Why talking about how you feel can give you a better 2020
The New Year has begun, but that doesn't mean that the stresses and problems of the last year have magically disappeared. Knowing when to open up and ask for help can be really positive for your mental health.
We’ve asked a mental health nurse to help us tackle some of the most common issues that might affect you at this time of year, inspired by some of the themes in BBC One's A Royal Team Talk. Stars of the pitch, past and present, Danny Rose, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Southgate, talk to the Duke of Cambridge and Dan Walker about how they manage their mental health, why it's important to seek help and how they cope with the ups and downs of life.
Why do we find this time of year so hard?
According to Mental Health Nurse consultant Emma Selby there are emotional and physical factors as well as the pressure we put on ourselves around our hopes for the New Year, that all add to making the New Year a difficult time.
Early in the New Year we can face emotional fatigue as the cost of Christmas takes its toll. Physical factors like long nights, bad food and catching colds also reduce our resilience in this period.
"If I hadn't had someone to speak to I would have struggled"
Talking things through with someone you trust can really help when you are faced with difficult feelings. According to retired footballer Peter Crouch his dad made all the difference when he was working through body image issues and dealing with taunts from fans.
Opening up, like Peter did, isn't easy, so we spoke to Emma for some advice on the best way to do it.
There are different ways to open up, depending on your situation and how comfortable you feel with those around you.
- Internally – open an honest dialogue with yourself acknowledging the feelings you are having. Try keeping a journal
- Externally – find someone you trust to talk to.
The first conversation you have doesn’t have to be an outpouring of everything you are worried about.
Emma suggests starting a conversation over text or while doing an activity such as walking the dog, if you are worried about taking the plunge. You don't have to pour out every single thing that's worrying you in the first conversation. You can build up to talking about things over a period of time.
"I was looking to fall out with anybody"
It’s not always easy to spot if you need help. For Tottenham defender, Danny Rose, depression hit him while he was recovering from a football injury.
Not being able to play and contribute to his team’s success in the league was hard for Danny. Danny explains that he started to withdraw from others and felt angry and irritable, signs that can indicate depression, according to Emma.
Others signs you might need help can include low mood and sadness, low self-esteem, feeling tearful, feeling like you are letting others down and a lack of motivation. There are also physical signs that include lack of energy and disturbed sleep.
Emma suggests that if you have two or more of these signs for a prolonged period of time (two weeks or more) you might want to think about seeking some medical advice.
"You feel helpless"
Leaving school, changing jobs or coming to the end of a relationship can be a very difficult time. It can mean losing your routine, the group of people you are used to and sometimes your sense of purpose. For Gareth Southgate, his very public sacking left him with feelings of failure, and needing to establish a new routine and set of people to identify with.
Change can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we expect it and sometimes, like an injury, we don't. Here's Emma's advice on dealing with change:
- Prepare for the change as best as you can
- Identify your strengths, and the good things about you.
- Think about the positive things that will remain with you after the change
- What are you looking forward to with your change of circumstance?
Grieve for the identity you no longer have and the person you thought you would be. Be kind to yourself and then move on.
- If the change has been sudden, take time to grieve
- Identify key attributes you have
- Think about things you aspire to be
- Think about people you admire and what qualities they have that you could emulate
- Silver linings! Think about all the things previous to the change you didn't like and don't have to deal with anymore!
"Does the circus know you are here?"
Our body can have a physical reaction when a humiliating moment happens, triggering fight or flight mode. Having a mechanism to deal with those feelings in the moment can be useful. Peter Crouch talks about how he uses humour as a way to deflect the taunts he received.
Feeling humiliated is hard. We spoke to Emma about how to deal with those feelings and feeling disappointment. Here are some things that can help:
- Try to stay level headed
- Remember the moment will pass
- Know you don't have to do anything, just breathe, be in the moment and let it happen
- If you can, remove yourself from the situation
- Address the issue after it has passed
- Admit it hurt you and work through those feelings
- Physical activity, such as going for a run, can help
- Take time to reflect afterwards about what happened
You can have a physical reaction to disappointment, like crying or being sick
Reflection after the moment is very useful, Emma explains. There are so many things we can learn when things go wrong. Use this moment as a learning opportunity. After all, as she points out,"the top people have failed more times that you have tried".
I feel like I'm doing all the right things but it's still not helping
If you are really struggling, or have reached out to someone but you feel it hasn't made the difference you hoped, it's ok. However it might be time to ask for professional help.
If you had a physical injury and it wasn't getting better you would seek medical help. Mental health shouldn't be any different.
Emma says "If you had a physical injury like a sprained ankle and you rested it and put ice on it and, if it still wasn’t getting better you would seek medical help. Mental health shouldn’t be any different."
Emma's top tip
Keep a record of what you have tried and let your health professional know. They will really appreciate knowing where you are on your journey. The doctor might then tweak what you are trying or give some more intensive support.