How can radical self-acceptance help our mental health?

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In a world that tells us to hide away our negative feelings and mental health struggles, what do we have to gain from radical self-acceptance?

How can radical self-acceptance help our mental health?

One of the great contributing factors to mental illness is the idea that we should be well at all costs and all times. We suffer far more than we should because of how long it can take many of us until we allow ourselves to fall properly and usefully ill.

For many years we may be able to evade our symptoms skilfully, pulling off an accomplished impression of what counts – in our unobservant societies – as a healthy human. We may gain all the accoutrements of so-called success – love, a career, family, prestige – without anyone bothering to note the sickness behind our eyes. We may take care to fill our days with activity so that we can be guaranteed to have no time to deal with any of the sores that blister inside. We can rely on the extraordinary prestige of being busy to avoid the truly hard work of doing nothing other than sit with our minds and their complicated sorrows.

We may be deep into mid-life before the problems finally emerge with clarity. When they do, it is liable to be extremely inconvenient to those around us. We may be unable to get out of bed; we might say the same mysterious sentence again and again. We might still be in our pyjamas at midday and awake and wide-eyed at 2 a.m. We might cry at inopportune moments or shout angrily at people who had always relied on us for docility.

In a crisis, our chances of getting better rely to a significant extent on having the right relationship to our illness; an attitude that is relatively unfrightened by our distress and that isn’t overly in love with the idea of always seeming ‘normal’, which can allow us to be unwell for a while in order one day to reach a more authentic kind of sanity.

How can radical self-acceptance help our mental health?

It will help us in this quest if the images of mental illness we can draw on do not narrowly imply that our ailment is merely a pitiable possibility; if we can appeal to images that tease out the universal and dignified themes of our state, so that we do not have to fear and hate ourselves for being unwell on top of everything else. We stand to heal much faster if there are fewer associations like those created by the Spanish painter Goya (of madness as the seventh circle of hell) and more of men and women a little like you and me, sitting on the sofa, able to combine our inner wretchedness with other, more temperate and attractive qualities – so that we remain every bit human, despite our terrifying convulsions, absences of mind, catastrophic forebodings, and sense of despair.

The best philosophical background against which to wrestle with mental unwellness is one that conceives of the human animal as intrinsically rather than accidentally flawed; a philosophy that rejects the notion that we could ever be perfect and instead welcomes our griefs and our errors, our stumbles and our follies as no less a part of us than our triumphs and our intelligence.

Japan’s Zen Buddhism boldly expresses such thoughts, with its declaration that life itself is suffering, and its veneration in the visual arts – and by extension in its psychology – of all that is imperfect and unglossy: rainy autumn evenings

Grace Victory on finding resilience when things don’t go to plan

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From challenging circumstances to unexpected traumas, there are times in our lives when we all have had, or will have, to face adversity. Here, columnist Grace Victory explores what it takes to truly get through the hard times, and shares the secrets to cultivating your own form of resilience

Grace Victory on finding resilience when things don’t go to plan

The societal focus on ‘resilience’ is often rooted in a somewhat toxic need to always be strong at any given moment.

The ‘strong woman’ trope, which is particularly felt by black women, can diminish softness, vulnerability, and lead to a lack of truth. I, like many of you reading this, have endured so much pain throughout my life that resilience and ‘bouncing back’ feels relatively easy. What other choice do we actually have? But also, at what cost does this resilience come?

Of course, resilience is something that’s needed in order to be OK after we experience something difficult. That’s life, and we can’t run from it. From name calling in the playground to an egotistical boss at your new job, or maybe even a narcissistic parent – all of us go through things that eventually help us to grow, but there is a sadness in having to be tough, too.

Often, resilient behaviours are in who we are, or shown to us subconsciously through at least one healthy relationship or attachment relating to our childhood – but this is something not everyone is fortunate enough to have experienced. As adults, I guess we have to reclaim what resilience looks like to us, and mourn or grieve our childhood experiences that perhaps shaped our bounce back ability (or lack thereof).

Now more than ever, resilience is something we need on a soul level, in order to navigate life with all its ups and downs. From the pandemic, which affected so many of us, to the political climate that, let’s be honest, is a complete and utter sh*t show. From the constant rise in the cost of living, to personal trauma that we are still trying to overcome, being able to carry on through such stress is important and necessary for our survival.

In my opinion, resilience is no longer about constantly being strong, but about making it through the day, the month, or the year. It’s about surrendering to your personal path or journey, and ultimately using your wellbeing tools to carry you through.

Grace Victory on finding resilience when things don’t go to plan

Resilience doesn’t need to be fighting an internal war, or stopping yourself from crying because you don’t want to appear weak. Resilience is leaning on your community, practising self-care, and doing more of the things that fill up your cup.

We cannot avoid what life throws at us – that’s something I’ve learnt, particularly in the past two years. Life is unpredictable, but if you do not have strong foundations and aren’t actively working towards them remaining strong, you could falter the moment harsh winds arrive. We can not only survive through the storm, but we can go on to thrive, with due care, self-compassion, and grace.

So, how do we be

Workplace burnout: how to talk to your employer and get the right support

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Recognise the signs and get the support you need from employers

Workplace burnout: how to talk to your employer and get the right support

To others, it may look like you’re thriving, and that you’ve got everything under control. But, despite how it looks on the outside, you know something’s wrong. You’re constantly tired, you’re feeling overwhelmed. Every decision or conversation feels like it’s draining you of energy, and that nagging voice of self-doubt is growing ever louder.

If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing, or at the very least approaching, burnout.

