As we approach the halfway point of the year you could be forgiven in thinking ‘I’ve had enough’. We should be looking forward to a summer of sport on the TV, holidays abroad and lazy weekend afternoons in the beer garden, relaxing with friends. Sadly, it’s looking unlikely that we’ll be able to enjoy any of these things for a while as the ‘new normal’ doesn’t allow it.
A cold pint, sharing conversation with others and indulging in your favourite summer sport are vitally important to your mental health, although I imagine the significance of these – and other down-time activities – were not truly appreciated until they were no longer allowed. These simple things in life provided comfort and distraction from life’s stresses – and when they are taken away they leave a gap; and that’s when emotions and mental health are tested. An idle mind can play cruel games; without the positive and usual distractions, it is easy to be overcome with negative emotion and a sense of loss.
Thankfully, it feels more acceptable to discuss mental and emotional health than it did a decade ago. I believe, this is partly due to the effort of Prince’s William and Harry who have not only been honest and frank about their own thoughts and feelings, but have also invested a great deal of time and effort into promoting mental health services and the importance of talking therapy.
Despite the Princes’ work, for a lot of men, sharing emotion is still something they are embarrassed to talk about. During a counselling session, I often encourage men to explore what is holding them back and the response is often a fear of being judged or shamed; something which a counsellor will never do. In the safety of a therapy room – and once a trusting relationship has been established – I am able to empower men to appreciate and understand their inner self. And guess what? Men cry! There is nothing embarrassing, weak or negative about a man crying – it is a gateway to personal relief and self-exploration – and leads to many light-bulb moments.
In times of crisis, it is important that we all appreciate life from a different perspective. We can choose to go with flow – and accept the things we can’t change, or we can fight against it and waste personal time and effort. Life now is about making the best of a bad situation and making positive choices which benefit everyone. Going to the pub is no longer an option, but they will be open soon. Foreign holidays are cancelled, but you can enjoy local green spaces with the family and no doubt – when it is safe to do so – the terraces of every football club will come alive with the sound of enthusiastic fans once more.
It is with football that I first remember seeing a man cry – not just a little tear, but a full-on lip-wobbling gush. A 98th minute yellow card, during England’s epic 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat to West Germany, had the world gripped with ‘Gazzamania’. The broadcast media took delight in not only showing the iconic footballer crying, but thousands of fans expressing their disappointment. The following morning, a British newspaper printed the headline ‘Weep and the world weeps with you’.
Emotion is something deeply personal, but when it needs to come out there should be nothing to be afraid of; the last few months have been tough on everyone… Support others and you will be supported yourself; you don’t need permission, or even a yellow card to open up.
Duncan Ellison retrained to become a counsellor following over 25 years in the media, broadcast and live event industries. He lives in Newark and has recently qualified to teach counselling skills and theory to aspiring therapists.