Looking after our relationships - Jill Cook
For most of us, life is full of relationships. It may sound an obvious thing to say but recently I have been reflecting on the quality of mine and the joys and challenges that they bring. There are some which seem to tick over smoothly and others that seem to need constant work to keep them going ...... a bit like a car I guess. If I put in oil, water in the windscreen washers and air in the tyres regularly and constantly refuel, my car will have a good chance of continuing to work for me. If I neglect any part of this process it will have an impact on how it runs.
So why am I writing about this now? Unlike my one car, I have many relationships of different types; for example, a relatively small number of close family and friends, a wider circle of those I know socially but not so well and my professional working relationships which are different yet again. These all need nurturing in different ways. I have often heard it said that good relationships shouldn’t need to be worked at, they should just happen. I don’t feel like that. Anyone who has raised or is raising a young person will know just how important it is to keep the lines of communication open in order to understand what is happening in their lives. Often adolescents in particular, cease to communicate and part of our role as an adult in their lives is to work at keeping conversations going so that the relationship doesn’t break down. Similarly, in all our other relationships it is good communication that enables us to keep them growing and developing.
May 16th – 22nd is National Mental Health Awareness week and this year its focus is on relationships. Healthy and supportive relationships can reduce the risk of poor mental ill-health. Recent statistics show that 1 in 4 of us will experience some form of mental ill-health. The most common being anxiety and depression alongside eating disorders, self harm and schizophrenia amongst others. Strong social networks and good relationships improve and support our mental health as much as good diet and exercise.
So how do I know if I have a mental health problem? Just as with a physical feeling that something is not right, so it is with our mental health. Our first port of call could be the GP or other trusted health practitioner - keeping it to yourself is not usually a good plan. Talk to someone you trust rather than bottling things up and seek help if you need it. Mental illness used to have a stigma around it but thankfully that is improving and employers are more aware and sympathetic than in the past. And if you feel that someone close to you is struggling, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are OK. You don’t need to be able to fix things for them but having a supportive listener is priceless, it can be the beginning of someone acknowledging that they may need some extra support. If you think that you could support someone in this way but are afraid that you don’t have the skills, look out for short courses on basic listening skills which will help to build your confidence.
So, looking after our relationships is really important. Some people may need more support than others but being aware of the value of them can enhance our mental health and therefore our lives.
If you are looking for counselling support you can check out www.counsellingdirectory.co.uk and www.bacp.co.uk where you will find therapists in your area who are qualified and members of a professional body.
Other useful resources include: