharing your feelings with family and friends, or those that have been through similar experiences can be helpful. Sometimes the act of verbalising how you feel can be a relief.
Keep routines and add in things you enjoy. It is important not to spend all of your time focusing on the change. Keep regular activities and plan things you can look forward to.
Reframe how you are feeling about the change. While through every transition there will be something that you lose, there will also be opportunities that you gain. Focus more on the things you can change rather than the things you can’t change.