I don’t know about you, but I have been finding the constant diet of sad news emanating from our TV screens, radio and the ‘loud’, and often abusive tracts, on social media increasingly more encroaching. For many people this is a stressful issue, especially when it is combined with the cost-of-living crisis, the ongoing pandemic and the situation in Ukraine.
Even before the pandemic, a survey by Public Health England (PHE) found that 83% of people had experienced some form of poor mental health whether that was feeling more anxious, not sleeping well, lower mood levels or the onset of stress. So, it would be interesting to see how this has changed if they ran the survey today. especially as financial concerns are a key contributor to mental wellbeing.
Regarding the cost-of-living issue, a recent YouGov poll found that 22% of 50–64-year-olds said they cannot or only just afford their essential costs. This fell to a not insignificant 13% in the over 65s. Which is before the expected additional increases in food and energy prices in the coming months. All of which will put additional pressure on people’s mental wellbeing.
If the survey were rerun, it would be fascinating to see if the increased mental strains were offset by some people’s ability to work from home, the increase in flexible working practices and the career changes that some of us have embarked upon.
At the time of the PHE survey, it was found that of those who had experienced the signs of mental health issues, just over a quarter waited at least 6 months before doing something about it. Most of these people were left with the feeling that they wished they had done something much sooner.
The PHE survey also found that 60% of respondents who had experienced concerns had turned to several unhealthy habits, including drinking more alcohol, binge eating damaging foods, smoking and even turning to recreational drugs. Worryingly, some people began to cut themselves off from others, with 53% avoiding social situations or family and friends. All of which potentially leads to the situation spiralling downwards, yet further.
As an adjunct, our modern highly connected lives may also be potentially impacting our anxiety levels. in his book Stolen Focus, Johann Hari interviewed leading experts on attention, and learnt that our inability to focus (another potential cause of anxiety) is not a personal flaw but one “done to all of us by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen.”
Our mental wellbeing is incredibly important as it impacts our physical health as well as our financial and social balance. As such it is critical that we take look after ourselves and take the appropriate steps to nurture it and not to shy away from seeking help, when needed.
PHE, in conjunction with the NHS, has developed an excellent website, called ‘Every mind matters’ which is well worth a visit (see the link opposite). The site points out “We all need good mental health and wellbeing – it’s essential to living happy and healthy lives, and can help us sleep better, feel better, do the things we want to do and have more positive relationships. It can also help us deal with difficult times in the future.”
The ‘Every Mind Matters’ team have developed a short mind plan quiz, with some handy information to help mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety. We particularly like their top 7 tips to improve mental wellbeing, which we highlight below:
**Reframe unhelpful thoughts**
……. “Sometimes we develop patterns of thoughts or behaviours that are unhelpful so recognising them, and taking steps to think about things differently, can improve your mental health and wellbeing.”
**Be in the present**
“If we take time to be aware of ourselves and be in the present moment, noticing our own thoughts and feelings, and the world around us, we can gain a better perspective. Sometimes this is known as being more mindful.”
**Get good sleep**
“Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.”
**Connect with others**
“Spending quality time with friends or family, talking to someone about how we are feeling or finding ways to help other people can all help stop you from feeling lonely and improve your mental health and wellbeing. This can be online, by phone or seeing someone in person.”
**Live a healthy life**
“Being active, enjoying the outdoors and having a healthy, balanced diet all impact how we feel. Also, binning bad habits like smoking, and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can have a positive effect on our mood.”
**Do something for yourself**
“From enjoying your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax, it’s important to do things that make you happy, like trying a new hobby or learning a new skill.”
**Write a letter to future you**
“When you’re feeling good, think about what you would want to tell your future self if things get harder and you find you need more support. Reminding yourself of what’s keeping you feeling positive right now can help you through those more difficult times in the future.”
Discussing this subject in the office, we think an important addition would be to ensure you give yourself a regular, substantive, break from technology whether that is your laptop the mobile phone or tablet, especially social media and allow your mind to relax, play, wander and enjoy life.
So go on Boldies give yourself a break and make a positive, mindful change to recharge your mental wellbeing. It’s important. If that is not enough, please make sure you seek professional help as soon as possible, don’t wait.