I’ve seen many many metaphors relating to building mental health resiliance and the one that resonates best with me is the welllbeing cup.
Let me explain.
There are things that we do that add to our wellbeing cups and things that take away.
If there is more being taken from your cup than being added it can lead to burn out, feeling out of control, taking your stress out on your loved ones or leaning hard on less healthy habits to manage. If you’re adding more to your wellbeing cup than you are taking, you feel better in yourself, have better emotional regulation, feel less stressed and are more able to make healthier decisions.
There are different things that top up our wellbeing cups because we’re all different. As a rule of thumb most fall into these six categories: balanced eating and drinking, regular movement, spending time in nature, connecting with people, creativity and meaningful activity. Then there are things that take away from your wellbeing cup. The acute-terrible traffic when you’re in a rush, spilling coffee on yourself moments before a meeting, car breaking down, crazy busy days when you barely have to go to the loo etc. And the chronic- illness, caring for a loved one, redundancy, grief. We can’t control them but what we can control is our response. In order to have capacity to control our responses we need to be coming from a place of resilience.
I learnt the hard way (hello summer of panic attacks) that if I don’t keep my cup balanced my body swiftly seeks to rebalance by sending me warnings. So for me this looks like: checking in on my fruit and veg intake a couple of times a day and noticing if I’m lagging behind my daily aim to have minimum of five (eg if I had croissants and coffee for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch I’ll think about having a rainbow stir fry for dinner), setting water reminders and making sure I’ve gone for a walk or done a workout every day (moving for my mind is a very real thing for me). I know that if I don’t do these things. If I don't get my small but essential wellbeing practices in, when something even small happens, my capacity to cope is severely reduced. I’ll be defensive and in tears over that argument about the dishwasher stacking, instead of being able to calmly resolve it and move on like the zen human I strive to be.
I can only be my best self if I’ve looked after myself first.
If also seen this same analogy using an wellbeing umbrella (a wellbrella? On my own there?) those same wellbeing activities keep your umbrella hole free and waterproof, the stresses create holes that are repaired by the wellbeing activities. I like this one because, when the shit storm hits (you get made redundant, broken up with, have a big fight with your bff) is your umbrella able to weather it or do you end up covered in shit? (I also like the metaphor because anything involving umbrellas reminds of the delightful summer when Rihanna released Umbrella (Ella Ella). I was 18 and footloose and fancy free, it’s the kind of nostalgia I can get on board with.)
Think about the metaphor that works for you and then set to the little things that keep that cup topped up.