Haiku No. 12 | 2 October 2023

On realising that today, Tuesday 10th October 2023, is World Mental Health Day, I wanted to post something as a response or contribution to the conversation.*

I opted for this haiku that I wrote last Tuesday afternoon at 13:14. I don’t know what was happening at that time or had happened prior, and my diary is blank, so no pointers there.

However, seeing as my daily haikus are prompted by something that has captured my attention or a reflection of something I am feeling or musing on, a deep breath must have been needed at some point.

I have consciously and intentionally been using deep breathing as a means of well being and mental maintenance since November 2020.

Many of us will connect that time with the global pandemic, and it was a factor, However, for me, the season of heighten emotional stress predated that. Pre-pandemic my extended family were grieving the sudden and unexpected passing of my Aunt in November 2019.

Then along comes 2020 and from the beginning of February to the end of March I had 10 tabs constantly open on my laptop. As I was in Southeast Asia (SEA) leading two teams of cross-cultural workers and, together with them, navigating risk assesments, team and individual decisons about our work on the ground, whether the foreign workers should stay or leave and more.

My phone, which is generally on silent, had the ringer turned on for the first time in appx. 6 years. The first time I heard it ring, it frightened the life out of me.

The 10 tabs only closed after I had been back in the UK a while. Having had to leave SEA within 48 hours notice.

The Ringer Remained On

The phone ringer remained on for longer, as another family member was gravely ill. I didn’t want to miss that message or call.

Throughout 2020, and into 2021 and beyond, the ring of the phone or certain names flashing up on my screen instantly set my heart beating. My family has been riding the tidal waves of grief for longer than I care to acknowledge.

Leaving in limbo, working remotely with three time zones and navigating lockdown in London from my nephew’s Marvel bunkbed bedroom added additional challenges to the mix.

This is not to say that life was devoid of joy and blessings. It wasn’t, but there was a lot going on and being carried. As I know will be the same for most, if not all of us.

‘Welcome to This Abide Medidation’

On sharing with my cousin that I was having trouble sleeping, she shared that she had been finding the sleep meditations from Abide, a christian meditation app. useful.

Each meditation begins with welcome to this abide meditation and shortly afterwards there will be an instruction to take in a slow deep breath, take a moment, let the tension melt away, and to keep breathing throughout the meditation (paraphrased).

The benefits of using deep breathing to take a moment, ground yourself, look after your health etc. wasn’t new to me, but sometimes we need reminders. Or, something concrete to help us stop and be mindful of the need to breath and the importance of our breath.

It is sometimes also a matter or timing. This app. and it’s meditations (they also do daily Bible based devotions) met me at my point of need: for sleep, connection to the Creator, pause at the beginning and end of my day and so on.

It’s focus on deep breathing became a take away that I applied during moments of heightened stress or if I found myself rushing to the point of just making myself even more late, even more stressed.

It also became a tool for everyday life, even if not feeling stressed. Using it as a means to have a moment of quiet. A useful tool pre-starting or arriving at something. This is where I feel it becomes mental maintenance.

Why Mental Maintenance?

Good mental health, just like good physical health, is not a given. We have to work at it.Not all of us will experience a mental illness, but each of us will at some point face challenges when it comes to our mental health. Just like we do with our physical health from time to time.

Chance Marshall | Founding Partner at Self Space

Self Space’s founding partner Chance Marshall answers this question in the article that goes with the above quote.

As it happens I got to go to the opening of Self Space’s new venue in Soho in September, as a friend was a part of the Stories of Soho exhibit that was run in conjunction with the opening.

If you want some Tips for Mental Maintenance or feel you may want to explore therapy, Self Space maybe a place to start.

If the Abide app. sounds like something you might be interested in checking out, here’s a link to todays morning devotion. As it happens, today’s is entitled Breathing Room.

Everyday mental maintenance means not just reacting to mental illness, but taking a proactive approach to looking after our mental health and striving for mental wellness all year round.

Chance Marshall

*Please note, the above isn’t meant to be medical advice, as I am not a health practitioner. It’s the thoughts of one sojourner navigating this thing called life to another. In the hope that some of it may resonate and be useful.