Your personal stories

Thank you for sharing your personal stories and strategies for cultivating good mental health and wellbeing.

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Tim Allen

Sustainability Coordinator, Students' Union

This story is a very simple one. I was inspired by this short Ted Talk to start having walking meetings in Weston Park with colleagues where appropriate.

I've had one so far and it made both of us feel energised and helped spark new ideas. Also I sometimes have sitting down meetings in the park during summer, which, when the Students' Union's CEO spotted us, said 'this is excellent' – it's great to have that encouragement from the top!

Exercise, getting outdoors and time in nature are all good for wellbeing, so those of us engaged largely in brain work at the University can certainly sometimes incorporate this into our working days!

Dr Nigel Russell 

Professional Development Managers for Learning and Teaching Team Leader, Learning & Teaching Services

I have travelled to Edinburgh today (2 May 2017) for a meeting first thing tomorrow. I arrived late afternoon and, finding my hotel next to Holyrood Park, decided to go for a walk around Salisbury Craigs – something I had not done since a geology field trip as an undergraduate in 1991 despite several holidays in Edinburgh since!

As I set off the sun came out and I had a thoroughly enjoyable walk (revisiting sites of geological interest as well as the amazing views of Edinburgh) and felt most refreshed afterwards.

My tip for mental health wellbeing when we are out and about for meetings or external engagements in other cities is to find something of interest to do for an hour - something unrelated to the meeting or work, perhaps while waiting for the train. For example, a walk along the walls in York, or a visit to the British Library in London. It's next to St Pancras where there is always something interesting to see, and good food too.

Nigel Russell

Stacey

Stacey Mottershaw

Automatic Control & Systems Engineering

Many of you that know me will know that I am bubbly, friendly – usually more of an extrovert than an introvert... not necessarily the kind of person that stereotypically comes to mind when you think of mental health issues. It might surprise you to know that I was diagnosed with chronic depression nearly a decade ago.

Cultivating good mental health is vital to thriving, instead of simply surviving. To those of you who have suffered or who are suffering right now – every 1 in every 4 of you – you no doubt hear it like a broken record, 'eat more healthily, exercise more' or less helpfully 'just get on with it'. When you're in the grip of depression even thinking about eating well and exercising can sap all of your energy; even the tiniest spark of good intention can be sidetracked.

My depression comes in waves and is not determined – as far as I can tell – by anything logical. Over time I've learnt how to recognise the warning signs. And it's a bit like a migraine, or a bad cold – the earlier you identify the signs, the earlier you can stockpile some resources for the storm ahead.

I've tried a bit of everything from CBT, to medication, to mindfulness therapy. Some have worked well, some not so much. But it has all been a part of my journey to where I am now. I no longer shut the world out when things are looking gloomy, but instead I embrace the company of my family and friends and tell people if I'm having a difficult day. I stockpile the love and support of others, their ability to listen, to talk and to distract me from myself. I make plans and stick to them. I do things that I'd feel far too guilty to just not turn up to – activities like volunteering and netball, where other people rely on you turning up and taking part.

Ultimately, no matter what hand you've been dealt in the mental health stakes, how you manage your mental health and cultivate good mental health is down to you. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself the space to identify your triggers, to recognise the signs and time to find what works for you. Allow yourself the chance to truly thrive.

Louise Hall, Careers Liaison

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

As someone who suffers from anxiety, actively cultivating my mental wellbeing is important in helping to keep me stable and resilient to the challenges that life and work throw my way.

Finding ways to exercise my creativity has been a key part of developing this resilience. I was taught to knit by my nan when I was young, but got back into it in 2013 after a difficult life event that I needed to distract myself from.

I was quickly drawn in – there's something calming, almost meditative, about creating something three-dimensional and tangible out of a piece of string.

From knitting I moved on to spinning my own yarn, dyeing yarn and fibre, then sewing, crochet and now weaving. I’ve recently joined the Hallamshire and District Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers – it’s great to be part of a community of people with the same interests.

All of the fibre arts can be as relaxing or as challenging as you want them to be – learning to knit lace gave me a real sense of achievement! Working with my hands and being creative is now part of how I see myself and gives me a sense of my own skill and capability.

weaving

allotments

Carl Lee

Department of Life Long Learning

We all have the capacity to be impacted by mental health issues, some of this is a consequence of the social and economic expectations that are promoted as being 'desirable'.

Personally I have approached life with a low degree of expectation - when 'good' things happen I am pleasantly surprised, it is not my overarching expectation to be 'successful', or 'expert', or 'high-achieving'. I maintain my equilibrium by accepting what I am; 'normal', everyday and average, like the vast majority of folk I share the planet with.

This enables me to accept my limitations and failings with equanimity but perhaps more importantly to be able to do the same for others.

As a gardener of some long-standing this is re-enforced every year because there is always something that fails, that I mis-judge or simply get wrong, no matter how much I think I know. You are never really an expert you are always learning something new.

Sarah Moore

Learning and Teaching Services

I'm a strong advocate for the benefits of being active, not just in terms of physical health, but also in terms of mental health.

When I was struggling with my anxiety and depression, one of the main things that kept me surviving was forcing myself out for a walk, even if I really didn't feel like it. I'm fortunate in that Rivelin Valley is very close to where I live, so I would take myself there, either on my own or with a friend.

There's something about the rhythms of walking that I find incredibly relaxing. It doesn't get rid of the depression and anxiety completely, but helps me to manage it. I'm a keen runner as well, and always come back feeling far better than when I went out. They say that the hardest part of running is getting out the door, and on a winter's evening that's definitely the case!

But what I've also found beneficial is taking five minutes each day to stop, and notice the view. At this time of year the swifts are on their way back, and doing this regularly helps me to refocus myself away from the everyday difficulties occupying my mind towards the wider rhythm of nature.

View by Sarah Moore

Gut self help tool

Charlotte Graham, Department of Geography

I have poorly guts. But strong guts: the guts to say I am not ashamed of having IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I rely on medication to control the symptoms as it can be very painful and embarrassing. Some of the ‘pleasant’ symptoms include incontinence, constipation, excessive wind and bloating.

I want to inspire others to know that you cannot change who you are and what you have, but you can take control of your perspective on it. If I did not have IBS I would not have been involved with the Knowing as Healing project, supporting a current PhD student (Vicky Grant) which involves meeting, sharing ideas and thoughts with a group of inspiring women (PERCIVAL Group) in which we all share the same condition.

Some of my positivity comes from my very inspirational partner, Dale. He has cerebral palsy (CP) and uses a wheelchair.

But in all of the six years we have been together he has never complained. I don’t even think I have heard him say he wishes he was not disabled. I would not change him either because he is the most positive ball of energy anyone could ever wish to meet.

Left: My gut-sore self-help tool!