World Mental Health Day is on the 10th October of every year and it’s an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues. This initiative started in 1992 thanks to the World Health Organisation, whose mission is to bring more education and awareness around mental health while also challenging the social stigma attached to it.
In 2018 the theme for World Mental Health Day was ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’, bringing support to adolescents and young people in a time in their life when many changes happen.
As adults we can do so much to provide support to young people but we need to know how to approach problems when they arise and act in a sensitive manner.
Learning about Sophrology and how it can help both mind and body can really make a difference in the way we look at mental health and find useful tools to help.
Young people and isolation
A BBC/Wellcome Trust survey of 55,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 found that young adults often experience loneliness, and being on social media doesn’t help. In fact, having many online friends but not enough offline friends caused people to feel lonely, according to the survey. The so-called “fear of missing out” can also trigger feelings of loneliness and anxiety, as pictures on social media depict other people’s lives as enviable and exciting. To positively navigate the stress of modern life and being online implies being confident in your own identity and understand how to set clear boundaries around the time you spend in a virtual world.
Also all this time spent looking at screens means there is less time to socialise in real life – these days you can practise a sport, do your shopping, attend your university course, work, read and chat all online! So we need to motivate young people to get out and meet others again. It is sometimes difficult to know where to start but there are so many options out there. Whether it is through practising sport, joining a meet up, or talking to one new person a day… Initiatives like The Oblique Life in London can be a great help to experience a sense of community and find new friends.
If you are a parent of a teenager or work with young people, it is important to detect early signs of social anxiety and offer to help.
How Sophrology helped me reconnect
As a teenager in Switzerland I was busy with school and sport, but something was not right because I kept feeling faint, exhausted and unhappy. I felt I did not fit in and I had the feeling my body was letting me down. My family doctor prescribed some medication to boost my energy and blood pressure but nothing changed. I was becoming more and more anxious not knowing what was going on. One day he just said: “I think you should see a Sophrologist”. A what? I was so desperate to feel better that I decided to give it a go even if I had no idea what Sophrology was about.
I met with a lovely Sophrologist and did a weekly session over 5 weeks. She guided me through simple exercises based on breathing, relaxation, body awareness and visualisation and recorded them for me so I could use them at home. I practised very regularly and at the end of the 5 weeks, not only I felt back to normal and energised physically but very quickly I felt a sense of empowerment. What seemed almost unachievable a few weeks ago was now much easier. I had gained a sense of perspective I never experienced before. My confidence was boosted and my ability to connect with others reinforced giving the strength to find new friends.
Sophrology to support young people
Up to the age of 15 nobody had ever given me insights or tools about how to take care of my physical or mental health. I had no understanding about the mind/body connection, or awareness about how to deal with tensions, stress or difficult emotions. It was only when my body started to malfunction that I was suddenly forced to look into it. As a Sophrologist, I see a lot of youngsters in my practice and can therefore really understand how they feel. I can recognise their sense of isolation but also the huge pressure they feel these days from social media, parents, friends, school or thoughts about their future. They are often attending the best schools but have so much fear about failing in their exams, failing their parent’s expectations. They often have so much on that there is very little space to do things that are not result-driven and simply about being young and alive. Being so focused on building your future may simply mean not being present to what makes life enjoyable and motivating. We need to be aware of how these pressures can have consequences in their adult life, whereby some will inevitably end up dissatisfied by their situation and unable to enjoy their success, because they have been pressurised to succeed from an early age.
That’s where Sophrology is so important to learn a new way to connect within so we can gain a new perspective and make sure our inner and outer world are in sync. To make sure that happiness and mental well-being are not at the bottom of the to-do list. It is about gaining more inner freedom, working with less pressure, it is about self-development and knowing yourself better so you can truly thrive.
Sophrology is very accessible for young people as it is simple to practice and gives them something they can do to help themselves. They will eventually become independent using it so they can apply to many life situations (including preparing for exams). Most importantly, they will learn to know themselves, their needs and desires, and develop their inner resources so that, when the time is right, they feel confident to be who they truly are.