Mental health, like physical health, has no real destination or final outcome. Health is a train ride that passes different stations, takes many turns and changes in direction. The most important aspect of this journey is seeing it from inside the train and observing these continual changes and broken tracks along the way.
By having this overview of your all round health, you will be able to respond and adapt to whatever hand life deals you at any particular time. This concept is quite simple but much harder to implement. Especially, when the demands of everyday life, family, responsibilities, social media and illness pull on all areas of our physical, mental, emotional and social health. It is very easy to get lost or distracted by life demands, checklists and duties. Before you realise it, you are already on the path to physical and mental burnout. This has only been accelerated by the Covid pandemic due to the boundaries between home and work life becoming intertwined and restrictions placed on the opportunities to socialise with others.
As a Physical Education teacher of twenty years and a Head Of Faculty for near ten, this is a situation that I know only too well. Like many educators will know, workload and demands have increased exponentially over the last couple of decades. This is reflected right across society and none more so than in healthcare.
Last October, my own particular journey took an unexpected detour. Having fallen ill in September, I was diagnosed and treated for Lymes disease. A tick borne, bacterial infection that can cause a whole host of physical and mental symptoms. Fortunately, I was treated quickly with a course of antibiotics.
However, the fall out from this illness and treatment has been more complex. I kept working between the October and December holidays only to reach a point of complete physical, mental and emotional burnout by Christmas. My wife and daughter had covid during this time which made our situation more challenging. My wife is still recovering from long covid. I got so caught up in the family-work cycle that I completely neglected my own health needs. I was trying to squeeze everything into much smaller margins. I stopped observing or I simply didn’t give myself permission to turn inwards and address my own needs. At the start of the year I was not in a good place at all. Several visits to the doctors and various different pills have come and gone. Currently, progress is inching forward but I still suffer form a number of issues ranging from insomnia, low mood to anxiety and muscle pain.
In school and life, it is so easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle and we all do our best to get through the ever growing ‘to do’ list. Isn’t it funny how the same list doesn’t include your well-being? Do you get up in the morning and think ‘what is the one thing I am going to do for myself today?’ If not, then maybe that is a good place to start. Granted, it has taken the aftermath of an illness for me to start really prioritising my own health needs. Perhaps, if I hadn’t fallen ill I would still be spinning plates and running on empty.
Start prioritising your own health and well-being from the moment you wake. Schedule time to sit in a quiet place during the day or go out for a walk with a colleague or friend. Spend some time in nature, journal or learn a new skill. I have enjoyed meditation over the past few months. Something I definitely would not have said one year ago. Please, if your are struggling with your mental health reach out to somebody or see your GP. Talking and seeking help is the first step on the road to recovery.
Be kind to yourself and remember by taking some time out each and every day, you are not only recharging your batteries but giving permission to reflect and check in with yourself. This is a habit that I am determined to build as I continue on my journey to better health.