While burnout is no new issue, it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. And after the last few years, many of us are aware of what it means to be happy and healthy, and what our minds and bodies need in order to function at their best.

But even if you know something isn’t right, the hard part can be asking for help. So, how can you tell your employer that you’re struggling?

Understand what may be causing it

When it comes to burnout recovery, often, the first step is to understand the root cause. Identifying the potential causes can help you to know exactly what support you may need from your employer, and also, indicate if there’s anything that has been missing from your life. For example, have you been unusually busy in and out of work, so you’ve lost the time you previously had to actually rest? When was the last time you did something for yourself?

Identify the help you need

Once you have an idea of what may be causing it, the next step is to understand what help you need. There might not be a clear answer, but having an inkling of what will help you can make the conversation easier later on. Perhaps you feel like there’s simply too much on your plate and delegating some of the work could help ease that pressure?

Of course, if you’ve realised that you’re unhappy at your workplace, you may decide now is the time to move on. While scary, taking this leap could be the best thing you ever do.

Speak to someone you feel comfortable with

If you’re nervous about talking to your employer, can you talk to a friend first? Or is there a colleague you can confide in? Someone to be a listening ear while you try to understand what you need. Simply talking about how you feel can help you make sense of the situation when you can’t see the wood for the trees.

Read your company policies

Does your company offer any wellbeing support? According to Mental Health UK, just 23% of people knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot the signs of chronic stress and burnout. While this is on employers to improve communication, if you are struggling, it’s worth reading through company documents to understand exactly what is offered.

Book a time to chat

Knowing how you feel and what support you need will help make the conversation as easy as possible. Who you speak to will depend on the issue, but for general workload or job satisfaction issues, your manager is likely your first port of call. If you’re feeling mistreated, or if you’re not comfortable speaking with your manager, schedule a chat with HR.

The best advice I can give from my own experience is to be as honest and open

How to spot the signs of anxiety through the ages, from kids to teenagers

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From young children to budding adults, anxiety can present in, and affect, young people in different ways as they grow up. So how can you spot and support it?

How to spot the signs of anxiety through the ages, from kids to teenagers

Anxiety is a natural part of many of our lives, and it doesn’t just affect adults. Though the triggers and stressors may be different, many children experience anxiety, with the NHS finding that across five to 19-year-olds, around one in 12 (8.1%) reported an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression.

The point at which anxiety becomes a problem is when it begins to affect their everyday life, and gets in the way of them flourishing. But what does anxiety look like in children and young people of different ages? And how can we best support them at each stage? Here, with help from Hasret Tekin, a child and adolescent therapist, we highlight what to watch out for.

Under five

“This age group usually experiences anxiety in the form of separation anxiety,” Hasret explains. “It is in line with normal child development that children may experience separation anxiety from their primary caregiver from age six months to three years old.”

Hasret explains that you may notice your child is more clingy than usual, perhaps because they are worried that you will leave or disappear – at this age, they may not understand that you will come back. It might be that big life events such as starting nursery or school spark this reaction, and the anxiety might present as tantrums and protests, and unresolved it could lead to regression (such as wanting a dummy or a nappy), sleep problems, and phobias.

Five to eight years old

When a child reaches this age group, it’s likely that they have moved beyond separation anxiety, and instead the root of their anxiety is tied up in new developmental stages such as school problems, friendship issues, and self-esteem dips.

“They may feel worried about being likeable among friends, feeling shy in social scenarios, nervous, and clingy in new situations,” Hasret explains. “Some levels of performance anxiety and perfectionism are also common in this age group. When the anxiety becomes problematic, you may notice sleeping difficulties, bad dreams or nightmares, bed wetting, becoming irritable, tearful, unhappy, or withdrawn. Fears are also common in this age group as a manifestation of anxiety.”

Eight to 11 years old

Similarly to the previous age group, Hasret explains that the anxiety is likely to be tied up with their development stage, but on a larger scale. However, children in this age group may also have more of an awareness of external stress.

At this age, they may have more life events to refer to, such as conflict at home, parental separation, the death of a grandparent, illness, or sibling problems. With a greater understanding of these scenarios, they might develop anxiety about rejection, take on worries about the health of a loved one, pick up on money stress, or begin to compare their lives to those around them.

11 to 14 years old

“This age is pre-adolescent and adolescent years where the anxiety is usually about the transitions,” Hasret says. “There are many things children say goodbye to in this age group, such as the end of primary school. They have the anxiety of t

7 mental health and wellbeing Instagram accounts to follow

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These Instagrammers are shining a light on mental health and positive wellbeing, tackling the stigma and getting people talking

7 mental health and wellbeing Instagram accounts to follow

Right now, the world feels like a pretty scary place to be. With the tap of a button, we can see what’s going on anywhere in the world, and that real-time access can cause many of us to unknowingly ‘doomscroll’. Despite our best efforts, we can’t always seem to escape the negativity of the world.

But not all is lost. There are many people working to make the world a better place, and while we can’t list them all, we do want to share seven Instagrammers you need to follow. These people are trying to change the taboo surrounding mental health and, while they can’t single-handedly tackle the energy crisis, they are spreading love and positivity - two things I think we’re all in need of.

@makedaisychains

Hannah Daisy is a UK-based artist and illustrator with a passion for mental health. Her drawings inspire conversations around self-harm, sexual assault, non-binary experiences, and recovery. She uses the hashtag #BoringSelfCare to help celebrate those little wins; small acts of kindness and self-love that we can do every day. Hannah’s feed is the perfect place to find a daily dose of positive affirmations.

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