Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Take a minute for World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year's focus is on mental health in the workplace.

Most people spend a large proportion of their lives at work, so it's important to ensure that you can find ways to cope with your workload and the environment you work in if you're going to have good mental health and wellbeing.

If you find your role stressful, it's worth sitting down and thinking about which tasks create stress for you. Remember that not everyone will find the same things stressful, and what one person finds motivating another may find overwhelming and stress inducing.

And stress is not really such a bad thing when it's doing it's job of protecting you from harm - it's our inbuilt response to danger and it really works - our bodies 'power up' ready to fight or run away from danger.  However, when we are exposed to stress inducing situations in the long term, stress can affect our mental and physical health, which is why keeping on top of stress is key. Stress is cumulative - in other words it's not just your job that can cause you to experience stress at work. Family problems, relationship issues, financial problems, moving house,
and illness can all add to the stress load and are more likely to result in you feeling stressed at work.

So what can you do to reduce the load and manage the stress?

Building in time for relaxation is the key to managing stress before it becomes a problem.

We've come up with some simple one minute exercises you can do at work to help stay on top of stress. The first one is below. We'll be adding more throughout today, so come back later to check for more tips.

1 Step outside for a minute 

One of the most important things you can do to support your mental health is to take a break and do a little bit (even a very little bit!) of exercise. This helps your mind switch off, even for a moment, which allows your adrenaline levels to reduce. The exercise will loosen your muscles and release some tension, and if you can face some gentle stretching this will be even more beneficial! Regular breaks and time outs can have a huge impact, giving you the ability to find perspective and feel less overwhelmed with things that are going on – reducing stress and improving your mood.

2 List the positives

Research has shown that people who keep a list, each day, of positive things that happened to them during that day find their mood improving and their general sense of well-being increasing. When things are difficult, and we feel under pressure, we can often lose perspective and forget about the good things that might be happening around us. So, take a minute to write down three positive thing that have happened in the last 24 hours – these could be an enjoyable chat with a friend, a beautiful view of the sun setting as you make your way home, reading a good book, sharing a funny moment with your child, etc. If you do this exercise daily, research would suggest you will find yourself feeling more positive and upbeat. Try it!

3 Face a fear

Anxiety is one of the biggest mental health problems faced by many people. We worry about many things, and this can reduce quality-of-life and create a burden that often feels difficult to let go of. So take a minute to tackle one fear (pick a minor one - it's only a minute after all!). Identify something you're worried about, and ask yourself the following questions:

 a) What is the actual likelihood that what I am feeling will happen in the way I think it might – does the evidence suggest this or not? Remember, most commonly we exaggerate to ourselves the awfulness and level of catastrophe that we would face if the thing we fear comes to pass! 

b) If what I fear did actually happen, how would I cope with it?  It's often really helpful to develop a clear and concrete plan as this allows you to feel more in control and also to challenge some of your assumptions that you couldn't cope. 

c) Chat to someone else – asking someone about whether they would deal with what you fear in the same way is often very helpful – it can provide perspective and give you an alternative viewpoint that you hadn't thought about.

4 Keep others in mind

People experiencing mental health difficulties often find it hard to talk about things, or even seek help. Take a minute to look around you, or to think about friends and family who may be having a hard time. Are there any people who you see or know who may have changed in recent times, perhaps seeming under pressure, more introverted, working harder, eating less (or more), drinking more alcohol, or neglecting themselves a little bit. Use your minute to think about others, and even to ask someone who may appear not themselves if they are okay. A question like that, followed by a cup of coffee and a chat, may mean your minute makes a huge amount of difference to somebody else.

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