• Grace McMahon

It’s Time to Talk: The Power of Small

Today, 4th of February 2021, is ‘Time to Talk Day’. An awareness day created by the Time to Change team to encourage us to open up, start a conversation and raise awareness of mental health.

“The more conversations we have about mental health, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down – helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us feel when experiencing a mental health problem.” - Time to Change

We know that talking about mental health can be a little awkward and uncomfortable to start with. But, even the smallest of conversations have the power to make a big difference. And, after the year we've had, we’re sure that we can all come up with something to say!

The Power of a small chat

Whether we’re struggling ourselves or know someone who is, start a small conversation to get the ball rolling. It’ll have an impact regardless of whether it ends up as a 5-minute chat, or a 2 hour FaceTime call.

Tips for getting talking:

  1. Text first: This might be a difficult conversation, and if it’s the first, it’s likely to feel a bit daunting. Text a friend, a family member, even a colleague rather than going straight in face-to-face. It’ll help make a start and the recipient might even encourage us to continue further with a call.

  2. Trust them: Whoever we might talk to, this topic can be heavy. It can be unusual for some. It might be emotional. We can help both parties by talking with someone we trust, so that we feel supported, valued and heard.

  3. Seek professional help: Although this whole day is about encouraging conversation (which is great), it is important to seek professional help if we are finding things particularly difficult. We might have many willing and listening ears around us, but a professional can supply us with a non-judgemental ear, ways to cope and how to build these into our own lives.

Tips for listening:

  1. Truly listen: It might seem obvious, but what we really mean is to listen without interrupting, suggesting or advising. Let the person finish their sentences, let them know they have been heard. Non-verbal cues like nodding, eye contact, leaning in a little closer, are great ways to show we are listening.

  2. Take it seriously: If someone has had the guts to start talking, don’t minimise what they are saying. We can't assume that we understand how they feel - even if it sounds familiar. Things can be entirely different between two heads so saying things like “you’ll be fine”, “it’s just a blip”, “cheer up!” are not really that helpful and can actually cause the other person to retreat!

  3. Offer support: We don’t need to fix, solve or advise someone. Instead, we can offer to help by finding professional support, by doing research to understand more, or maybe even offer to help with daily chores that can seem overwhelming (like grabbing essentials like milk and bread, doing school pick-ups, or walking the dog).

  4. Keep boundaries: Supporting someone can be difficult and draining, not because the person is difficult or draining, but because worrying or caring for someone can be. It’s best to offer our support when we know that we have the mental space and the physical time to give it. Driving our own stress levels up isn’t going to help in supporting another. Remember to look after yourself too - you can't pour from an empty cup.

Whatever you do, don't be disheartened

When we start talking, we might feel lighter, relieved, and even a little more positive! But, we might also feel, awkward, uncomfortable or worried. I personally have felt this many times after sharing with even my nearest and dearest. This is totally normal, and even though that uneasy feeling post-chat may appear, it does disappear after a few moments. Trust me, talking does get easier every time.

It is also important to remember that we might not get the reaction we wanted, which can be really difficult to process. This could be because the person simply doesn’t understand, or it could be that they weren’t the right person to talk to. In fact, there are many reasons, and, unfortunately, we cannot expect, even our closest friends to be able to support us in everything. If this happens, its ok to feel rubbish. But don't give up - try again. Try someone else. Or seek professional help.

Whichever option we choose, we just have to make sure to keep talking!

Best wishes,

Grace McMahon

Beingwell Life Coach

For some top tips on how to start your conversations, head over to our Instagram here.