If you don’t already know May is Mental Health Month. One of my clients reached out and asked if I wanted to participate in a campaign she dubbed #31daystowellness where she asks us to post a picture of ourselves, our family, friends, workout group, etc. engaging in a healthy and productive activity or task that shows we are embracing wellness. (You can read her entire blog post about the call for social media mental health advocacy by clicking here.) While I believe there was an emphasis on showcasing the importance between mind-body connection of mental wellness, my own practice of doing yoga, and walking, (accidentally walked a 5k over the weekend) cleared my inner chatterbox enough for me to realize that I was to really work on self-compassion for the month.
In one of my favorite go-to self-love resources “Madly In Love with Me” for the sake of a clear enough definition we can wrap our heads around: Self-compassion coupled with self-forgiveness is the choice to open your heart and be a loving witness to yourself, without judgment, by sending yourself waves of kindness, understanding, and forgiveness that touch, heal, and transform your imperfections, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and humanness through the presence of your unconditional love.
Really simple, but far from easy. After all, if it were easy we’d all be doing it. If it were easy, Brené Brown, Ph.D. and the other social science researchers she admires and references would not have to write book after book about shame resilience and vulnerability which is a call for…you guessed it, Compassion!
And so when I think about two very common cases of mental health issues, depression and anxiety,( I put those two together because nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.) I wonder how much more we could have prevented a case of malaise that spiraled into a deep melancholy and sadness, or kept the changes in our thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors from transforming into a major depressive disorder (MDD) or diagnosable anxiety disorder if we showed ourselves unconditional love and compassion; if we received it from others instead of shame, blame, bullying, discrimination, manipulation, etc.
Is compassion the end all be all? Of course not! I’m well aware that there are way too many factors that contribute to being diagnosed with mental health disorders. However, just like awareness campaigns are helping to fight stigma by exposing more people to hard-cold stats so they could get to a place where they no longer deny that people are hurting, that the suicide rate in 2014 was 13.0 per 100,000 population…activation campaigns are in order too. I know I’m not the only one thinking ok what happens after awareness? How do we create change? What is a starting point for action? Well, why not start with compassion? But you see it’s hard to give what you do not have. It’s hard to give what you are not empathetic to within yourself.
If you yourself can’t move past your short-comings, the kind we ALL experience, if you are extremely hard and critical of yourself (I know I am), if you yourself don’t believe you are worthy just ‘cause, and not because of accolades and accomplishments, or how nice you are to the little old lady down the street, it will be all too easy for you to ask why people don’t just “get over it and move on”. It will be all too easy to treat a person you call “friend” like they are the gum on the bottom of your shoe when they have the nerve to be imperfectly human, or the gall to ask you to treat them with respect and care, it will be all too easy to say that what someone is experiencing is because that’s what those people experience, those “others” not people like you…
So while this particular awareness month is coming to an end, the journey to becoming more aware, more loving and compassionate towards ourselves and others continues on.
Until Next Time…Peace!
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