I think a review of A Toolkit for Modern Life: 53 Ways to Look After Your Mind written by Dr Emma Hepburn, is a fitting way to round off 2020 in the magazine. It’s been a year like no other, and hopefully one that won’t be repeated any time soon. We’ve had to come to terms with the “new” normal as many of us are juggling home schooling with working from home. Looking after ourselves and our mental health has fallen to the bottom of the list for many, me included.
I came across Dr Hepburn aka The Psychology Mum from a post on Mother Pukka’s Instagram feed. Anna was sharing her experience of post-natal depression and that The Psychology Mum had helped in her recovery. At that time, I was really struggling. I felt completely overwhelmed and didn’t know how to help myself to start to feel better again. I watched Anna’s interview on BBC Breakfast in floods of tears. So much of what she said resonated with me.
After watching the interview, I searched for Dr Hepburn on Instagram and started to follow her. She’s a clinical psychologist and uses wonderful illustrations to demonstrate how our minds and brains work. Her book “introduces her proven and practical tools for taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing every day.”
If you’d told me at the start of this year I’d be reading a book about how your brain works, I’d have said no thanks! The subject matter isn’t something I would have jumped at reading a book about in any other set of circumstances. But this year hasn’t been normal. By any stretch of the imagination.
For some reason, looking after our mental health still isn’t seen as a top priority. The culture of keeping on keeping on has been engrained into us from an early age. Carrying on when you’re ill is seen as a strength. I work in an culture where going to work when you’re ill is applauded. Saying that you can’t cope is seen as a weakness. That’s how I felt. Life was tough for everyone, so what gave me the right to say I wasn’t coping?
At the time I started to read this book, I was having counselling sessions. My counsellor explained some of the basics about what was going on in my head. I understood what she was saying, but it didn’t connect with me. My head felt so full that I didn’t know how to do what she was telling me to. Reading the first few pages of the book changed all that.
I read the book in chronological order but you can dip in and out of the bits you feel you need at any given time. It explains the theory of how our brains work. But also the practical side. Why we can feel the way we often do when difficult things happen in our lives. And how we can deal with them better.
For me, the lightbulb moment was the chapter about your capacity cup. When my counsellor explained the theory about this, I didn’t really get it. But seeing that theory in a picture made complete sense. I began to understand why all of the things I’d experienced over the last few years had led me to burnout.
The book is packed full of information, advice and exercises to do to help you recognise when your mental health is starting to suffer. What action you can take to take a step back. And how you can help yourself to recover and break the cycle. Some of the things, I already knew. But seeing them represented in the drawings made so much more sense to me.
As the wonderful @motherpukka says on the front of the book, it’s “A mandatory read for anyone with a brain.” And it really is. It will give you the tools to looks after your mental health in a world that feels like it’s changed beyond recognition in the last 12 months. “A Toolkit for Modern Life will help you to cultivate positive habits and feel more confident, happier and in tune with yourself.”
Reading the book hasn’t solved all my problems. But it’s given me a good start on that process. If you don’t follow The Psychology Mum already, go and say hello. Her wonderful images will help you feel better and more in control.
A Toolkit for Modern Life: 53 Ways to Look After Your Mind is available to buy in most bookshops including Blackwells