Why you should talk about your mental health (and how to do it properly)
For just a few seconds, think about: climate change, social media, economic and political crises, the current pandemic, relationships, the store is out of your favorite product, living becomes less and less affordable, you fight with your loved ones over stupid things. Heavy, right? But even the less heavy things happening around us have a saying over you, overall. Small, medium or big, your everyday thoughts and actions are experiences that impact your physical and mental health.
If you can treat a headache with a pill, an unspoken emotion will just duplicate itself in your mind. Emotions are processed slower and they can be more intense than physical pain, and the one method that we can deal with them is to talk about them. If we don’t do this, they just pile up inside of us — that’s why we have those anger bursts, for example. We should talk about our thoughts and emotions as we think and feel them, not once a year or once at several years.
Here is why you should talk about your mental health
It helps you deal with your emotions. “I don’t know what I’m feeling” or “I don’t know why I’m feeling this” are common phrases we use that demonstrate our inability to talk about our mental health. Trying to verbalize what you are feeling is the first step in understanding your emotions. I know, it’s not easy doing it — it isn’t something that we are teached in school, nor are there many environments free of judgement where we can do this. Unfortunately, it is (still) your job to find the place where you can share what you’re going through — it can be a journal, a friend, a family member, a website or on social media. Whichever you choose, be mindful that talking about your mental health should help you deal with your emotions without adding any negative ones.
It helps others open up. You’re not alone in what you’re feeling! But how can you know this, if you don’t share what you are feeling? This circle goes for every single one of us: “I don’t communicate what I’m going through because the fear of *insert your poison*, but also because I didn’t hear anybody talking about this.” “You want to see change in the world, start with yourself”, one saying goes, and it can’t get more true when talking about mental health. Once you share your things, others will do it too. You will not feel alone in what you’re feeling, ever again.
It helps raise awareness. Mental health is still a taboo topic in families, about friends, and especially among workplaces. It shouldn’t be. “I have a headache”, “I didn’t sleep well last night”, “My stomach hurts” — you say all these with such ease, whenever they happen. Why should it be hard to open up about their reasoning as well? “I have a headache because I fought with my mother, and I felt unappreciated”. “I didn’t sleep well last night — I dreamed badly because of my anxiety”. These are all normal feelings for everyone and it should be normal to share this. Of course, this doesn’t mean to go screaming on the street about them (unless it’s a scheduled protest/march), but the least you can do when asked “How are you?” is to reply truthfully, instead of the meaningless “I’m fine, you?”.
It helps break down stereotypes. You can be a student, a starting professional or the CEO of a big organization — titles aren’t a shield for mental health difficulties. Sharing what you’re going through mentally won’t make you less good at your work or in your personal life. Others may have the instinct of treating you, at first, like a porcelain vase, but soon they’ll see how strong you’ve become due to sharing your struggles.
How to talk about your mental health
Don’t blame others. Instead of saying “x did that and I am feeling this”, try to deep-dive in your feelings alone. Find out what triggered that feeling and when you experienced it first. Others can’t make you feel in any way — it is always something within us that allows or doesn’t allow us to experience a certain feeling or emotion. You control you.
Don’t throw intense words in other people’s faces. Remember, you talking about this can be a trigger for someone who isn’t ready to deal with his own problems.
Find your channels. Enjoy writing? Think of a journal, a blog or social media (be careful of the latter). Enjoy talking? Schedule calls with friends, family members or self-record yourself. Are you more of an artist? Paint, draw, sing your pain away.
Find your voice of tone. What is that best suits you: a mellow, indignant, resentful, understanding or activist tone of voice? Or a combination of these? There is no right or wrong here. The most important thing is that you find your own voice, because it’s your own mental health you’re talking about.
Research, but pay attention to the source of what you’re reading. Oh, the internet is full of MD information, but this doesn’t mean that all of it is good. Most probably, you won’t resist the instinct of googling what you are feeling, but keep in mind to filter the data you find. Avoid reading shady websites and go to trustful sources (like WHO).
Talk to you like you talk to a friend that you want to hold accountable. Self-pity never helped anyone, so take the empathy & accountability road. Talking about your mental health is just the first step in living a better life. So, after you empathize with yourself, think of solutions. What can make you feel better? What can you do next time you’re feeling such emotion?