We can all improve our mental strength, and it doesn't mean we should suppress our emotions, writes Counsellor Sarah Barr:

We still live in a society that somewhat values the “get up and at it” and “pull yourself together” mentality.

For years, anyone who was living with depression, anxiety or another mental health illness was viewed as being “weak”.

How wrong that viewpoint was/is.

Living daily with a mental health illness requires so much strength.
Strength to face the world and your thoughts, to mask your feelings behind a smile and to try and make it through the day without having a panic attack.

Living with an invisible illness is exhausting and frightening. Yet often those who do live with anxiety or depression, do so quietly.
They are sensitive, empathetic and always putting other’s needs before there own.

This is strength.

We may have been taught that to be “strong” means we should not cry and we should suppress our negative feelings. By doing so would make us appear emotional stable, and anyone who appeared emotionally stable (or displayed no emotions) were viewed as the strong ones.

Thankfully our awareness and understanding of mental illness has increased. We are more accepting of our feelings and we feel more comfortable talking about them.

We are able to recognise that being “strong” does not mean being “emotionally constipated” (a brilliant phrase I have taken from a client-with her approval).

Instead being “strong” is about being you! Owning your feelings, beliefs and emotions and not apologising for who you are.

We can all improve our mental strength, through the way we think, feel, and behave.

• Thoughts – Being mentally strong involves reframing unproductive or irrational negative thoughts. It is not about thinking positive but about training your brain to think realistically.

• Feelings – Mental strength is about knowing how to manage your emotions. Sometimes, this means embracing uncomfortable emotions, rather than trying to distract yourself or escape from them. At other times, it is about using techniques/strategies that will help you change your emotional state.

• Behaviour – Becoming mentally strong involves taking productive action. Building new habits that will support your emotional and mental wellbeing. Such as practising gratitude, labelling your emotions and challenging your negative thoughts using CBT techniques.

Take care, Sarah