Last week at St John’s was Wellness Week, a week to reflect on our mental and physical health and to remember the importance of taking time out.
We swapped our usual breakfasts for smoothies and fruit bowls, rose early for meditation and yoga and ended the day with an outdoor movie screening in the quad. This week has really helped me to slow down and has highlighted the significance of taking care of my body and mind; I feel calm and more positive as a result.
My first encounter with “mental health” was in high school when I signed up to be a volunteer at a youth telephone counselling service. Coming from a culture where mental health is often not spoken about, I did not know what mental health was. In my family, we really never spoke about it. After attending training, working shifts and answering calls from young people across the country, I started to get a better picture of the concept of mental health. Here are some tips from my experiences:
The slogan of the service is “It helps to talk”. I really can’t sum it up any better than that. When it comes to these issues, meaningful conversations are a must. Even though they can be incredibly hard, it is important to talk about what is going on for you. I like to ask the question “Are you ok?” This could lead to a simple “yes I’m good thanks” or be the question that someone has been waiting to answer.
Active listening. What is it and why is it so important? The biggest take away message I received from my volunteering experience at the call centre was that sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. At the end of my calls, I often asked, “Did you get what you wanted to get out of the call today?” Most of the time, the answer was “Yes thank you, I just wanted someone to listen to me”. On the phone, an active listener acknowledges what they are hearing by saying small things such as “hmm” to show that they are engaged. Face to face, active listening can be much more obvious. Looking at the person, nodding your head, and using your body language to show your interest makes it easier for the person to open up to you.
Focus on the person you are listening to. It’s not necessary for you to direct the conversation to yourself such as “Oh I know what you mean, I understand what you were feeling”. This statement is one I would definitely try to avoid because a person’s feelings can hardly be said to be “understood” by someone else. We all go through unique experiences so appreciate that and simply listen, rather than trying to relate everything to your own experience.
Wellness Week is a platform for us to engage with these issues that many people face. Now is a good time to start these conversations and most importantly, to continue to have them.