Mental Health Awareness Week
I sit down to write this article with a smile on my face in the knowledge that this week, around the world many people will be celebrating Mental Health Awareness week. Not long ago, mental health was a real taboo subject, and one people just didn’t discuss. With the help from famous ambassadors, companies and charities, society now has a heightened awareness of mental health.
Statistics show it is a real problem. ¼ adults suffer from anxiety and depression every year. This has resulted in business seen a 37% increase in stress-related absence in the last year, this is estimated to cost the economy £35 billion per year. This equates to £1,600 per employee. Surely it makes sense for businesses to address this increasing problem to enhance the health of their workforce and decrease the revenue they are losing as a result of mental health.
Mental health issues are not just prolific in adults. Growing pressures put upon children has increased diagnosable mental health conditions in children aged 5-19 by 48% in the last 15 years. 50% of all mental health conditions start before people are 14 years old with numbers only set to rise. This suggests schools should focus on teaching pupils emotional intelligence, and provide strategies and coping mechanisms when life doesn’t go according to plan.
We all have mental health, like we have dental and physical health, although the pressures of our 21stcentury make it easy to slip into diagnosable conditions such as depression and anxiety. It is imperative to realise that we all have bad days, and it is natural to feel negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness etc. at times. Just going through a phase of this doesn’t mean we require a visit to the doctors, but prolonged periods may need us to seek professional help.
Mental illness is like physical illness and is a 24/7 condition. People feel trapped within themselves and find it hard to find an escape route. Unfortunately mental health is invisible and it’s hard to tell when personality ends and mental health begins.
What is important is to be kind to ourselves. Like many of us give our bodies time to work on our physical health through exercise, it is vital to give our brains a rest from the busy world and pressures of every day life. By disconnecting from the stresses, you are able to take time out and think about things that are happening in the here and now. Mindfulness is perfect for this, whether you focus on your breathing, yoga, walking, or simply sitting, your mind has a break, helping re-focus.
The blue zones are areas in the world that have been identified as the places where the healthiest societies are situated. Many things impact health, but one of the recurring themes in all 5 blue zone areas is that these populations have fantastic social connections. They have regular fact-to-face contact with friends, family often giving them a purpose and meaning for living.
The gut-brain link is one that was first identified by the ancient Egyptians, and is only now getting scientific backing. What is become evident that the healthier food we eat, the psychologically better we feel. Therefore by eating a healthy diet is not only paramount for fuelling our bodies, but for promoting a positive outlook on life.
A good night’s sleep is also advocated for positive mental health. Anything less than 6 hours a night sees mood swings increase by up to 60%, meaning we are less able to cope with every day encounters. Sleep therefore helps stabilise our emotions, and enables us to cope with challenges that come our way. Therefore the recommendation is to get between 7-9 hours sleep every night if possible.
Exercise is beneficial to mental health in so many ways. Not only does it give you purpose and goals to work towards, it increases your friendships, enhances your mental resilience, reduces stress and self-confidence grows. These benefits are in addition to the many physical benefits exercise impacts on your bodies.
Health, whether it be physical or mental doesn’t have an end point. It is necessary to continue to pay attention to ourselves and keep working on coping strategies to keep on an even keel. As you can see, by eating well, sleeping soundly, having personal connections and a purpose, as well as exercise, you can work towards having optimal mental health. All these areas are covered in a lot more depth on DR ME workshops; if you would like more details please get in touch:
Linked in: Claire Willsher