The Importance of Purpose For Mental HealthMay 05, 2023
Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, you’ll see lots of useful tips and tricks for staying on top of your mental health. But one of the truly defining moments in my own life – and the one that truly transformed my mental health for the better – was when I found my purpose.
As a mental health professional, you may have had your own defining moment. Discovering your calling is an incredibly powerful thing – but it doesn’t necessary have to be career-related. Some people find their purpose in motherhood; in volunteering for charity; in being helpful within their local community; even in learning new skills with each passing year.
Purpose is powerful because it gives us, and our lives, greater meaning and value. Our purpose also gives us something positive to focus on – which is particularly useful if you’re prone to overthinking or intrusive thoughts. If your mind is going to run away with itself, at least give it something worthwhile to run with!
Finding my purpose
I make no secret of the fact that I became a therapist after battling with my own mental health in my teens and twenties. I’d always suffered with low self-esteem after experiencing bullying at school, and found myself in therapy to help me through the difficult times. These experiences revealed the value of counselling, and I knew then that my purpose lay in helping others through their own challenging moments.
This revelation was life-changing, but finding your purpose doesn’t act as a guard against adversity. After having my second daughter, I suffered from very low moods. I never saw my GP (I would always advise seeing your GP if you struggle with your moods in motherhood), but as a mental health professional, I can see now that I was suffering from Post-Natal Depression.
We had desperately wanted our second child, so it was a very conflicting time. Cluster feeding took its toll on me – physically and mentally – and lack of sleep contributed in a big way to a real deterioration in my mental health. Despite the difficulties, this led me even further on my journey to helping others: with funding from the Big Lottery Fund, I set up my New Mums Counselling project.
There was a distinct lack of help for new mums when it came to supporting mental health, and I knew that I wanted to change that. I applied for funding, was successful, and now provide up to six sessions of free counselling sessions for mums of children up to the age of two. It helps them, and it helps me. Because that’s what purpose does.
Creating My Little Therapy Box
With my purpose found in helping others, I knew that I wanted to make it easier for people to open up and seek support around the issues that caused them the most distress.
As a mental health professional, I found that some common issues recurred again and again, but that people often struggled to voice their concerns, or what they really needed help with. And that’s when My Little Therapy Box was created. From relationships, anxiety and self-esteem, to OCD, phone addiction and anger issues, My Little Therapy Box contains cards that address common concerns – complete with prompts to help people ask (and answer) questions around their most pressing issues.
I initially developed My Little Therapy Box to use in my own therapy sessions with clients. However, many people also use the cards at home by themselves (or with trusted friends and family), while fellow therapists often make use of them in their own settings with clients – and even for themselves.
As therapists, it’s essential that we look after our own wellbeing and mental health. When I suffered with low moods after having my second daughter, I was still seeing clients and in reality, pushing myself far too hard. This inevitably led to burnout. In fact, burnout is a common occupational hazard of being a mental health professional – but it shouldn’t (and needn’t) be.
You might have found purpose in your career, but everything outside of your career also needs a place. If you’re struggling to find the right balance, my ‘How to Avoid Burnout in the Helping Professions’ resource could support you in restoring a sense of harmony between your personal and professional lives.
If your career isn’t your ultimate purpose, now could be the time to explore exactly what that purpose might be. Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to put the focus back on yourself, so grab it by both hands, and get started on your own path to self-discovery.
Access your FREE 'Creative Therapy Training'
My Little Therapy box all started with my passion for helping clients in therapy who struggle to open up and articulate their feelings into words.
In this 30-minute training session, I share the barriers some clients face in therapy and how we as therapists can help them overcome this by using creative ways to help them engage and get the most out of the therapeutic relationship.
This is the same presentation I was invited to deliver at this year’s BACP Annual Online conference.
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