Mental health is in a way mental wellbeing. This is about our emotions, feelings, thoughts and ability to solve problems or overcome difficulties.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll be very familiar that I spend a lot of time (most weekends) in the Bavarian or Tirolean alps.
Since moving to Munich, I have realised that in a lot of ways that my my mental health has improved because there are a lot of activities here that I enjoy.
That said, there are also a lot of opportunities on the door step to my parents such as Northumberland and the Lake District, but I never utilised these while I lived in the UK. One thing I did utilise was mountain biking. This was something that I did a lot of just before moving to Germany in areas such as Kielder, Wales and Glentress.
That said, it isn’t just being in the mountains or outdoors that helps my mental health, it is everything surrounding it.
How have the mountains improved my mental health?
Emotion, thoughts and feelings: when I am out in the mountains, mountain biking in the UK or even by the coast, it takes me away from the rush of life, away from my apartment and into nature.
This connection with nature enables me to concentrate on the surroundings, which clears my mind and then enables me to put my feelings into perspective.
Problem solving: being in the mountains or on a mountain bike trail, things don’t always go to plan. The weather can change from one moment to the next, the avalanche risk means you have to wait or take a different route or your path slide away.
This means that you always have to analyse the situation, discuss options and find another way to do things, which continuously helps with problem solving skills.
Resilience: at times you want to give up in the mountains. You could be tired, things aren’t going to plan or just can’t be arsed.
By pushing through these situations, we can learn how to be resilient. You can read more on that here.
Social connections: when on an adventure, regardless if it is mountaineering, a polar expedition or a solo travel, you will always be required to connect with people. This connection could take place in an airport, train station, with your fixer or with locals in a remote town in Albania or even with fellow team mates.
Consequently this helps to strengthen social skills and communicating to different personality types across the globe.
Mindfulness: being mindful means that we are aware of our surroundings, feelings and sensations.
When preparing to head for the mountains or on a mountain bike adventure, it isn’t just being on the mountain or trail that helps with mindfulness, it is also everything before such as route planning, packing, booking travel, prepping food and travelling to the location.
Then whilst on the mountain, the sounds, smells, views and weather all bring me into the moment and enjoy the present.
It is more than just “being” in the mountains that has helped me. It has enabled me to have good mental health even though I live with mental illness (anxiety).
This will also be the same for your hobbies, even with things such as knitting. My mum and gran always have fun looking for their latest project, then finding a pattern, buying supplies, doing the knitting and seeing the result. This all helps with their mind.
Do what you enjoy.
Visible from Munich, it is no wonder why the Zugspitze is one of the most iconic peaks in the Garmisch alps. It’s little sister the Alpspitze protrudes from the ridge like a pyramid perched at 2600m and it one of the most iconic peaks of the Garmisch region.
Although the Alpspitze is the little sister of Germany’s highest peak the Zugspitze, this ascent and descent should not be underestimated.
Are you game for the ascent? Here are 5 things to know for climbing Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze & sister peak, Alpspitze
– Overview -
Zugspitze (Eibsee – Zugspitze)
Length (to Summit): 8km | Level: Hard | Duration: 7 hours | Elevation: 2962m | ↑ 2000m
Alpspitze (Hammersbach – Alpspitze – Alpspitzebahn)
Length : 10km | Level: Hard | Duration: 7 hours | Elevation: 2628m | ↑ 2016m | ↓ 600m (to the Bergstation)
– It isn’t a walk –
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Can you fail at something you can’t control?
Is it failure if you learn from it?
If you stay safe as a result of not pursuing something, is it failure?
These are questions that I asked myself during a June trip to Alta Badia in the Italian Dolomites. During the month of June, it is often still spring above 2000m. There are still substantial amounts of snow, especially in the north faces.
Long story short, I wanted to attempt Piz Boe, which stands at 3152m in the Sella Group of the Dolomites.
At around 2600m I was faced with very steep unstable snow fields >3m deep on the north east face with melt water running under the snow fields. In addition, there was a storm approaching.
I didn’t make it to the summit. But was that failure?
Collins Dictionary defines failure as
When you break down this definition, you can look at it two ways:
- I was not successful in reaching the summit of Piz Boe
- I was successful in remaining safe and I achieved survival. This may seem extreme, but in reality, people do die and surviving is an achievement.
So is it really failure if you do not reach your end goal, but you listen to your gut feeling and the conditions around you and consequently succeed in stay safe?
If anything, this is success. Living each day is a success.
The day after this summit attempt, I decided to give it another go via the south face. Was this unwillingness to give up perseverance or stubbornness? I don’t know.
Long story short, I summited Piz Boe via the south face with a lot less snow and more stable conditions.
If anything, it isn’t failure: we learn from each attempt at something we do and this facilitates both personal and professional growth.
I learnt from my first attempt and applied these lessons learnt to my second attempt.
