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Mental Health Series: Vital Advice From A Psychotherapist

I’ve had the fortune of coming across and working with a range of interesting and intelligent individuals over the years – through blogging, work, family and living in various locations. Listening to their stories and what they do, I’ve learned even more so that we’re all making our contribution whether through work, our hobbies or by simply being ourselves. Meeting and staying in touch with psychotherapist Cathy Culloty was no exception.

Cathy is a psychotherapist in DCU, has a private practice and on the side works as a model while running a blog. She’s recently got married and is living her best life as a strong and influential young woman.

As it’s mental health awareness month in Dublin, I reached out to Cathy to ask her for her thoughts on a number of topics related to the stigma attached with mental health in Ireland alongside her general advice to anyone who might be suffering or needing some help. The benefits of psychotherapy, the future of mental health in Ireland and identifying the signs of someone suffering are some of the areas we discussed.

“Exercising regularly, good diet, getting adequate sleep, being mindful of alcohol consumption, talking about your feelings and not being afraid to ask for help” are some of the ways Cathy recommends that we maintain a positive mental health. Aside from these basics, she recommends taking some time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether that means a holiday abroad, trip to the countryside or a spa day – rest is what will allow the mind to recuperate and refresh.

Of course, we are all guilty of skipping some steps of what we know is good for us. A struggle with our mental health will hit any of us at some stage in our lives so, what then? There are so many possible options when it comes to getting help and support when we’re feeling unwell.  With so many possible ways of treatment out there including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and coaching, how does someone decide what’s best?

As a psychotherapist, I asked Cathy why someone might choose psychotherapy as an option of treatment. Describing it as something everyone should try at some stage in their lives, it allows one to understand themselves fully, rewrite stories from their past, heal old wounds and decide who they want to be and where they want to go. As a pathway of treatment, Cathy cites finding a therapist you can trust as the most important element of having a positive experience with psychotherapy. Of course, having the motivation to develop and work towards a more healthy mindset is the second element to consider.

Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their mental health and this is where the stigma comes in in Ireland and probably – externally. Feeling like you’re alone and being overwhelmed are some of the reasons someone might avoid getting help with their mental health while caring what other people think pops up as a reason why one wouldn’t reach out sooner than they need to. Cathy’s advice is to remember that “you’re not alone. No matter how bad things seem, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Unfortunately, not everyone will say they’re in a tough place and even more people won’t have recognised it. As loved ones, it’s important that we are able to identify when someone is going through a mental health challenge. Social withdrawal, increased sadness and/or irritability and excessive sleep are some of the signs to look for when identifying a mental health problem. More intensely, significant change in mood, hallucinating and delusions can appear in more extreme cases. In any event, approaching the said person to support them will mean they don’t suffer for longer than they need to.

When we discussed the future of mental health in Ireland, Cathy expressed her hope for its acceptance and progression into a more positive light. “I have a friend in the UK who manages a team and gives them mental health days which I think is brilliant and should be implemented into all work contracts”. The lifting of the stigma, further education and increased awareness around mental health are hopefully a premonition for mental health in Ireland.

In the meantime, being aware of identifying the signs, super self-care and being as open as we can around the topic will mean we take massive strides in the right direction.

Creative Outlets: Practicing Mindfulness Without The Deep Breathing

Deep breathing, checking in with our posture and counting to ten are just some of the ways we can learn to be present, relax our minds and be mindful. Meditation is a practice that has been utilised for thousands of years to relieve anxiety and a range of other mental health challenges. Moreover, it teaches individuals the necessity of stopping for even a few moments each day away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. It’s pretty epic.

For many people though, I know that sitting and deep breathing isn’t always possible. Perhaps, the mind is racing so much that staying still seems impossible or indeed, there are other methods that are more suited to calm that busy mind.

After going for an hour-long walk today, I still felt the need to relax myself. Having been in bed for three days straight with a muscle spasm, it hasn’t been easy to get myself back to normal – focusing on what I need and calming my busy head. Therefore, the likes of writing, reading more and channeling my energy into creative outlets has worked for me. Getting into such a practice can benefit anyone – even if the thought of sitting and painting a picture doesn’t work for you, I promise there are other viable options.

