Mental health is not something that you ‘have’, it’s something that you ‘do’.

Taking care of ourselves, and especially of our mental health, is a recurring topic in our community, so for Mental Health Awareness Week, Thrive Consultant Louise Moles took the lead in answering questions on what’s changing about how we support our mental health, what’s being challenged and why, and how we’re moving on from ‘awareness’.

We asked Louise to start by telling us what she’s good at!

Louise Moles I’m super good at pointing people in the right direction when it comes to navigating the world of mental health. I’m up to date with current practices, what’s working and what’s not, and very interested in exciting research and how this evidence can help us democratise mental wellbeing. Out of all the people I’ve taught to thrive, one of them includes me! I’m fab at managing my own mental health, and this skillset goes way beyond ‘awareness’. My journey from client to consultant has been my most valuable, and the best lesson I’ve learnt, is that mental health is not something that you ‘have’, it’s something that you ‘do’, and that’s what I do amazingly well 🙂

Helen Lindop Love the ‘have’ vs ‘do’. We often see mental health as something that fails or gets broken but routine maintenance is really important. At least for me!

Louise Moles There’s a HUGE diff between ‘have’ vs ‘do’. As long as we believe that life happens to us, we’ll see our mental health in the same way. We’re told this all the time, and it’s frustrating that a huge majority of the mental health world perpetuates unhelpful beliefs that achieving mental wellbeing for life, is as complicated as predicting the weather!

I’d go further and say mental wellbeing should be a habit. Some people know how to do it well, others haven’t learnt yet, because they’ve not been taught how, we don’t yet live in a world where everybody has these fundamental skills. If we continue to see it as maintainance, we might still wait until it needs fixing, or repair. i.e. the whole defecit model many mental health professionals work with.

Stess is optional

Kathy Salaman  What’s the most effective thing you do to relieve stress? Or does it depend on specific circumstances?

Louise Moles My simple answer is not to create the stress in the first place. We’re often too focused on firefighting symptoms of stress, so of course we’ll be looking at ways to relieve it. Even more effectively than that, you can learn how you create stress, then you know how NOT to!

We choose what to think and what to believe, and they drive each other, leading to symptoms. So stress is never about the specific circumstances, it’s always about what we think about it. It doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone to find stress as optional, but if stress is a cost to you in your life, then you don’t want to be firefighting it forever. That’s exhausting.

Helen Lindop I can control some stressful thoughts (and nipping them in the bud is the best way) but how can we deal best with the ones that are hard to control?

Louise Moles Stress ‘feels’ as though it’s outside of our control, and as if it’s happening to us through external events related to health/family/emotions etc. For these areas of life, we want our coping skills to be absolute top notch! If they’re not, that’s where we suffer stress. If you know you’ll get through it, that’s the best belief to build. Could you say with 100% conviction that you’ll be able to cope with whatever life brings? You don’t need to answer that, just consider how important that belief is, and is it really as strong as it could be?  It’s helpful to think of the evidence you have that you can cope with a lot, and to strengthen that belief.

Andrea C Joyce. I would love to know what research you’ve heard about recently? I’d also love to hear more about what you mean by democratising mental well-being?

Louise Moles Research on memory is incredibly fascinating. It’s shaping the way we traditionally treat symptoms like PTSD. To democratise mental wellbeing is a mission – it means the aim is to educate everybody to take control of their mental health journey, for every person experiencing mental distress to know how to do this, without the need for medicalised pathways.

The most important lessons are prevention education. I meet people at all stages toward their destination of mental wellness, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many tangents you’ve taken in the past, everyone can get on track to a destination of being mentally well.

Coping v Thriving

Helen Lindop I don’t think most people I meet are thriving. Many are dealing with all kinds of stuff in their personal lives, work stress and job insecurity. They are coping well, though, eg they have anxiety but are still functioning in their daily lives, health issues but still making it to work, not in their first (or second!) choice of job but limited by childcare issues so it’s hard to change.

Louise Moles Thriving as a skillset is all about loving your life. Even for people who don’t have a happy family life, have never had, and don’t know what that looks like, can still create it, or even thrive without it. Thriving as a destination is achievable, despite your circumstance, location, or where you are on your journey to mental wellness. I used to cope when I believed life happened to me, but it wasn’t fun, and I certainly wasn’t thriving through life. As long as I believed that, I believed that my mental distress was also happening to me, and I was giving myself no other option but to just cope. It’s not the circumstance that needs to change for us to feel in control, its the way we think and what we believe.

Louise Moles Anyone who wants to continue conversations in private, you’re welcome to message me or Kate. We’re each available for support if there’s anything of urgency, or you’d prefer to chat in person.