Do you remember the 1980s film Gremlins; the one with the cute little creatures that turn into all-engulfing devils? Those Jekyll and Hyde characters are the perfect illustration of living with mental health issues, and offer an invaluable clue on how to manage its impact on your day to day life.
For me it wasn’t feeding my monster after midnight that was the problem – although a healthy night’s sleep is an incredibly important part of taking back control of your mind. The problem was that I regularly invited it to an all-you-can-eat buffet and sat back to watch the consequences. Changing little behaviours can make a big difference – so here are a few to help this World Mental Health Day.
Don’t indulge the little monster
Talking about your mental health is the most crucial step to overcoming whatever challenges you are facing, but there are some simple steps that you can take to keep your Mogwai from turning into a fully-fledged Gremlin.
The first is simple: Don’t indulge your inner monster. It can scratch, gnaw and screech all it wants, but by avoiding indulging it you can start to keep it under control. We’ve all had those moments where we become painfully teenage again; listing to our favourite sad song, shutting ourselves away, relentlessly reminding ourselves of our past failings. Its easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.
Try to catch yourself when you know you’re being self-destructive or that you’re leading yourself down a darker path. That’s the Gremlin trying to get out, and you don’t have to give into it.
Again, talking to someone, anyone, helpful is the cure. Don’t let yourself get isolated – it will only worsen what you’re already feeling. Take a bath, go for a run (exercise is great for fighting depression if you can build the motivation), listen to happy music – do anything that will give you a lift. Don’t drink or indulge in depressants of any kind. Don’t let that Gremlin win.
Don’t let the Gremlins multiply
Step two: Try to avoid people and pressures that exacerbate the issue. Too many Gremlins can be more than overwhelming!
Some people will try to tell you that your mental health is all about you. It’s not. It can be influenced just as easily by the behaviour of other people or normal life stresses, and you can help to manage that.
If work is getting too much then talk to someone about how you can lessen the pressure. Your boss, your family or friends, your doctor – anyone you feel comfortable talking to. You’d be surprised how much it can help and how easily you can make a change for the better.
The same with people. If someone is getting you down or running amuck like a troublesome Gremlin, then take a step back and move away. Mogwai can be reasoned with and will always try to help, but anyone who has already transmuted into a full-blown Gremlin will do you no good. Steer clear.
The pen is mightier…
Step three: Write it out!
Everyone knows that Gremlins can’t read. (Well, maybe they can, but its been a long time since I’ve seen the film).
Either way, I can promise you that writing will significantly help your mental health. Keep a pad by your bed and write down anything that runs through your head; any worries, fears, things to remember, plans to make. Writing it down will get it out of your head and help you get a better night’s sleep.
Try writing creatively too. No one need read it, and it doesn’t need to be a work of art. You’ll start to use a different part of your brain and you’ll be creating something rather than taking the destructive path of the Gremlin. And who knows, maybe it will be a work of art. Or at least help others.
Besides, the most important part of Step Three is that it gets you closer to talking about it. The more comfortable you feel with putting your thoughts in order, the more you’ll be able to talk to someone else about it. That really is when things start to get better, and I promise it’s not that hard a point to get to.
Gremlins can’t live in the daylight – let that sunshine in and take back control.
Good luck and don’t feel alone.
Need to talk to someone now? Head over to Mind for guidance.