*Got to eat? Why not cook up a storm? Cooking involves reading recipes, weighing out ingredients, mixing it up and really concentrating on what you’re doing. It can actually push you well outside your comfort zone – depending on what you’re a fan of. Pinterest and Instagram are full of delicious recipes that are rather low-cost to make. As well as that, if you’re into experimenting, play around with new ingredients. You never know what the end result could be.

*Pretty similar but baking as it is so technical has proven to work wonders for me when feeling stressed. The feeling of an immediate result of efforts creates endorphins and ensures even more concentration. Having a tasty spectacle at the end that you can decorate makes it all the more worth it.

*Feeling relaxed enough yet? Perhaps. If you have a decent half hour (at least) then run a hot hot bath. Throw in some lavender, epsom salts or any bath bomb for that matter. The feeling of the hot water will relax those muscles while the essential oils will rise up and soothe that mind of yours. Better yet, turn it into an all-out pamper session – you’ll thank me later.

*What do you have planned for the Summer? Any holidays, events or festivals? Get that calendar out and see what’s happening. Your friends will be delighted to hear from you and having something to look forward to will get your mind on something positive.

*Ready, steady, read! There are thousands of books out there with your name on them. They are long ones, short little reads and magazines that suit your tastes. Sitting down for a while and taking in those pages of information is certain to keep that mind busy and taking in valuable knowledge.

What’s it all for if we can’t at least stop and enjoy it? Enjoy the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.

Kitting Out: Minding My Mental Health

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There are always going to be days when feeling our best isn’t happening. We’re moving against the tide and are unsure as to why we don’t feel the way we’d like to. Staying in bed is the preferred option however as an adult, taking care of responsibilities can’t always happen from bed.

For me, it can seem at times like there are so many balls in the air to keep an eye on. Bills need to be paid, washing has to get washed and of course, those social events aren’t going to organise themselves. At times, screaming can seem like the only viable option. Please wait though, there are other ways.

Before you try to guess what I’m going to write, I must warn you that you’re going to read suggestions you’ve read before. That’s because they work! SO in order to feel our best, what do we need in our kits of amazingness? Or as I like to call it ‘Minding my mental health kit’.

*Some work-out gear.

Excuses can crop up in every part of our lives. This especially applies to the gym and doing physical activity in general. Keeping a stock of gym gear to hand is key. Know where your gym bag is, keep it nice and organised so you can get going as quickly as possible when negativity and excuses creep in.

It’s all about confidence in what we’re wearing and doing – this applies to our gym attire too. Treat yourself to some new tops, trousers or even socks before you head to your next session.

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*Some notebooks.

Gratitude is key. Feeling sorry for yourself? Think of things to be grateful for. Not sure what to do with that random half hour? Write down some of your blessings. It’s that easy! Fill those notebooks and then keep them on a shelf to look at regularly.

While you’re at it, start a gratitude jar! It can work in tandem with your notebook or on its own :).

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*Some meditation know-how.

Ever meditate? Last year, I did an online course with Hilda of the Happiness Business. I learned how to meditate and became hooked! These days, I try to sit down for at least 10 minutes per day and practice the art of meditation. It has been proven that meditating every day for six weeks actually strengthens your pre-frontal cortex! Feeling mentally stronger is as easy as that.

If you have a smartphone, download the app ‘Headspace‘. It’s super simple and has a ten day guided programme.

 

*Words of some sort.

Fill your kit with books, sweet affirmations or simply, a little reminder on your phone of what you’re about. For me, I have a reminder on my phone a few times a day which reminds me of my mission. I also ALWAYS have a book of some sort and oftentimes, I’ll have some ‘Give it, get it cards’! Words really do matter so don’t underestimate the ones you have nearby.

What helps you when you’re not feeling yourself? Perhaps I need to add some bits and bobs to my kit? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments fields below!