Life Doing Your Head In?

workshop notesI was able to spend the whole working day thinking about my mental health yesterday. Indulgent, but fascinating…

The occasion was a Wellness Workshop aimed at helping participants understand and take responsibility for their own mental health. As a writer, I spend a lot of time in my head, and while I’m in quite a good place at the moment, that hasn’t always been the case.

I understand the need to get people talking about mental health issues and the need to banish the stigma that comes as part of the package when you’re depressed – or even suicidal. Yesterday’s event was organised by the charity SOS – Suicide or Survive, and backed by the HSE and the National Office of Suicide Prevention.

We’re told that one in four people will experience mental health issues at point in their life (I would say that’s only the number of people who own up to such experiences. I reckon EVERYONE has something wrong with what’s going on in their head at some time or other).

Brian and Pat from Dublin came to share their enthusiasm and experience with more than 40 participants in Ballina’s Newman Institute. Their exuberance and communication skills made the day entertaining as well as thought-provoking (although 15 people were late – what is it with that total disregard for punctuality? But that’s a rant for another day.)

I learnt about relaxation (particularly mindfulness) and stress management, the relationship between thoughts and emotions, and the importance of coping strategies and developing a ‘wellness toolkit’ – a kind of go-to first aid kit of things that will prompt you to remember what makes you happy.

I liked the idea of ‘Think in Ink’, which encourages you to write stuff down – I’m a firm believer in keeping a journal (I’ve kept one for years, for mine eyes only!) as a way of getting rid of angst at the end of the day.

Sometimes, you just need a reminder of what can take you to a happy place, some trigger that gets the senses working. Of the whole day, that seemed to resonate with me more than anything – so I’m now putting together a pack of bits and pieces that I like the look/feel/taste/smell/sound of. Obviously a whole cat or the real George Clooney won’t fit into my wellness toolkit, but pictures of same will!

I’m also filling a wellness jar with pieces of paper on which there are suggestions of what I can do to cheer me up if I’m a bit down. Because sometimes, when there’s a black cloud overhead, it can be very difficult to remember that you have been happy in the past – and you can be again. And, if you can remember, there are some things that are guaranteed to lift the mood – in my case, a walk in the woods, or listening to Benedictus by Karl Jenkins (seven minutes of bliss!). Not to mention a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or a game of Scrabble…

There was a whole lot more to the day than just that of course, and I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of these Wellness Workshops – go!  They are being run at venues all around the country, or there’s an on-line version:


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