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17/5-16 at 05.21 by: Ruth Jackson
Mental Health Awareness Week
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is relationships, something which plays a vital role in our mental wellbeing. It might be that our relationships build us up, make us feel safe, supported and comforted or it might be the opposite, that they impact on us in a less positive way or add to our feelings of anxiety and isolation. Either way, it is important to recognise that none of us operate totally independently and that in some way, our feelings, emotions and behaviour are all influenced by the context of the relationships in which we exist. When we start to look at ourselves as part of a wider context, whether that's our family, a group of friends, a parent to our baby, or just part of society in general, then we can often see how much these affect us or how we react to them.

One of the sessions in our group programme for mums experiencing pre and postnatal anxiety and depression, focusses on relationships. As part of this we look at the five Love Languages: Time, Words, Actions, Gifts and Touch. These are simply ways in which we all give & receive love differently, depending on our unique personalities and needs. It's interesting to think about what your own main love language might be and that perhaps your partner, your child or your friends may have a totally different Love Language to yours and that this might often be where misunderstandings and conflict in our relationships arise.

If you are someone that has Actions as your main Love Language, then it will probably be something like your partner vacuuming the living room or cooking the dinner which makes you feel the most loved and valued and also why when they don't remember to do any of these things, that you feel so unloved or even angry. However if you are someone who values Words as your main love language, then someone saying "I love you" or "thank you" or "well done" will make you feel appreciated and loved the most. And if the language of Gifts is yours, which might sound rather materialistic, then think again, as you might be someone who loves to buy presents for others, wrap them up beautifully and who takes huge pleasure in seeing their reaction when they open them, which is just your own way of showing them how much you love them.

We all communicate differently and understanding our Love Languages is just one way of trying to see people as individuals whose needs may be met in a very different way to our own. It can be really helpful for us when we are feeling anxious or depressed, to be able to let those around us know what our love language is and that by them helping with the vacuuming, bringing us some lovely flowers or just making us a cup of tea, they can make us feel supported, valued and loved.

Equally, understanding the main love languages of those around us can help us to communicate with them in a way which they understand. If Touch is really important to someone close to us, such as a child or a partner and we always push their hand away when they try to hold ours, then this might be making them feel as if we don't care, or if Time is very important to our child and yet we are always doing something else when they need to speak to us and want our undivided attention, then trying to really focus on them, to stop and look at them when they speak, could be the key to unlocking a more positive relationship with them?

As busy mums, dads, friends and colleagues, it's never easy to find the time to stop and think about how we make those around us feel or how they make us feel and if there's anything we can do about it. Maybe one positive thing we can all do, is to try and discover the Love Languages of those closest to us and see if we can try one new way to meet these and make them feel loved this week?

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