This is a brutally hard question because it has so many potential answers. I want to sum up some of what I’ve learnt over the years. The way that I have dealt with my own mental health issues and the way I’ve helped others along the way. I need to state here for the very loud and very legal record. This post in no way, shape or form is trying to diagnose, treat or cure any mental health related condition. If you have any concerns please consult your own doctor! All I’m doing here is reciting what I’ve studied and experienced first hand.

Now that ‘s out the way, lets get into what mental health actually is. Technically, mental health is defined as the following according to mentalhealth.gov “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

What Do Associate With Mental Health?

One of the first things that pops into my mind is depression. What I didn’t realise is that mental health is much more that just depression. There is PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, stress, nice guy syndrome I’ll elaborate on later. There’s phobia’s in general that stop people doing things, bipolar, autism, dementia, and schizophrenia to name a few. Each of these conditions has there own signs and symptoms as well as patterns of behaviour. Being able to spot early warning signs of depression and any of these conditions could genuinely save people’s lives.

It’s easy to conjure up images of a sad person, or a war vet that’s gone through hell and having mental health issues. We tend to overlook are the people that suffer in silence. The people who are constantly looking after other people and put their own needs last. People that seem really together and strong on the surface. Yet scratch below that armour and you’re dealing with a very hurt and frightened individual. Trust me I’m watching this first hand in my own life right now.

These days I feel a lot of people use the banner of mental health to their own advantage. And that really pisses me off. It’s no different to crying wolf. They tell their boss they’re feeling a little overwhelmed and anxious. The boss has to accommodate the mental health of that individual when really they’re just shit at their job. These days we cant tell people what they need to hear, we live in fear of offending people and we cant give people constructive criticism any more.

Why do I mention this? Because the people with genuine mental health issues don’t speak up. Especially men! We’re shit at letting people know we’re feeling a little vulnerable, it’s not the alpha male thing to do. The people who are genuinely struggling and borderline suicidal say nothing. I know this because I was one of those people. I suffered in silence, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I was raised with the message of you’ll be fine, get on with it.

What’s My Story?

I got mugged back in 2008. I received 4 fractures on my skull, one of them fractures my inner ear unit, this meant I lost the hearing in my right ear along with my balance. My hand eye coordination is still not right to this day and I have no more sense of smell. I received some fairly serious physical damage, but worst than this, were the mental issues that followed.

I had a very, very bizarre experience while I was laying on the bed that night. For the full story check out the video on my YouTube channel as it’ll save a lot of time writing and a lot of time reading. Click here for the video.

After the attack I was always looking over my shoulder, I was frightened to go out. I was nervous approaching girls in bars or clubs, this happened before tinder so you had to actually go and talk to girls to get anywhere haha. My car was the only place to provide me any kind of feeling of security while I was out and about. With my inner ear unit being affected by the fractures, I had to really concentrate to keep my balance and not keep walking off to the left. This had a major impact on my mental health. I could play any kind of sport, I struggled to go out, I was suffering crippling headaches and throwing up was a daily event for like 2 months.

This was 12 years ago now, I still suffer relapses into fear of being outside and the paranoia of thinking people are out to get me. Having lost the hearing in my right ear, I still glance over my shoulder to see whats happening. I have been able to go back and play football and cricket which has been a real blessing. I still struggle with balance and I still massively struggle with hand eye coordination which does affect my state of happiness. However, what’s helped me is something that my first therapist told me. He made me see things in a very different light by using what an analogy based in what I do for a living as a personal trainer and coach. It went like this.

Therapist: “person A is a perfectly healthy no physical ailments to name. Person B has had a brain injury and lost their hearing and balance. Would you expect them to be able to perform the same based on their physiology?”

Me: “Well no that would be physically impossible.

Therapist: “You used to be person A, you are now person B. Why would compare past performance with a different body, to today’s performance with a different physiology?

Me: “Because I want to be as good as I used to be, but now you put it like that, I need to draw a line under that and set some new bench marks with the new body.”

Turning The Corner

Getting help and seeking further therapy was a huge massive help to me. Once I had that epiphany of my body is no longer the same, it felt like a huge weight lifted off my mind. Getting the counselling helped me deal with the PTSD and fear of getting outside and into groups of people I didn’t really know. It helped me to find coping mechanisms when those feelings of anxiety would creep up on me. I can’t tell you what they are because they will only work for me, my personality and my experience.

If you’re suffering PTSD and anxiety 100% you need to get to a therapist. Start by going to your doctor and talking to them, you will not be judged! And you’ll start the process of becoming truly to your core happy. And that’s a great feeling when you can let all your troubles go and just live in the now.

A big eye opener here that helped me continue this journey of shaking the old mindset was learning about nice guy syndrome. It’s a condition that will affect both men and women. Getting over nice guy syndrome is not about how to become a dickhead. It’s about how to get what you want while empowering yourself and those around you. Let me sum this up for you.

