Mental Health Awareness Week 13 - 19 May 2019
13 - 19 May is Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 and this year's theme is Body Image and how we think and feel about our bodies. We asked two Portsmouth graduates Hannah Morton and Rebecca Hill, who advocate for mental health awareness, to talk to us about tips for managing mental health. Hannah and Rebecca were also happy to share their experiences with body image and how this has affected them.
I’m a mental health campaigner, a Time to Change champion and mental health blogger. I struggle with depression and anxiety and although was first diagnosed in 2017, I have struggled since my mid-teens.
In my final year of university, I nearly dropped out due to my mental health but was able to get support and therefore able to continue with my studies and graduate.
I almost dropped out of university due to my mental health, but eventually made the decision to defer a year before coming back with better head space and completing my degree.
I’m now working towards becoming a mental health first aider and am a big advocate of It’s OK not to be OK.
TIPS FOR BODY IMAGE AND MENTAL HEALTH:
Show yourself some gratitude: Instead of judging your body for how it looks, think about everything it allows you to do. This is just as true with your mental health. Instead of judging yourself what you haven’t done, remember everything you have achieved.
Be kind to yourself: You may have heard the phrase ‘It’s okay to not be okay’ and reminding yourself of that is just as important as other people knowing. Show yourself the compassion you would show to others, take the time out you need and don’t judge yourself for needing it or for feeling a particular way. It often helps to think of what you would say to someone else if they felt like this.
Talk: Though it may seem like a simple and obvious idea, when you’re struggling with your mental health talking to others about it can feel impossible. However when you can get past the feelings of shame and fear of how others will react, this can be such a beneficial tool. Talking about how you’re feeling and struggling can lift a weight off yourself, as well as being a first step to getting the support you need.
Prioritise your mental health: If you had a broken arm, your first stop would be a doctor or the hospital. You and your mental health deserve just as much care.
I’ve never been someone that has been entirely comfortable in my own skin. At age seven I began having to wear glasses which, coupled with braces in high school and my generally introverted nature, did not help my self confidence in how I looked, particularly when you have the schoolyard taunts of ‘speccy four eyes’ and’ metal mouth’ thrown in.
As I’ve got older my self confidence has boosted, however it tends to be a bit of a paradox. I am someone that likes to be unique and likes to think I don’t care what others think about how I look and often I truly don’t. On the flip side though I will not leave the house without makeup on and will agonise over what to wear. In summer, this is even worse.
Swimwear and shorts are not my friends, I will judge the size of my thighs and stomach and feel like a whale, when I’m actually a generally average weight and size but not when compared to models we so often see in advertising.
All of this does not help my mental health because I am judging myself so harshly already, never mind how I think others are judging me just for how I look, things can easily spiral. When my anxiety has been at it’s highest, I would hear people laughing on the street and immediately think it was about me. I have been almost paralysed in my room because I can’t find something to wear.
I recently discovered Body Posi Panda aka Megan Jayne Crabbe and love her inspirational messages of making peace with your body and would recommend anyone struggling with body image to check her out. I’m slowly moving to a place of accepting my body, after all as long as I’m healthy, physically and mentally, it doesn’t matter how I look.
Our society’s media is filled to the brim with images of what we ‘should’ look like and then how to finally become that magazine profile. So it’s not really a surprise that body image is something that everyone struggles with at one point or another. For me, even when I was younger despite being physically active I was the bigger kid, something that was definitely pointed out by those around me. So my self esteem suffered even from a young age and it’s something that has often haunted me into adulthood.
Ironically, I’m far more comfortable now than I ever have been about my own self-image, but there are still times when I second guess myself. Sometimes my little monster (that’s what I call my bad mental health) taps me on the shoulder and reminds me of my own insecurities: “Oh but you won’t look good in anything”, “Are you sure? What if doing that brings attention to the fact you’re bigger”, “Oh no… there’s going to be photos!” to name a few.
But. And it’s a big but… so what? As people we are a beautiful rainbow of diversity and physical appearance is another form of self expression. Whether you’re big, skinny, muscular, athletic, have tattoos, piercings, scars, dye your hair, wear make-up or don’t - you’re you and that’s the best thing you can be; yourself. There’s one piece of advice that has really stuck with me: if there’s something you don’t like about yourself, you can either obsess over it and run yourself into the ground, take active steps to change it, or you can accept that it’s a part of you.
It’s taken a long time, but slowly I’m being more aware of my mental health and becoming positive about my body image. Though if all else fails, I challenge how I’m thinking with the words of Pink: So what? I’m still a rockstar!