October 10th marks World Mental Health Day. A day to raise awareness, have meaningful dialogue and increase efforts to support our global mental health. While there is a different theme each year, 2020 seems to have brought much to the surface for many people. As we adjust to an ever-changing environment in a climate fraught with challenges most of us may never have conceived. For many, rather than coming together for discussion and support, we seem to be further apart than ever.
In a polarizing world where it seems like more things separate us than keep us together, remember we have a lot in common.
Genetically speaking, we are 99.9% similar to the person standing next to us on the street corner, but we often think about the things that divide us. In particular, during times of great stress and worry – such as a pandemic- our ability to bond, connect, and relate to others is at an all-time low. We practice less and less empathy for others, focussing inward. Cutting ourselves off from support and human interaction is a recipe for anguish. Open up to others and let them know that they can open up to you.
Therapists practice for years to hone their empathy. To learn, listen, and explore alongside their clients what they are experiencing and feeling. You don’t need to be a master clinician to show kindness to others and benefit from those interactions.
Two easy steps for mental health benefits:
- Step 1: Begin by showing some empathy to yourself.
- Accept that you may be feeling less productive or less patient than usual and set reasonable boundaries in your life. This will help to limit feeling like you’ve lost your temper or failed. Ask for extra time when you need it and permit yourself to take it.
- Step 2: Show empathy to others.
- Use open-ended questions* to ask people how they are and what they are experiencing right now. Don’t jump in with your thoughts and judgment: leave those at the door and listen. Let them know you’re listening by using words of acknowledgment but resist the urge to take over and tell your story.
Offering and experiencing empathy are key components of the human experience and let us know that we aren’t alone in the world even though it can feel like that sometimes. No one will ever truly understand what we are going through, but it feels really good to show others we care and receive that care.
How can we help?
The Neutral Zone counselling team is especially open to any new or returning clients during October’s Mental Health Awareness campaign. Our clinical counsellors have extensive training in various modalities and orientations. At their core, they are caring, empathetic humans who want to help you make a connection so you feel better about yourself and where you are at. Reach out to us if we can help support your journey through these unprecedented times.
*A closed question is one that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions start with words or phrases like “what,” “how,” “who,” “tell me about,” etc., often prompting more significant thought and dialogue.
For more information on World Mental Health Day and previous years’ themes, visit https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day.
Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.Dr. Bonnie Henry