Mental health is often something brushed aside as unimportant or trivial—a friend once shared with me her experience at A&E when she was feeling extremely down and depressed, how the over-concerned hospital staff tried to prep-talk her out of her suicidal thoughts, only to make her feel worse. And having been through postnatal depression myself this year (after the physical and emotional stress of having three unplanned kids!), I decided to set up this discussion panel.
Think about it; when you are mentally unsound, it affects your decision-making. We have read horror stories of people dying of stress, and of Mums succumbing to postnatal depression. I have experienced it twice, when I had the uncontrollable urge to just grab my kids with me and jump off the top floor of my block, or attempt to create an ‘accidental’ drowning. I thank the angels that I never acted on these suicidal thoughts to bring harm to others around me.
Contrary to popular belief, depression, postnatal or not, is not as easy to ‘snap out of’ as people think. “It’s a bit like walking down a long, dark corridor never knowing when the light will go on”, shares Neil Lennon, former professional football player and current manager of Bolton Wanderers. It is definitelynot a call for attention. If anything, saying “Well, everyone gets depressed sometimes!” will send your depressed friend even further down the dark pit he/she is already struggling to get out of.
As a parent, the blood, sweat and tears will always be worth it, but it does not mean parenthood is always easy. Working, doing household chores, caring for the children, teaching them academics and moral education…. Parents have really got a lot on their plate! And most of the time, we need help! Every time we fly, we hear the announcement, “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” It is not too much to ask that your own needs be met first. After all, a happy parent is better able to influence a positive atmosphere about his/her children.
Depression is like cancer. It is not going to go away by itself. But we can learn ways to manage and cope with it. Attending support groups and therapy is a good start; it was here that I learnt about Mindfulness and its benefits.
“The application of mindfulness is used in a wide range of situations, such as parenting training, in schools, for anxiety treatment, as a relapse for depression, for anger management, for the treatment of trauma, psoriasis and certain forms of cancer, and for the improvement of the immune system which has positive outcomes for patients suffering from HIV, ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), MS, eating disorders, and addictions—the list goes on and on!” (Dr Patrizia Collard, author of Journey into Mindfulness). In today’s society, it is getting increasingly difficult to simply ‘enjoy the moment’ because we are busy multi-tasking, just so we can accomplish a few more things. Mindfulness is about living ‘in the moment’, and here, perfectly phrased by Jon Kabat-Zinn (a molecular biologist), it is about:
in the present moment, and
This is a skill that takes practice, but it is an inexpensive, effective, and ‘doable’ intervention in our stress-filled lives. And the more we do it, the better we get.
Learn to ‘switch off’
When you practise mindfulness, you begin to live moment by moment; you see and feel everything afresh—without judgement and worry; you experience life rather than simply getting through it.
If you have the luxury of time, you can do formal mindfulness practices such as yoga, Tai Chi or Zen meditation. One hour of meditation is better than 10 minutes, but 5 minutes a day is better than none at all!
One beautiful thing about mindfulness is that you can practise it anytime, anywhere, and with any activity. You can zip through it in under 30 seconds, or stretch it out into a 30-minute formal meditation practice.
Remember, it is about living in the moment, so give it a try the next time you have your shower:
·Notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body and then gurgles down the drain
·Notice the temperature of the water, and how it feels in your hair, on your shoulders, and when it runs down your legs
·Notice the smell of your soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin
·Notice the movement of your arms as you scrub or shampoo yourself
·Notice the water droplets on the walls or the shower screen, and the water dripping off your body
When you first start out, you may notice your attention will wander; you will notice the lovely smell of your body wash, and then suddenly remember you need to head to the store to buy deodorant. Each time you realize you are losing focus, acknowledge your thoughts, note what distracted you, and then bring your attention back to your mindfulness activity.
Next, we will learn the Mindful S.T.O.P. But if you can’t wait for the next post, why not attend this talk on 24 February 2016? Silvia Wetherall, psychotherapist and founder of Mindful Mums and parenting app MumRadar, will hold an hour-long talk on “Handling Anger”, complete with practical exercises. The sub-topics include:
How thoughts breed anger
Tips for staying calm and centred
Have you ever tried mindfulness? How has it helped you? Click here to join the discussion.
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