This year, for Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May 2018), hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, the focus is on stress. Research has shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetime, and stress is a key factor in this.
The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
Mental health generally refers to how we think, feel, act and how we are able to cope with life; in other words, how we behave and relate to our surroundings. The same way we need to look after our physical health, our mental health requires equal attention in order for us to function.
Today, one in six adults in Britain will experience depression, anxiety, or problems related to stress at any one time. And this year, Mental Health First Aid England has launched a campaign, “#addressyourstress” which teaches people about stress and the most common sources, as well as self-care techniques they can use to deal with stress.
Therefore, in appreciation of Mental Health Awareness Week BDI Resourcing is going to join the campaign #addressyourstress – by providing you with six key tips on how to look after your mental health.
Talking about how you feel when you are stressed, worried, or upset can help you take charge of your wellbeing. Being listened to will help you feel supported and less alone – and this works both ways. If you open up to a friend or family member, it might encourage them to do the same.
It is not always easy to talk about your feelings, so if you are struggling to find the words try and write it down and you might be able to express yourself a little easier. The more you talk about your problems, the easier it will get. And remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Being active has great benefits for both your mental health and physical health. Evidence shows that regular exercise can benefit the body in many ways.
First, exercise causes chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood. Second, being active can create a greater feeling of self-esteem and the ability to rise to a challenge. Third, physical activity can help people with mild depression and those with anxiety by improving their mood and approach to situations.
Remember, that being active does not mean that you must spend endless hours in the gym if that does not appeal to you or suit your busy lifestyle. But try to find physical activities that you enjoy and can fit into your everyday routine. This includes walking over taking the bus or taking the stairs over the lift, small changes like this can go a long way.
Research has shown that the food we eat can have a long-lasting effect on our mental health. Your brain needs a balance of essential nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body.
A healthy balanced diet includes:
It is important to eat three meals a day and drink enough water – and try to limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks you have and avoid drinking too much alcohol.
Humans are inherently social beings, and socialisation creates a sense of connection with other beings, which is an important component of stress reduction. By calling a friend, spending time with family or joining a sports group can decrease the sense of loneliness whilst promoting the feelings of safety, security, belonging and enjoyment.
Social support increases our levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which functions to decrease anxiety levels and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system calming down responses. Oxytocin also stimulates our desire to seek social contact and increases our sense of attachment to people who are important to us.
Tips for increasing socialisation:
We all get overwhelmed by how we feel when things go wrong. So, if you feel that things are getting too much for you or you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer a listening ear or practical help, but you should also remember that local services are there to help you.
For example, you could:
If you would like to see a counsellor but don’t know how to go about it – your GP may be able to refer you. Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health, and they may refer you to a specialist or another part of the health service.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, a change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. This could include a walk in the park, meditation or visiting a new place. Just an hour a day can be enough to de-stress you and give yourself some important ‘me-time’.
Furthermore, it is important to try and listen to your body, if you are tired - give yourself time to sleep.
Sleep is an essential human function as it allows our brains to re-energise and lets our bodies rest. When we do not get enough sleep, our bodies do not receive the full benefits such as muscle repair and memory consolidation. The importance of sleep is so vital to our health that even slight deprivation can affect our mood, judgement, and memory. If sleep deprivation occurs over long periods of time then it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation which could then develop into severe health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and depression.
Recent reports show that for many people when their stress levels increase their quality of sleep decreases. Therefore, it is crucial to stay on top of both.
Tips on how to get a better night’s sleep:
1. Avoid Stimulants – do not drink caffeinated drinks or eat refined sugar before sleeping as it causes the body to become alert rather than relax which is vital to getting to sleep.
2. Healthy Diet – Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is essential to helping your body repair itself. Calcium and Magnesium rich foods, such as milk and green leafy vegetables can help to relax body muscle.
3. Boost Melatonin Level at Night – Melatonin is the hormone that helps the body regulate a sleep-wake cycle and its production is controlled by light exposure. The brain produces more melatonin during the night when it is dark so it is important to try to reduce your screen exposure from TV’s, phones and tablets at least an hour before you go to bed.