Although I never summited on the first attempt, the scenery was amazing, plus I saw 2 mountain goats hurling themselves down a steep slope and a marmot running to its hide.
It’s about the journey & not the destination💪❤
If you are helping a loved one who is suffering with anxiety, it can be tough to know how to support or what words to say. You will be doing your best to support them, and that is great.
With this, it is good to be mindful of things that don’t help.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, I tweeted and asked my followers
“What are the most unhelpful things people say to you about anxiety?”
If you’re supporting someone with anxiety, here are some things not to say and some thoughts as to why you shouldn’t say those things.
The tweet received some really interesting input from the fellow mental health community.
Below are a selection of 11 responses which were shared by fellow tweeters (in no particular order).
Part of the problem with Anxiety is that sufferers have irrational worries. You can see the finish line, but we can’t see the finish line because between us and the finish line is a cloud of thick fog.
- @uksurvivorjohn left a photo saying “Never in the history of calm down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down”
Quite sure about this. When people say this to me, I instantly start to worry about my behaviour and this just makes anxiety and thus my reaction worse.
- @bi_revolutionar was told “stop eggagerating, you’re looking for attention”
Saying these types of things can be dangerous. Mental illness is life threatening. Would you say that someone who broke their leg is looking for attention? No, you wouldn’t. So don’t say it to someone who needs support with their mind.
@beachippie “but you look fine”
Who ever said this to @beachhippie needs to realise that it is called mental illness for a reason…
@freudianfoodie “you’re being too sensitive”
These sort of comments can prevent people from coming forward about their feelings.
@Flames7312 “Just put it outta ur head”
To people who think of saying this to someone with a mental illness; if it was that easy, it would be done. If you stub your toe, can you put the pain out of your head? No you can’t. So don’t ask someone to put their mental pain out of their head.
@ChiefCannon “you have to wannabe happy”
This was a shock, I mean who doesn’t want to be happy?
@Glass1ncision “I don’t see why you have anxiety when you’re not alone”
People can be surrounded by a loving support network and suffer with anxiety.
@adams_john “Don’t worry about it…”
This is the thing: anxiety is usually irrational worries. We can’t help it.
@JeffJbray11 “Be strong”
This one is quite patronizing: people suffering with any mental illness wake up each day and live their lives with the symptoms of that illness.
Subsequently that not only does that makes someone with a mental illness strong, it means they are a warrior!
@habsrissy “have a glass of wine”
Here is a quote from Drink Aware:
“Many people believe that having an alcoholic drink will help them feel more relaxed. However, if you’re experiencing anxiety drinking alcohol could be making things worse.”
There we have a selection of things that don’t help people with anxiety and some of my thoughts about it.
If you really want to help someone, then there are something that you can say to support someone with Anxiety.
Take twitter posts – email the people within the post and ask them to share and subscribe if interested 🙂
Do you have any points that do not help with Anxiety?
If you are helping a loved one who is suffering with anxiety, it can be tough to know how to support or what words to say. You will be doing your best to support them, and that is great. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the rate of anxiety among LGBTQ+ community is approximately 2 times higher than those of straight or gender conforming counterparts.
That said, anxiety does not discriminate: your best mate, or that beautiful woman with the sparkling smile or that gorgeous rugby hunk could be suffering with anxiety.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, I tweeted and asked my followers
“What words of support help you with anxiety?”
If you are supporting someone with anxiety, here are some things that could be helpful to say.
Followers were so kind in providing things that have helped them when they are suffering with anxiety.
Different things work for different people. For example, “it is going to be ok” works for me, but this doesn’t work for @Hannah_moohand.
Hannah said “I struggle with “it’s going to be ok” only because during an ‘attack’ I can’t think like that. But definitely the 2nd & 3rd Also, “I’m here if you want to talk, if not, then I’m just here.”
Remember that there is no one size fits one, and what works for one person might not work for another.
Below is a selection of things that help some of my twitter follows when they are suffering with anxiety (in no particular order).
@Dublinman2 “I am in this with you, I have got your back, it’s okay to fall apart I’m here.”
@rachelsarah_m “A reminder to take some deep breaths helps me as I’m usually taking panicky short breaths.”
@jeffbray11 ‘Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed for feeling like this. I understand how real this is for you. No matter what, WE will get through this’.
@v0id_magg0t “this will pass”
@j_kicinski “I’m here for you…. Let’s go for a walk and have a chat”
@Richard46979103 “Knowing someone will listen to me , just knowing I’m not alone”
@Popthebubble75 “It’s ok to feel the way you do…your feelings are yours, they are not to be questioned by others”
@LunarMeow “You’ve been here before, you can get through this. Breathe. I’m here for you. What do you need? What can I do?”
While it is great to know what does help, it is also helpful to know what does not help.
Do you have any words that help you with anxiety?