Time To Talk Day is on the 3rd February and so we thought it apt to focus this months blog around sharing some top tips on having some warm conversations and encouraging people to talk about their experiences.

 

Why is it good to talk about mental health?

 

The old saying goes that a problem shared is a problem halved. Very often we don’t have the solutions to our problems, but the act of offloading and sharing what we are holding mentally, with other people, can really feel like a weight has been lifted. How do you feel after you’ve had a rant about something, or spent an hour or two chatting to a friend? It really is true that talking can help to lower those stress and anxiety levels we feel.

 

This happens because talking brings catharsis, a feeling of relief. So even without the problems being ‘fixed,’ the act of talking can make an incredible difference.

 

As humans we are wired for connection and talking helps us to do just that. Struggling with mental health can feel lonely. Therefore, connecting with another person, being believed in and accepted really can make the world of difference.

 

Prevention

Talking about our experiences also helps to prevent the onset of mental ill health. If we can bring about a sense of catharsis on an ongoing basis, day to day, it can help to reduce the build-up of stresses and anxieties. When we let things accumulate, there will become a point where we can’t take any more and this is when we experience that emotional snapping point.

 

Who to talk to?

 

Therefore, talking about what we have going on in our lives is a really good thing. The key is finding someone you can trust. Someone you know who will listen and listen without passing judgement. It may be that you identify several different people within your network who you know you can talk to depending on what that ‘thing’ is that you need to talk about or offload. This can also be helpful in reducing those worries that we are a burden on others as well.

 

It may also be an option to consider talking to someone via a helpline. They have volunteers trained to do exactly what you need- to listen, and not to judge. If you don’t think you can trust someone close to you; or are worried about talking to someone you know, remember helplines are anonymous. And it is exactly what they are therefore- to allow people to talk.

 

It’s a 2-way process

 

Talking is a two-way process. Listening is an important part of that. It sounds obvious but it really does take some skill to be an effective listener. Largely we get very little education by way of listening through school- a lot more of the focus being on writing and reading. Yet listening is the communication skill which generally outweighs all the others in our day to day lives.

 

Listening isn’t just about hearing what the other person is saying, but making them feel comfortable and encouraged to talk. Does our body language welcome that? Is our facial expression neutral so as not to show judgement? Are we allowing for pauses, for the person to process and put into words what may be incredibly difficult?

 

In addition to that we also have those pesky distractions to manage. Whether that be notification pop ups; our next meeting; or even our internal thoughts.

 

Here are our top tips to encourage open and supportive conversations.

 

Our Top Tips
  1. Time and Place- consider the environment, is it relaxed and is it private? Getting out in nature can work wonders for lowering those stress and anxiety levels too so taking a walk could be a brilliant option.
  2. Reserve judgements- we will judge, we all do, it’s human nature. This is about how we manage those judgements. How do we remain neutral in both our approach, and our body language- including our facial expressions.
  3. Body language and facial expressions- these alone can determine how comfortable another person may feel in confiding in us.
  4. Open questions- to enable us to understand their perspective. To help us to connect to the feelings and emotions they may be experiencing and ensuring that we are not looking at the situation from our frame of reference.
  5. Allow for silences. Silences can be incredibly comforting. They also allow an individual time to process what they want to say and to put into words what may be incredibly difficult. Especially when this may be the very first time the person has spoken about their experience.

 

Finally, book yourself onto an MHFA course. Here we will teach you a fabulous framework to encourage really effective and supportive conversations while going into much more detail on all of the above. If you would like more information on how we can help contact me here: Jennifer.rawlinson@flourishinmind.co.uk