Nice Guy Syndrome

Nice guy’s finish last. A statement that has rung true ever since we got civilised and probably even before then. I doscovered nice guy syndrome when I downloaded an audio book called “no more Mr nice guy”. Initially the title put me off but I downloaded it anyway. Turns out i was suffering every single sign and symptom that Dr Robert Glover laid out in the book.

Common traits of a nice guy are the follow

  • Put’s every body else’s needs first
  • Always had a desire to be popular but never made it in the with cool kids
  • Suppressed urges and needs (sexual or otherwise)
  • Avoids conflict with partners and parents at all costs
  • Acts in a way that others expect them to and resents that behaviour
  • Always tries to be a good person
  • Wonders why people don’t include them in plans, or cancels plans on them and always feels like they get shit on after doing nice things.

If any of this list sounds familiar, don’t panic. It can be resolved and it will take a lot of hard looking in the mirror. It’ll take you back to times in your childhood that have left lasting impressions you didn’t realise were there. What the book taught me was that I’ve suppressed a lot of my urges through fear of rejection. Fear of letting down a parent and losing the love of the parents is a huge impact for a young boy. When you get told you’re doing stuff wrong, or you over hear phrases that question your desires and what you want to do. It makes a very lasting impression and can be a massive driver of nice guy syndrome.

That’s what happened to me, when I realised the exact moment that turned me to become a nice guy. I balled my eyes out in the car. I was driving home and a song came on the shuffle and then I was transported back and boom! The emotions came flooding to the surface. I don’t blame my parents, they did the best they knew how at the time. they were early 20’s when they had me. Child development and child psychology wasn’t a thing in the early 80’s.

Getting over nice guy syndrome will mean working with a therapist or someone who has been through the journey themselves. One of the things I’ve set up for my men’s group is exactly this. Creating a safe non judgemental space for men to talk, open up and get things off their chest. If they want answers to questions they can ask, if they just want a rant, that’s all good too. But ultimately my goal is to get men talking about frustrations, pressures, feelings and asking for help. For details about the group you can find them here.

Moving Forward With Mental Health

One thing that annoys me is that when it comes to mental health. Nobody talks about happiness. How to find happiness, loads of people talk about meditation. But how do you actually meditate? Should you seek the zen like silence in your mind? Would guided meditation be better? Should you even do meditation?

Every single person on this earth has a different idea about happiness and what it means to them. For some it’s financial success, for others its owning a home, for others it’s having a family, for others it’s travelling the world not owning anybody any money. What ever true deep rooted happiness is for you I’d suggest you write it down. Does working 70 hours a week fills you with absolute joy? Then do it.

If going to Ibiza and getting lost in the music and living in the now does it for you then do it. If getting on the beers with your pals at the weekend does it, then go for it. There is no right or wrong when it comes to doing what makes you happy. Unless of course it involves harming others, or anything illegal, don’t do that. I don’t condone illegal activities that result in the harm of others.

Steps To Take.

At the risk of over simplifying here, I’m going to sum up what’s helped me from therapists, self help books and friends.

  1. Write down what makes you truly happy.
  2. Do just one thing every day that makes you smile.
  3. Write down your personal and professional goals every day!
  4. Talk to people that make you feel good, friends, family or strangers is fine.
  5. Exercise, there is a huge link between increased activity and mental wellness.
  6. Get outdoors and as close to nature as you can at least twice a week. Unplug from the internet, leave your phone at home and get outdoors and get your feet in the grass or in the sand or in the sea.
  7. Get a therapist and speak to your doctor if you’re feeling depressed, anxious or in a lull that you just cant seem to shift.

I appreciate these things seem really simple and it is. But dealing with the emotions of why you’re not feeling happy and fulfilled is the hard bit. That’s why working with your doctor and therapist is key! Nobody likes dealing with emotions, it’s a very masculine thing to bury emotions. It’s a very British thing to carry on with the stiff upper lip. The sooner you acknowledge your emotions and start dealing with it, the better! There is a reason that depression gets medicated. There is a very delicate balancing act that happens in the gut and the brain when it comes to mood and how you feel. It can be affected by hormonal balance. Too much body fat, too little activity, naturally low serotonin levels can all be factors.

Summing it up

All in all, there a lot of factors when it comes to mental health. I believe keys to having a balanced mental health are the following.

  • Self awareness
  • Clear definitions of what happiness is to you
  • An activity plan for things that make you happy
  • Working with a GP or therapist
  • Knowing your sources of stress and anxiety
  • Working with a professional to find your own coping mechanisms
  • Exercising at least twice a week
  • Getting into Nature at least twice a week

For help with setting your goals and defining your happiness and then getting a plan together. Get in touch today and let’s have a chat and see what we can achieve together.