On Being the Safe Place to Land
To recognise the importance of Mental Helath Awareness week, our blog this week is presented by Una, our iRest Meditation Teacher.
Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week here in NZ. And it seems, on the whole, that we are becoming more attuned to the increase of anxiety and depression so many of us are now experiencing, either first-hand or as a friend or family member. In fact, as I write this, I can immediately think of at least two people who recently found the struggle too much to bear: Anthony Bourdain and Greg Boyed. And I am both sad and grateful to them. In death they have brought more attention to this issue. They make us pause and consider our own lives and what we might do differently to support those in such severe distress that taking their own life seems the only way out from under.
The stats certainly do shed light on the staggering reality of our mental health issue - (and I say “our” because it’s not just a matter of telling those struggling to deal with it, but a question of how we all come together to meet this issue.) In NZ, there is an alarming increase in the number of suicides, with 660 people killing themselves in 2016/17. And this number is on a steady yearly rise. To put these stats into perspective - the Ministry of Health reports that, amongst Maori men, only heart attacks and lung cancer caused more death than suicide. For non-Maori men, suicide is only superseded by heart attack as the leading cause of death.
Seriously, there are more men taking their own lives because of psychological distress than dying from stroke, car accidents and diabetes. And although women may not suicide as often as men, they are more likely to experience, and therefore be living with, anxiety and depression than their male counterparts. The Mental Health Foundation reports that, “These disorders [not a word I would choose] are in fact the leading cause of health loss amongst women in NZ.”
But the real question here is, what do we, as a community, do about all this? How do we actually meet those people that we share our living rooms and offices with? Those people feeling desperately overwhelmed that we share a classroom with? Our own children, friends and partners?
Many people, through no fault of their own, (maybe even the majority of people) simply do not know how to help and really be there for those feeling overwhelmed in life. If we’re honest, we might realise we don’t necessarily know how to be there for our own selves, how to meet our own thoughts and emotions. So if this is you, you are not alone. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable and we just want all this to go away, or for that friend to get over it. Or maybe we just don’t know what to say, so we offer solutions like “You have so much to be grateful for.” Or, “Go outside and get some fresh air. That will make you feel better.” Not having experienced such states of distress, we may not have an understanding that approaches the life experience of those who do. And as human beings, we generally want what seems bad, negative, or uncomfortable to go away. This is human nature in action. But we can learn to respond in a more compassionately powerful way.
I regularly see people in iRest meditation sessions that are dealing with acute or chronic stress. This is what I know from both my mindfulness-based work with anxiety and depression, and my personal experience living with them: trying to push away the uncomfortable only serves to make it grow into a stronger presence in your life, just like adding fuel to the proverbial fire. And that fuel is emotionally expensive for all involved. It’s exhausting to pretend nothing is wrong, or to live in a state of war with ourselves.
Trying to hide from, refuse, bury, or paint a positive picture over what you are experiencing is psychologically and emotionally costly. Anxiety and depression (and the beliefs behind them) need to be seen, heard and connected to, just like the people in our lives who deal with them do.
So here are some real-life ways to become the safe landing place for the people in your life who may be in pain, and the emotions and beliefs that you yourself might be feeling outdone by:
Mental health is everyone’s responsibility - not just the ones who are suffering. The way we speak to ourselves and others, the way we fully meet (or fail to meet) what, in this present moment, is making itself known, is the difference between thriving and suffering. Let’s stop aspiring to just being happy every moment of our lives and realise that happiness is only really possible because of the pain that exists in contrast to it. Life is not always black or white, there is an awful lot of grey in the mix too. And that’s not just normal, this is how we live in harmony with life itself. There is pure perfection in all our imperfections as well.
iRest Meditation Teacher
When we had our son the Centre had been going for just under a year. I was already connected with fellow acupuncturists and through my work I knew osteopaths, massage therapists and homeopaths that I trusted.
Thinking about health, looking after myself and others was a part of my life already.... and it was surprise to me how stressful it could be to look after this new little being, make the right choices for him and for me. It took me a while to realise it's not about always trying to find the “right choices”, it's about making the choices that felt right to me. That might just sound like semantics, but for me it was a bit of an epiphany.
Seven and a bit years into being a mum and it is easier. I've learnt a lot about myself and my family. A decent night's sleep and a bit of alone time is a good solution for most things. Sometimes I feel like I've 'got it' and then there are the times when it feels overwhelming....and that's when I look around for a little guidance.
My current 'go tos' are very different to when we had a baby. Back then it was more about the practicalities for keeping him alive. My copy of the La Leche book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is very well worn as a result of many late night readings whilst breastfeeding. The Space programe run by Playcentre was a life changer. I met two of my closest friends in this parenting journey there, as well as learning a lot about how my baby was going to grow and change. These days I turn to Nurturing Little Souls blog written by local mum Julie Louisson and Growth Mindset information and resources by Big Life Journal.
If you'd interested to find out a bit about how we work with new families here at the Centre, check out our Support for new families page.
And if you are a mum or dad reading this, know that you are doing a great job!
love, Claire xx
Mum, acupuncturist and business owner
This month we are running a fun treasure hunt around our new website. Have a browse through and see if you can find 3 out of the 6 golden hearts that I’ve hidden. Click the gold heart to find out its name and as a bonus I’ve popped a special little quote to brighten your day and lighten your heart – for full details go to Treasure Hunt page.
I like a good laugh like most, but by nature I am quite a serious soul. So taking things with a lighter note has been a conscious decision. Over the last few years it’s become increasingly important to me that when I do something, like build a new website for the business, that it feels good.
A lot of people were involved with making this website - all 14 wonderful practitioners in our team, a truly lovely photographer who really helped us all shine, an amazing duo PR team who had me in stitches frequently whilst giving sage, solid advice and helped edit the copy... plus my husband and me.
It wasn’t always easy – I frequently got frustrated with how long things took because I could already see it in my head....why wasn’t it here already?! – and somewhere during the process I did learn how to take a breath, step back and have fun with work.
This is not a new idea I know. I read a few online articles whilst I was thinking about this blog and this was one that spoke to me https://chopra.com/articles/6-reasons-why-laughter-is-the-best-medicine. My favourite quote is
“Your ability to laugh can be cultivated with practice so start by prioritizing fun.”
I hope you have fun looking around! And if you find yourself smiling in the process, take that smile and share it.
Love Claire x