The past months have been nothing less than entertaining. I, while not overly social, have been more social than I typically am. Part of these social activities have included attending poetry nights, lectures at the University of Victoria campus, connecting with friends from my past, spending quality time with new and maintained friends, and family time. Really, there has been nothing to complain about!
However, if you know me well, you know I have a tendency to live a bit of a hermit life. It is not uncommon to hear close friends share with me life beyond what is under my rock, a rock I thoroughly enjoy living under. I enjoy my time at home, alone, and living life to my own beat. Daily living for me is somewhat routine and when that routine is interrupted I find myself lost, resistant to engage with others, and constantly in a state of unease. Naturally during these times I seek silence. I go out for long walks alone or turn everything off in my apartment and just sit. I battle a strong desire to leave my phone aside while balancing the thought of someone really needed to connect. This week, I find myself in exactly that state. It would be easy to turn my phone off, to hibernate in my apartment, and seek silence.
Part of my sharing this is a reminder that we all live our lives individually and collectively. Our health, including our mental health, is constantly in flux and it is our responsibility to care for our own health. Mental health is not something we think about only during dedicated “Mental Health Awareness Weeks”, “World Mental Health Day” or when we hear a friend or family member speak of someone else’s poor mental health. And while in society the term Mental Health is predominantly used to express challenges or concerns individuals face with their mental and/or emotional well-being, here I use it more loosely. I refer to Mental Health as both the positive and challenging moments we each encounter that impact our happiness, our interactions with self and others, as well as our motivation, desire, creativity, drive, and inspiration.
While I sit in silence, what I like to consider silence as all external stimuli is muted, my brain burns like wild fires. My thoughts scattered, non-linear, sometimes shallow in depth of reflection, other times lost in the depth of the forest fire, often guiding, and always stimulating, has led me to ponder what allows and how some individuals thrive in group settings while other in their own presence? How, in a world that is so interconnected do we all have unique personalities? And how do each of these unique personalities find and/or create spaces that support each individuals unique mental health needs? Do we, as humans, all understand mental health and the development of health? Actually, lets step back a second, do enough of us recognize and acknowledge our own mental health in order to ensure it remains as healthy as possible?
Many more questions filter through my mind. I wonder about interactions with others and how they influence our self-thoughts? I think about the power of comparisons and the desire to connect with others on various levels. These and other thoughts lead me to a self-debate of the ways in which individuals express themselves. I worry that we do not spend enough time in silence to allow our thoughts to provoke creativity, to inspire movement, or to let ourselves absorb our experiences.
For me, I find each day I seek intrinsic reflection through different means. As of late, I have spent much more time in nature and behind my camera. Moments have begun to share stories and pictures have become the representation of these stories. Yesterday this become even more apparent than ever before. I was walking to meet a mentor at a local cafe, a road I walk down five to six times a week. But yesterday I decided to take a detour on my way home and wander a street just a few blocks off track. I walked carefully on Victoria’s icy sidewalks as snow is a bit of an anomaly here so residents do not prepare their homes with salt. This meant I needed to walk a bit slower than I typically walk (which isn’t all that fast if you are wondering). The slower pace encouraged me to absorb my surroundings and in a moment of exploration I became witness to the most peaceful and welcoming entrances of a home nearby.
I stopped for a brief moment and mulled over the many stories that have been shared upon this front entrance deck. I envisioned a grandfather and granddaughter sitting there telling stories of how Victoria BC formed while other grandchildren played amongst the grass, this day snow covered. I started to speculate the stories the trees held in their life. I wondered about the generations of children who grew up in this house, the dreams that came true under this roof, and the laughs that filled this space. Within a moments time, I had found in the quiet of the outdoors on a day were few cars filled the streets, that a whole story created itself by a simply glance in a direction never viewed before.
I have clearly wandered off from my initial posts desire. What I find most interesting is how easy it is to act in a way that depletes one’s mental and holistic health. On the other hand, it can be a struggle to find techniques to keep abreast when things begin to falter and we become aware of these shifts. For me, the day’s I find myself wanting space from others and seeking out silence is when I am able to check-in and realize my movement from Health to Healthy is off track. I find silence rewarding, almost a renewal of my energy and a time to reshape my progression. Each of us has something that has allowed us to get to where we are currently, these skills and tools are likely still viable options but may just need a little re-twicking. So, while we all gear up for the holiday season, one that is often spent with many others and can in many ways be just as depleting as fulfilling, I encourage you to prepare your tool box and find those moments of rejuvenation, whether it be in silence, in a creative art, time with a close friend, or a walk outdoors.
The holiday season is often one that comes with various emotions that impact our mental and holistic health. Preparing ourselves, scheduling in self-appreciation time, and learning to politely refuse invitations may just be the key to a successful year end and new year!