I’m on a packed train down to Cornwall with my son to go and visit his granny for the week. We’re in holiday mode, getting into relax time, and the countryside is whizzing past us as we speed down to Truro. He’s on the iPad, playing a throwing game. I was thinking I’d pick up a book when I got to Granny Susan’s house, as often what you take with you is not what you feel like reading. The only book I have with me is a book on product design – not what I fancy reading, too work orientated to occupy me on the train. So while my son is entertained with his throwing game, I have my inner resources, my thoughts, and my laptop.
It got me thinking on mental health on holiday. Of course rest is essential for our mental health. We need to rest and recoup ourselves, it’s part of self care. Sometimes however, we take with us the wrong ‘book’ or toolkit of resources to rest and protect our mental health. I sat on the train just now for an hour before picking up my laptop, breathing and being in the moment. It’s been a hectic few months and I don’t feel like I’ve taken the chance to rest much. I let my thoughts run, and when I noticed them, I returned to my breath and the moment. I listened to the conversations of people around me. Someone said that since their accident they’d been having trouble writing with their right hand, and they were going to learn to write with their left. That too seemed like a metaphor for where I’m at and holidays. By doing something unfamiliar, you can draw on a different part of your brain and you may just surprise yourself. You can come to conclusions on holiday that are a fresh take on your everyday life.
It’s all down, really, to what you take with you and what you leave behind. You bring with you a suitcase – ours is unnecessarily big in anticipation of the massive Lego present that Granny has bought – and you bring with you a mental suitcase too. You may have decided before you go to edit your mental suitcase, you may have brought it stuffed with everything you need or think you will need, you may have brought presents or things to leave behind, you may have left room in it for new things to bring home.
It is a magical alchemy a holiday, one where you set off with hopes and expectation and return older, wiser and hopefully refreshed. I am bringing with me my mental health toolkit, which I’ve picked up over this year. The first thing in my toolkit is mindfulness – I try to meditate each day and it’s been slipping lately. Just to breathe. The second thing is gratitude – remembering our blessings. Again a thing I need to remind myself of this week. And the third thing is journalling – telling my story on Mental Snapp in video diary form, writing as I am now. The thing about journalling is that it represents one of our fundamental human needs, the wish to understand, and to be understood.
I hope that I can understand and be understood in my close relationships. When I’m not, it makes me feel disconnected and at sea. By journalling, at least I can connect, understand and be understood by myself. That need for human connection is profound, even if it is just learning to be your own best friend. We are gathering users on Mental Snapp apace at the moment, and there is a common thread of the things that they say about using video diaries to manage your mental health – universally they say that it helps them to feel kinder to themselves. That of all things is an important attitude shift, and one that isn’t easy to do when you are managing your mental health. Managing your mental health is something that you do each day, every day, and, just as when someone else treats you with kindness each day every day, when you do it to yourself, that relationship you have with yourself can grow and flourish. That’s what I need to do this week, to look after myself and to treat myself with kindness. So those are the tools in my mental health toolkit, which is nestled at the heart of heart of my suitcase.
So in my suitcase I hope I’ve packed resilience, positivity, and a sense of adventure. I hope that I can leave behind tiredness, resentment and discontentedness. I hope I can pick up while I’m away a renewed energy, optimism and curiosity, remembering to stay in the moment and keep that sense of enjoying the journey. If I can fit them in my suitcase to take home along with that massive box of Lego, it will be a holiday well spent.
Happy holidays everyone and look after your mental health.
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Also published on Medium.