Mental Well-being + Navigating Life Acrobatics
When it comes to possible statements one most commonly hears when listening to people talk about their experiences “staying healthy and happy”, there are a few widely shared pieces of ‘folk wisdom’ in our culture you may already be familiar with. Advice such as working to improve mood (ie “Get a hobby you really enjoy”), improve physical fitness level (“It balances out the brain chemicals; makes you more attractive”), or advance interpersonal relationship status (“Spend more quality time with family; find your ‘One’”) being among the most frequently touted.
While aiming to develop any of these features can certainly serve as a boost to quality of life, what many individuals seem to overlook is the fact that human beings, multifaceted and complex as we are, need wide-ranging, assorted outlets and expressions of support in the area of mental health. Like the pervasive myth that an artist only requires a single, all-encompassing ‘muse” from which all of their creative juices flow, it’s also a misconception that all an individual requires to achieve, and ultimately maintain a healthy state of well-being is a singular, effective outlet (ie. a sport, a hobby, an ever-present shoulder to cry on).
In my modest five or so years of (health psychology) field studies, one way I’ve come to view mental health promotion might also be illustrated through the metaphorical lens of a daring acrobatics act. Realities of life experiences will have you sailing around, leaping sometimes smoothly and chaotically from one trapeze (one stage of life) to the next. In the event that you miss a jump, or the ropes (your understanding of the way life works) break altogether, support comes in the form of a virtual “safety net”.
Similar to how—realistically—a successful visual artist is able to draw inspiration from countless number of sources in everyday life, so too does achievement and maintenance of good mental health draw effectively from several origins. Speaking from personal experience, as well as an outlook informed by a professional education in psychology, dimensions of support to our well-being may include, but are not limited to (4):
1) A Strong Support Network, consisting of friends, family, community groups,
significant others, mentors, and/or coworkers
2) A Healthy Level of Physical Fitness, which does indeed fortify the powerful
connection between Mind & Body
3) Multiple Opportunities for Self-actualization, or a distinct sense of direction
in life (ie. Using one’s skills or talents for the betterment of society)
4) Access to Specialized Resources [when needed], such as counsellors, faith
leaders, emergency hotlines, or walk-in clinics
The world in this sense is therefore one big ‘pavilion’ where you perform your one-of-a-kind air routine, but without the multiple kinds of support needed to maintain a healthy rhythm, or catch you when you fall, the performer in question—you— may need to re-evaluate the act before again taking flight.
These supports are act like a net in order to help you—the acrobat— from setbacks, permanent damage, and allow you to climb back up the communal ladder to resume your act on the platforms, trapezes, and high wires which constitute living!
In the event that one safety net may also break, you’ll still be alright and ideally kept in place for just such an emergency. This is purposefully designed for us to cope, grow, gain mastery and move forward to new experiences in living an exciting life where there is sure to be periodic uncertainty about the next step.
By Amy Smillie
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