Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week

“Finding time to be kind”

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s chosen theme being “kindness”, and it’s taken me all the way until Sunday to write anything on here about it. Which is odd, considering I usually have a fair bit to say about mental health.

I suppose with the news still being very much covid-dominated, on top of a very big week at work, I haven’t felt I’ve had the time to reflect and get any thoughts together. I posted on Instagram earlier this week about being kinder to ourselves by slowing down a bit, but have struggled to write anything about kindness to others. And now I’m starting to think that this apparent lack of time to consider kindness is something we need to look at in both cases.

There are so many different ways to be kind to others – doing something thoughtful for a friend, stopping for a proper chat when you bump into someone you know, getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a while to say hi. As someone who likes to see the good in people, I think a certain amount of kindness comes naturally to most of us – but, being honest, how many of us slip up sometimes because we’re “too busy”?

I don’t mind being open about my many flaws and admitting that I have, during busy times, done all of the following things:

  • Promised to make plans with a friend “soon”, then realised 6 weeks later that I still haven’t text them
  • Complained about getting stuck chatting to a neighbour because it’s made me late getting somewhere
  • Pretended not to see someone I know, because I don’t have time to stop
  • Forgotten to send a birthday card because “time has flown and I didn’t notice what date it was”
  • Allowed a friend to do all the planning for our next meet up because I feel too busy to give it any thought (admittedly, on this one, I also get anxious that my own ideas will be rubbish – but that’s a whole other story for another day!)

I wrote in last week’s blog about how life has been slower lately – certainly not for the best reasons, but we are where we are. During this time of no commute and nowhere to go except the supermarket, I’ve had far more text and phone conversations with friends and family, stopped to chat to my next door neighbour when we’ve run into each other (from opposite sides of our shared landing, obviously), and just generally noticed the people around me a lot more. I haven’t been lucky enough to bump into many friends while out for walks (possibly for the best as resisting the urge to hug is painful!), but I’ve exchanged smiles and hellos with a whole bunch of people I don’t know instead of my usual “head down, earphones in” approach.

All of which makes me reflect on my “normal”, busier life and wonder…why was I always in such a rush that I couldn’t spare 5 minutes for a chat? Why was my head so busy with thoughts that I couldn’t remember to send someone a text or take half an hour to plan an evening out? Is it really necessary to be in that much of a rush all of the time – or do we just allow ourselves to get sucked into this way of living where we wear being really busy as a badge of honour. Why don’t we take the time to just slow down a bit more often, and focus on the things that matter – like remembering to send a birthday card to that friend who’s stuck around for 25 years, even though you only remember to text them about every 6 months.

Obviously, kindness to ourselves remains important too and I’m not saying that we should beat ourselves up those times that we are just genuinely having a hectic week, and disappear into our own heads for a bit. We’re only human and there is only so much time in a day. I just think that sometimes life can be so full of plans and events and shiny new things that catch our attention, that we lose track of the important stuff – like connecting with others, and giving proper time and attention to the people that we care about.

So, I suppose my aim going forward is to turn my focus outwards a bit more, and spend a bit less time convincing myself that I’m “just so busy all the time”.

Have a lovely bank holiday all, and try to spare 2 minutes to send a text (or even just a cat video) to one of your favourite people.


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