YESTERDAY I was in a really dark mental space, so I booked an emergency therapy session because, frankly, I do not currently have the time for a breakdown.

I then realised I had consumed nothing except coffee since I’d woken up eight hours previously. So I ate, and coincidentally felt instantly better.

Turns out, I was just hungry. So I’d paid a £60 deposit for therapy, when in reality all I had actually needed was a sandwich. 

As if I needed any more financial waste in this current climate! 

I am obsessed with therapy – like an American level of obsessed. It transformed my mental health and thus my whole life, some four years ago. Ever since, I have shouted from the roof tops how important it is to seek professional counselling as soon as it is needed. 

If we broke a leg, we wouldn’t give it a few weeks to see if it feels better, yet when we are mentally struggling we have this Welsh instinct to just deal with it ourselves.

The truth is, very few of us can effectively deal with it alone, so we sweep things under the carpet until it all accumulates and we’re pushed over the edge by a mere inconvenience which just happened to be the final straw.

Ever cried in the middle of Sainsbury’s because they’d ran out of garlic bread? Just me? 

Treating and protecting our mental health should be an unmissable part of our daily lives, but the current brand of ‘self care’ my generation so fervently prescribes to has made us so wrapped up in our well being, that we overlook our responsibility to others. 

A differentiation needs to be made between protecting your mental health and partaking in self care.

The former is a consideration of what you need to do in order to remain healthy and mentally able to exist happily. The latter is a nice way of looking after yourself and destressing. I’m not disparaging the latter – it’s lovely. But it is not the same. 

To use myself as an example, I protect my mental health by going to therapy as and when needed (or even more regularly than that if yesterday’s #SandwichGate is anything to go by), by ensuring I no longer let toxic people influence my self-worth, and by leading a healthy lifestyle.

I conduct self care by having a lie in and eating Oreos whilst binge-watching the Kardashians. The latter is wonderful, but it is not the same. 

Yet a social-media-led narrative has unhelpfully heralded “self care” as a borderline human right, to the point where many of us are unwilling to do anything which makes us anything less than completely happy.

MORE MEL OWEN:

The irony being, that if we spent more time focussing on the true meaning of mental health, and less time captioning #selfcare under a photo of us polishing off a bottle of red, we’d be so much better equipped to handle life when we’re not completely happy. 

Our fixation with doing whatever ‘protects our peace’ and our point blank refusal to do anything which might cause even a flicker of stress, has also rendered us a bit selfish.

Whilst prioritising our happiness is key, we should still be willing to compromise this somewhat, only occasionally, so as not to let down somebody else who is reliant on us.  

I’ve been in multiple professional situations where everything has ground to a halt because someone “really needed a self care day”.

On one particular occasion, somebody’s absence due to their need for a “self care day” cost the production around £8,000 as the whole day had to be rescheduled whilst other team members still needed to be paid.

It was catastrophic for the company in charge of the purse strings, simply because this individual felt it was their right to “be mindful”. 

Unhappiness is going to be a part of life, now and again. Stress is inevitable, occasionally.

Disappointment, offence, adversity…they’re all elements of life which should not be abundant, but if our mental health is strong and cared for, we’ll be able to tackle them as and when they do crop up.

Yet some of us have spiralled into this self-centred belief that the instant we feel anything less than brilliant, we should reward ourselves with some “self care”.  

I do not want us to disavow “self care” completely, but we do need to recognise what an immense privilege it is to be able to take it so seriously.

I just cannot envisage millennials in Ukraine right now demanding their “triggers” be respected, whilst the atrocities of war unfold in front of their eyes. Thus, we need to gain some perspective and reconsider our priorities. 

I know some people will argue that “self care” is a key component of their mental health protection, and believe it or not, I don’t disagree.

However, it should be a part of the protection – not the whole strategy.

Trying to overcome mental challenges with self care is like trying to mend a broken ankle with an ice pack – it’ll alleviate the pain temporarily, but you’re still going to need a doctor to fix it in the end. 

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