The Mental Talk
Communication is a key ingredient in mental health recovery. Being able to communicate how you feel can help others to understand you better – and we all want to be understood. In all of my research, and throughout this series and talking with our live panelists, there has been one common theme, communication. Both inwardly with ourselves and outwardly to those around us.
A big part of this Mental Wellbeing Campaign was to bring a new awareness to mental health. To support society evolving beyond the stigmas around mental health. I started to notice that everyone from my Uber driver to my banker was now talking about mental health since the pandemic. I was actually pleased that the now known, COVID trauma response, had the opportunity to become a beautiful blessing. The once taboo topic to talk about openly, or even confront someone struggling with mental health issues, has now become something that everyone everywhere was seeking to understand more. Communications in the professional world started including discussions around mindfulness and mindset. Workplaces developing Mental Wellbeing Policies. School districts seeking out mental health “first aid” kits and brining in suicide prevention trainings. Real actionable tools to cultivate resilient mental wellbeing.
The first place to start is getting comfortable with the uncomfortable discussion around feelings. When we better understand our feelings, we can communicate more effectively about them. A great place to expand your emotional vocabulary is through the use of feelings charts. I’ve included a link below where you can download a free feeling chart, one of the best I have found over the years. Understanding our feelings is challenging, let alone trying to self-advocate for yourself, and even more so, being able to communicate more gently with yourself. Cultivate your Emotional Intelligence by getting familiar with your feelings. Cause guess what, WE ALL HAVE THEM! We all need the tools and practices to help us cultivate a thriving state of wellbeing.
Communication doesn’t just happen, it is a skill. One that has to be practiced and developed. Just like learning to drive, it takes even more practice and skill to drive in the rain, even more so to drive through a snowstorm, and even greater practiced skill to drive a race car at high speeds. Learning how to communicate effectively is no different. A skill that continues to develop along your journey.
When we are under stress, overwhelmed, or in constant states of uncertainty, it’s hard to verbalize our emotions. When we feel angry, there is usually something more under the anger. First, get curious, take a deep breath, and recognize your awareness of the anger that you are experiencing. Ask yourself, what more is there? Where is this really coming from? The fear center of your brain, amygdala, gets triggered with high stress or anxiety, you may be familiar with the “fight-or-flight” response. This then affects your frontal cortex where you make your decisions. In a stressful situation, in anger, in overwhelm, we are not operating at our most optimal behavior and knowingly, or unknowingly, can create the outcomes we actually do not want.
By labeling your emotions, you activate your executive function or your prefrontal cortex and it will help to not only communicate where you are at with others around you, it will put you back into the driver's seat and manage your behaviors and feelings.
The other side of this is being able to listen to others. Yes, being able to communicate with yourself inwardly, and communicating with those around you is crucial. However, we will all find ourselves at least at one point in our lives needed to support another, and listen effectively. Developing the communication skills to not just listen, but ensure the individual feels heard and understood is transformational and empowering, for both the individual and for you. And in turn, for society as a whole. Practice leaving any judgement out of it. While something may not affect you and create an anxious response, it may to someone else, we just don’t know. And vice versa. There are many people who have been in a mental health crisis and just go dismissed, or unseen. Statistics show us the someone in crisis who has been engaged with a person just asking if they are okay, and allowing them to speak on whatever is causing this crisis, stop moving forward with their plan for suicide. And will never attempt it again.
This is calling each and everyone of us to act with more courage, to open our hearts and minds to greater capacities of kindness, compassion and empathy and to leave judgment out of ALL social engagements. Most people dealing with mental wellbeing issues avoid communication and can be very good at putting on a “face” and their relationships may be suffering. You can help end this by simply encouraging a person to communicate over mental health.
Be open and clear about your needs and encourage others to do the same. There are so many fascinating communication building exercises, coaches and programs out there. Get proactive, start building healthy relationships with yourself and with others.
“Research has shown that how well we communicate can help produce positive outcomes for the other person by building relationships and helping them in the road of recovery. So, imagine if putting up effective communication with someone can heal them, won’t you do it proactively? Be generous. Be non-judgmental. Be a great listener. Be a healer.”
For a FREE Download of the Emotion Wheel, visit https://allthefeelz.app/emotion-wheel/
(Disclaimer) If you suspect you have a mental illness or you're being treated by a mental health professional, ask about how you can incorporate physical activity into your treatment.
A qualified mental health professional can make suggestions about the best strategies for treating your specific condition.
Steps to Improve Communication for Better Mental Wellbeing
Communicating About Your Mental Health
Schedule Time where you can have a deep, uninterrupted conversation with someone.
Choose A Mode of Communication. Zoom, face-to-face, over the phone, or even a letter. I would not recommend texting as too many things can potentially get *miscommunicated.
Create a Powerful Phrase. We often don’t know where to begin when we first speak on how we’re feeling or what is coming up in our lives. Suggested phrase: “ I have some important concerns on my mind and I wanted to talk about them with you. Would you please create some time?”
Just Allow Yourself to Flow. There is no right or wrong way to share, just open yourself up and let your mental health needs flow.
Supporting Someone Else Communicating Their Mental Health Needs
No Place for Judgements. Avoid labeling, teasing, sarcasm, and judging them. Practice empathy and acknowledge what they say. A powerful statement for this is simply: “ I hear you.”
Make Yourself Available. Don’t begin engaging with them if you know you have an immediate call, or upcoming meetings. Someone has trusted you to come to you and open up, give them your time, (schedule when you are available next).