Identifying feelings for better mental health

by Andy Youings July 08, 2017

Identifying feelings for better mental health

As part of bringing the benefits of journaling for mental health and wellbeing into the spotlight, we are dedicating our blog posts over the next six weeks to exploring the different ways that writing can be used as an aid to help deal with many different areas of mental health. In the past, talking about such topics has always come with certain stigmas, with many people feeling it was an issue not to be talked about in public. Thankfully things are starting to change with much greater awareness and more willingness to talk about the issues.

 

Let’s get it out in the open

The more society has started to talk openly about these issues (and with the help of social media) it is becoming increasingly common for people to share stories, feelings and show how they feel. What’s more, it has helped people to understand they are not alone and aren’t the only ones suffering what is sometimes termed as an invisible illness. Just because it can’t be seen, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or cause any less impact on our lives than when we break an arm and need to wear a cast. Once the cast comes off then people know we are better, but it’s easier to mask mental illness and as a result it may take longer to heal than a broken bone. Talking about these issues is an amazing way to raise awareness. Equally, writing can be used not only to raise awareness but also to express, rationalise and communicate feelings on mental health issues. Over the coming weeks we want to share a few simple tips and techniques we believe can help with many areas of mental health. Whatever walk of life you’re from, we hope there’s something of value.

 

Identification is the first step

For our first article we wanted to look at how identifying and rationalising thoughts could be a great way of dealing with issues that could be affecting daily life, both personal and professional. It’s often said that bottling up emotions isn’t positive and we believe that many who have experienced this will agree. Keeping things inside can easily take its toll on mental and physical health so the key is to do something about it. It’s tempting to gather these thoughts together and put them to the back of our mind but things can still affect us subconsciously; sleep and eating patterns may change or our attitude towards things that usually hold real interest may lose passion.

In the beginning, it can be difficult to express and come to terms with why we feel the way we do, because we don’t always know or understand the reasons. In most cases we’re unlikely to pinpoint why we feel a certain way and this can be incredibly hard for those around us to understand. Quite simply, there is no rhyme or reason so things might vary without explanation from one day to the next. Writing things down and sharing them with our family and friends is a great way to express how we feel without being constantly asked. This could be as simple as keeping a selection of written cards to explain; anything from “I can’t talk right now’” to simply “I just need a hug.”

 

Getting things into focus

Letting everything build up can sometimes lead to small issues feeling much bigger than they really are. So, here’s a simple exercise to help us understand and rationalise our thoughts and anxieties:

  • When there’s a build-up of feelings it can be tricky to pinpoint what the significant issues are. But if we don’t know what they are it’s even harder to deal with them. We start by writing down 5-10 things that are bothering us, then placing these in order of those we feel are affecting us the most. Seeing things on paper makes it much easier to deal with each issue and keep track of progress towards resolving them.
  • Now that our anxieties are down on paper it will be easier to break them down, making them seem much more manageable. Under each issue try and identify five things that are causing it to become a worry. For example, worries around losing a job may lead to anxiety about how it might affect finances, relationships, personal goals, etc. Identifying and rationalising our thoughts is about understanding how we think about things so that we can see our issues in a much clearer way. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, just find a blank page in a journal or notebook to brainstorm and get everything down on paper. Make a list, create a table or scribble a mind map…whatever works for you.
  • Having identified the issues, it’s then much easier to determine what to do about them. We might even conclude that some of the things we were worrying about aren’t so bad after all, whereas others would benefit from some attention. Whether we choose to action each problem or not, we are still making decisions about the issues we are facing. This is a big step and helps us feel we have gained back some control over our feelings.

 

Feel reassured by moving forward

Once these steps have been taken it’s also important we don’t let ourselves doubt the conclusions we’ve reached. By doing something to tackle the issues we are facing we are taking a step forward and this is something to be proud of. And although it may not feel like it at the time, there are many other people tackling very similar issues in their day-to-day lives and this exercise is about helping to reason with our thoughts. It’s also important to remember that it’s not necessary to share our journal entries with anyone else if we don’t want to. By having somewhere to express and work out our thoughts we can start to make progress; and having it written down can really help communicate how we feel when we are ready to talk to someone else.

We hope these techniques are helpful and would love to hear your feedback if you give it a try. And while this is always a sensitive subject, if you’d like to share your own experiences and advice on how writing and journaling has helped you, we’d really love to hear them. We truly believe that sharing experiences is one of the best ways to help each other.

Please submit your stories to hello@saynicethings.com and we’ll get in touch to say Hi.


Andy Youings
Andy Youings

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