Even in today’s society, where the focus has really shifted to mental health, bringing it up in conversation is still something of a taboo topic. Many are warming up to the idea that taking care of mental health is as vital as taking care of physical health and therapists, psychologists and coaches wait to tend to these needs. But how do everyday people feel and take care of their own mental health? One young Cypriot woman is on a mission to offer resources and feel-good packages with a new initiative.
“The Box Project CY is all about improving our mental health!” said founder Maria Gregoriou. “I share helpful and practical self-care tips and exercises that help us keep a grin on our faces! More specifically, through the The Box Project website, you can download digital packs for free. Each one focuses on a specific topic, for example Anxiety, and the aim is to allow ourselves to slow down, step into gratitude and away from fear, and work on deep self-development.”
What started as personalised gift baskets for friends turned into a a digital platform dedicated to taking part in the conversation around mental health. Passionate about self-development and recognising how important mental health is, the 29-year-old marketeer launched the platform in 2019 with free resources. Though Maria is not a mental health professional, the resources available on the website have helped her and aim to serve simply as food for thought.
Her own wake-up call to taking care of her mental health came in 2011 with the death of a loved one. “It was a very challenging time and working through it has made me realise how incredibly important our mental health is. It has also opened up my eyes to how many people are quietly suffering and are afraid to open up even to their closest family members or friends because it is ‘socially awkward’ or a taboo. I want to contribute to help expand our society’s response to mental health and how it is perceived.”
The homepage of The Box Project has downloadable Self Care Boxes and a blog post with stress-relief tips. Two boxes are available right now: the Anxiety Relief and the Kids Digital Activities. Enter your name and email address and a page of downloadable material pops up. This incluces a booklet with short reflection exercises, affirmation cards, 31 days of Mel Robbins’ video messages, inspirational mobile backgrounds and helpful apps for mental health.
Though the project has only been around for a year the response has been quite strong. The Box Project aims to provide self-care and mental health resources to people who don’t know where to look for help and during the lockdown there was increased interest in this.
“My vision,” she said, “is a society where people feel safe to express how they feel and to seek help without any judgement in the same way people visit the doctor if they feel physically unwell.” And mental health is that important. How many times have we heard of a disease or discomfort being caused by stress? Or a psychosomatic issue flaring up when work gets too much? The physical body and our mental wellbeing are interconnected.
For good or bad, self-care has become somewhat of a trend nowadays. Celebrities and models share their skincare routine, YouTubers document their winding down activities. There are even breathing meditation videos to calm down anxiety. Is society finally putting self-care on the pedestal?
“Taking care of yourself though doesn’t always have to be in the form of doing something all the time,” Maria added. “It’s the way we talk to ourselves, noticing how our inner voice talks to us – do we talk ourselves down, do we discourage ourselves?”
This is why one of the topics she wants The Box Project to focus on next is Self-Talk, right next to Body-Image and Gratitude. Maria said she want to move the conversation around mental health forward in Cyprus, despite having just moved to Sweden herself.
“I see this as an exciting time for the future of The Box Project,” she said. “A time where my new experiences and influences can add even more to what I can contribute through The Box Project. There’s so much work to be done still in terms of the perception of mental health and my love for Cyprus and improving the society that I grew up in is deeply rooted in what I do.”
For now what she is trying to underline is “that it doesn’t make you weaker to accept that sometimes you might not feel okay. I wish people understood how powerful they are, just the way they are at this moment. Humans have incredible capabilities, sometimes all it could take is believing in ourselves a little more and minimising that harming negative self-talk.”
Pain and challenging times are an opportunity for growth, she added although that is a bit of a cliché. To anyone who is struggling, Maria offered some words of comfort: “You are not alone. You can get through this. The solution is not to back away from the pain though. Go through the pain, see what it has to teach you about yourself. Most importantly keep your hope. That one day, it will be better, that brighter days are coming. Reach out to people you love and trust, see a professional if you can, journal your feelings and thoughts.”
Being aware of your mental health and caring for it is a deeply personal journey and finding what works for you is crucial. If you don’t know where to begin, The Box Project aims to be that stepping stone.
The Box Project is on Facebook or Instagram at @TheBoxProjectCy, or check out the website www.theboxprojectcy.blog/