According to the Mental Health Bulletin, nearly 5,000 black people in the UK, per 100,000 accessed mental health services in 2014-15. These figures are continuously rising as a recent BBC documentary by Keith Dube (shout out to a fellow Zimbo!), confirmed.
In his documentary “Being Black, Going Crazy?”, Keith questions the mental health statistics in the UK and investigates why more black people are being admitted into mental health services than their white counterpart. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the documentary (watch it here), but what I want to share with you is what to do if you are feeling like you are suffering in silence, because you really don’t have to.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant need to be perfect, lack of self-acceptance and seeking validation from everything external to ourselves. Like the time I fell in love with a guy and put my entire self-worth in his hands, ready for him to destroy at will. Then when that flopped and my self-esteem was returned to me battered and dented, I was crestfallen, felt hopeless and yes, I sunk into a mild depression. In that moment it is hard to find a way out or to feel strong enough to even get up in the mornings. When life kicks you down, we tend to help it along with more self-pity talk, berating ourselves for what we should have done different or said different, none of which help to lift our spirits.
It took a lot of internal pep-talking, and reaching out to the friends I knew would understand and listen, before I felt okay enough to function. A number of situations could have led to you being in this state and I don’t know what you may be going through: bereavement, grief, job loss, spousal/relationship troubles or just feeling down but can’t pin-point the actual issue. There are several things you can do in the short term to make yourself feel better:
1.Get some fresh air.
Promise yourself that you will get out of bed and open some windows. It’s small but it’s a start. Being in a stuffy room with our stuffy thoughts doesn’t help us emotionally or physically. A quick breath of fresh air will wake you up and clear your head a bit.
2.Take a shower.
This is one thing I swear keeps me sane everyday. When I feel shitty, depressed, hungover or sick, a nice shower will always help improve my mood and mental state.
I am sure in your current state, food and drink is the last thing you want to think about but even a slice of toast or a hot cup of tea will keep you energized and make you feel better for taking care of you. Avoid alcoholic drinks because they act as a depressant which means they will enhance feelings of anxiety and low mood once the being tipsy/drunk feeling wears off and you are battling a hangover.
4.Call a friend.
I know many people, myself included, who can tend to isolate themselves and keep a lot of personal difficulties hidden, that’s okay and your choice. You don’t have to spill out the details of your troubles to your friend, but calling someone even just to talk about random nonsense will take your mind off things for a short while. Even better if you invite your friend over and be in their presence. The caveat to this is this has to be a positive friend and not one of those friends that will add to your stress, anxiety or depression. Find a positive person to speak to, someone who always makes you happy when you speak to them.
You knew this was coming! They don’t call me runnerbaby for nothing and running has in many ways saved me from some long periods of depression. Exercise releases endorphin and serotonin, the “happy hormones” that can instantly boost your mood, improve your circulation and take your mind off your troubles. I read an article the other day that claimed if you run fast enough you can actually stop yourself from thinking, which might not be a surprise if all your attention is on breathing and staying alive during your workout!
6.Be kind to yourself.
This took me over a decade to learn and I am still learning how to perfect this today. We need to listen to our bodies and our souls. When we aren’t feeling okay, that is okay. The best thing we can do for ourselves is accept it and then give ourselves an ‘internal cuddle’ (this sounds trippy but more on this later, I promise it works!). Once you accept your current state and what caused it, you can be open to healing yourself. Take that long hot bubble bath, indulge in a whole series of Netflix, eat that slice of cake if you must…I ate a whole cake once while binge-watching ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix and it felt fantastic. Zero regrets. Have that f* it moment and do what will make YOU happy.
If you find that nothing is helping and you are still feeling low/down, then please seek help. It is not a sign of weakness but in-fact, by recognizing that you can’t always do everything yourself, you take the pressure off yourself to be perfect. With mental health issues, at times you do need to seek help from a therapist or your GP/doctor. They will have the best advice for you and sometimes just a quick chat with your doctor can actually help lift your mood once you realize you are not alone and help is there if you need it.