How to Maintain Your Mental Health

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to talk to Howard Martin about his work as a therapist and to elicit a bit of advice for keeping mentally well in such troubled times.



I asked Howard to talk a little about his work.

I am a qualified UKCP psychotherapist living in Pembrokeshire for the past four years, before that I was living in Llandeilo and previously London. I see people physically in Swansea on one day a week and in Milford Haven on Thursday evenings. I also work online for when face-to- face appointments are not possible.

What brought you to this work?

I first developed an interest in mental health when I worked for a charity that helped the homeless and people with severe mental health problems. It was clear to me that many of them wouldn’t be in this dire position if they had not experienced adverse childhood experiences, trauma, financial deprivation and addiction. I longed to be able to help beyond providing a simple roof over their head and befriending.

It was another 20 years or so before I started to train as a psychotherapist and qualified in 2011.

In the meantime, I gained some valuable life experience, worked in mental health settings, did some telephone counselling and ran a successful gardening business. Most importantly, I worked on my own mental health issues – anxiety, trauma and non-clinical depression, discovering what really worked for me in this respect.

There’s been a steady process of working through my own issues successfully. When I coupled this with my professional experience it became clear that I could draw on this to help others.

At the moment particularly there is a mental health crisis to accompany all the other crises. There is a limit to what I can do as just one self-employed therapist obviously, but it feels important to do my bit.

What does your work entail?

It varies a lot. Sometimes there can be quite a straightforward situation where somebody wants a listening ear to help them sort things out for themselves.

At other times people have an unexpected mental health crisis, perhaps brought on by work stress or a relationship breakdown. My approach is to listen non-judgementally and help people find solutions that work for them.

Both women and men and some who are non-binary or questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation come to see me. They have been of various ethnic groups and religions.

Many men find it easier to speak to another male in the first instance, perhaps talking about things they have never spoken about to anyone before. I have worked with people who are anxious, depressed, troubled by memories of childhood abuse and bullying. People often come to me as they have found a recurring pattern in their lives that they feel powerless to stop, whether that’s with substances, compulsive behaviours or being attracted to unsuitable or abusive partners.

That’s a lot of experience with all kinds of people. Based on that experience what do you think are the best things we can do to be as healthy mentally as possible?

Life is complicated and there is not a “one size fits all” that suits everyone, but here are a few principles that may be helpful:

Forgive yourself for mistakes you have made, large or small. We’re all on a learning journey here!

Ask yourself: ”Is this what I really want for myself?” and if not “Why am I doing it/putting up with it?”

Get out into the sunlight and fresh air every day if you can. Exercise, no matter how gentle, can create mood changes.

There’s increasing evidence of the gut-brain connection and having a balanced diet including fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre while reducing the sugar and processed foods impacts your mental health in a positive way.

One Day at a Time – Taking life in 24-hour chunks makes life more manageable, do what you can with what you have today and let go of the rest. Tomorrow can be tackled tomorrow.

What are the worst things you can do for your mental health?

The reverse of the above! Punishing yourself and staying in shame for mistakes you have made is the very worst.

Many thanks Howard.

Psychotherapist Howard Martin – Swansea and Milford Haven

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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