Mental Health

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Thanks to the cooperation of the ICCI “Our House” with Latvian colleagues, we got a separate direction – voice chats with psychologists. We hope that such meetings will become permanent, and we will publish their results regularly. Today we talk with Raivo Vilcians, director of the Skalbes Crisis Center, and Santa Laimina, head of the Crime Victim Support Call in Latvia.

And the topic of our conversation is “How to provide yourself with emotional help during a difficult period”.

We would like to begin our conversation with the importance of MENTAL (PsyCHOLOGICAL) HEALTH. You can imagine mental health as the ship we’re all on. Some may not have encountered serious mental health problems in life, may not have felt the wobbling of this ship. Some have faced it, but have survived the ordeal themselves. And someone faced a situation where they really needed serious support and help to improve their mental health because they had been abused or were in a state where they were a danger to themselves (suicidal tendency).

To understand the importance of mental health, we can use a metaphor: If we have a broken leg, we definitely go to the doctor for help. We need to take mental health problems in the same serious way.

A very important aspect for improving mental health is respecting the boundaries of personal space: both asserting one’s own boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others.

In difficult situations, it is important to be able to look for resources within oneself, to be able to look inside oneself and understand what resources one has.Often mental health problems arise from an aversion to failure. It is very important to learn that the presence of failure in life is a normal process of life, it is a certain cycle of life. The presence of failures does not make anyone worse off, so we have to learn to accept them and even love them. Only on the basis of accepting them can we take steps that can change our life cycle in the future, reduce the likelihood of repeated failures or prepare us.

It is much harder to experience failure in isolation. It is important to feel part of a community (group) that is experiencing the same problem (tragedy) and learn to accept it. Accepting does not mean coming to terms with it. We need to understand that we can solve them, we need to change our perception to a more positive one. The main thing is to understand that we are not alone.  It gives us strength.

MENTAL HEALTH depends on well-being. State of well-being is a state in which one is aware of one’s abilities, can cope with the stresses of life, can work productively and contribute to one’s community. This is the goal that can be achieved through improved mental health.

What does mental health consist of, how is it created?

Welfare consists of the following factors:

  • Factors that you are unable to influence. For example, the situation in the country (many traumatic experiences).
  • Factors you can influence are unmet needs. By reducing unmet needs (i.e. satisfying them), we reduce the risk of mental health problems.

 Mental health is highly dependent on physical.

What steps can we take to improve our physical health to reduce its impact on our mental health? For example, fulfil our physiological needs in time: going to the toilet not when we can but when we need to, eating in time, resting in time, etc.

Factors that can also affect physical health:

  • unhealthy food or disordered eating;
  • insufficient water intake;
  • insufficient sleep or sleep disturbance.

In long-term disorders, the body’s strength is weakened and burnout occurs. And this is a very serious problem because it greatly affects our mental and moral state. There can be no good mental health without physical health. That is why one has to be very attentive to one’s health, to one’s body in the first place. “My body is my temple”.

It is easy to do the following to improve physical health:

  • walks;
  • meditation;
  • enjoyable outdoor activities;
  • exercises in correct breathing;
  • inhaling pleasant scents (aromatic oils);
  • taking relaxing baths with scented candles.

TIP: When stressed, it is helpful to inhale your favourite scent (oil, perfume, scent bracelet, etc.) that you are comfortable carrying.

It is also useful to do emotional work:

  • comfortable communication, work;
  • conducting a conversation with myself: asking how I feel; how I feel about myself; not focusing on how bad I am, but accepting myself as I am.

TIP: Find one thing I am grateful for this day; Understand what the critic in me is saying now and “remove” it; Work independently with the emotions (at the end of the day, name one positive emotion, answer the question: why am I experiencing it? And also one negative emotion).

You can also allow yourself to express your emotions: to grieve and to cry.

Thinking arrangements – providing for physical and emotional needs. To improve one’s emotional state, there is a need for clarity of action, which planning the day provides. Even socialising with family and friends is better planned: it creates predictability, provides mental balance.

We should do at least what we think is harmonious for us, what we can influence:

  • arrange the house;
  • listen to your favourite music;
  • watch the good films;
  • read your favourite books.

TIP:It is advisable to receive positive information (especially before bedtime), not to watch or listen to negative information; refrain from watching negative films. Otherwise, by going on a destructive cycle of action, we go into a spiral and get a worsening emotional state.

It is very important to communicate with loved ones, friends and colleagues. It is good to have common needs and interests. Everyone has something different: religion; spirituality; other interests. In your context, it is the common idea of a free Belarus.

You have to understand that each of us can’t change everything at the moment, you have to accept that and not beat yourself up about it. Allow ourselves some kind of emotional release. Accept that all displays of emotion in a given situation are normal reactions in an abnormal situation. The main thing is to take care of yourself and others.

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International Centre for Civil Initiatives “Our House” in cooperation and with technical support of Belarus FM has produced numerous podcasts with a special focus on women and children who easily become victims of human rights violations under repressive regimes.
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Mental Health
episode 2