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Do one thing…on World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October and we’re encouraging you to do one thing to support your own mental health.

It could be something like finding the motivation you need to take a shower to help yourself feel better, or at the other end of the scale, putting a plan in motion to get that promotion that would enable you to stretch your skills and find more meaning in your work. Whatever it is, anything positive you do will help you to feel a sense of achievement, and meaning and purpose, which are important to stay mentally well.

So do one thing today!

Charlie Green, our Emotional Needs and Resources Training Manager, explains how doing one thing can mean different things to different people.

Wherever you are on the mental health continuum taking action to meet our needs to support good mental health is important, and I am sure we can all relate to finding that easier on some days than others.

When you’re having a difficult day, even something like motivating yourself to take a shower can feel like an impossible task.

I can remember back to a particular day when I was off work for a period of time with an undiagnosed sleep disorder. I had I set myself the simple challenge of loading the dishwasher so I could feel valued by contributing to the running of the home, but when I opened the dishwasher to load it, it was unexpectedly full of clean items! I broke down feeling overwhelmed.

A task that would normally be something I could easily complete felt too much for my brain at that time – while unwell, I simply did not have the mental clarity or capacity to work out where all the different cutlery, crockery and glasses needed to go. On that day I needed a much simpler task that I could complete that would enable me to get a sense of achievement and feel like I had a status and was valued by those around me.

It’s important that we are active in some way to have good mental health and it’s also important that we gauge the size of that first step according to how well or unwell we are at the time.

When we feel stuck, it is easy to overwhelm ourselves by looking 10 steps ahead, which isn’t always helpful. So, setting yourself small achievable tasks can really help you to feel motivated to do more and more. The sense of achievement from each small step acts like a motivational springboard.

I have recently supported many people whose relationship with food has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, which may be something you can relate to too. It can be all too easy to try to change our mood with food, or other indulgences, and through this we can get into unhealthy habits. I was inspired by a client I was working with earlier this year as they found ways to motivate themselves by starting with doing just one thing.

With a busy working week that left little time and energy for cooking each evening, they had remembered that having batch cooked food in the fridge to heat up each night had helped them make better food choices and get back into healthy habits. However, despite wanting the outcome, the task of batch cooking felt overwhelming. The lack of enthusiasm led to procrastination and instead of getting out the utensils they needed to start the cooking, they ended up emptying and organising one of the small kitchen drawers instead. This could have seemed like an unhelpful distraction but the small, completed task actually generated the get up and go to achieve more things around the house, including the sorting of the three other drawers. They described feeling a sense of achievement and increased self-esteem from organising the initial drawer that had acted like a springboard for them to more activity and they had wanted to continue feeling that way, so it led them to do more.

On waking the next day, they continued to feel motivated, and they were able to complete the batch cooking and soon had the meals ready and waiting in the fridge to fuel them for the busy week ahead.

So, start small. Start somewhere. Do one thing.

If we are experiencing depression, it can be easy to forget that we are good at things and feel robbed of the motivation even to do the most basic day-to-day tasks. Depression steals confidence and motivation, no matter how competent you are when you feel well.

If you find that just getting out of bed in the morning feels too much, try breaking things up into the smallest possible steps; start by moving to the edge of the bed. When you are at the edge of the bed, focus on pushing the duvet back. Once you have managed to push the duvet back, put one foot on the floor. Notice how it feels to be halfway there before sitting up and putting your second foot on the floor. In your imagination, see yourself standing up and making your way to the bathroom or kitchen. With each small achievement, you may notice your sense of meaning and purpose returning, little by little.

Finding meaning and purpose in life helps to protect us from feeling pessimistic when life seems unfair or unjust. So doing one thing to help you feel that sense of achievement and meaning and purpose will make a positive difference to your wellbeing.

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