Today, 10th October is World Mental Health Day 2022 (WMHD).
This year’s theme is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. The hope is that one day, mental health services and care will be on par with our physical welfare.
Despite this, startling new research from ADP Research Institute has revealed that almost half of all UK workers are suffering with poor mental health.
‘The People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce’ report polled c.1,400 UK employees and returned shocking statistics – 5 in 10 people between 18-35 years-old were suffering with poor mental health.
Whether it’s post-pandemic shock, health concerns, the increasing burden of our responsibilities like caring for others, our families, or indeed the spiralling cost of living – employees are anxious about an array of big (and often uncontrollable) issues.
Teamed with added pressure to ‘rethink’ their lives and work post-Covid, and to work harder to ‘make up for lost time’ – the past few years is taking a serious toll on our mental health (and in turn, our productivity, quality of work and general happiness).
Without help and support, these worries just get bigger and can lead to serious mental and physical health problems including burnout.
Sadly, the research found that not only were people finding things tougher than ever before but the mental health services that were usually there to support us in times of real need, were consistently being interrupted, under-resourced and/or were simply not available sometimes.
World Mental Health Day offers an excellent opportunity to talk openly about these mental health issues we often are primed to keep private. Not only to encourage each other to share our worries and woes but also to actively do the little things we can all do daily to protect our mental health.
Below are some mood-boosting, stress-busting ideas you may like to try.
Quick Ways We Can All Boost Our Mental Health Daily
Protecting and improving our mental health is first and foremost about taking small positive actions, daily to change how we feel. Here’s our top tips everyone can do:
Prioritise sleep (7-9 hours). For many people, sleep is often the first thing that suffers when we’re struggling with poor mental health. There are lots of ways to improve sleep quality and a good night’s sleep is sure to make you feel better.
Eat well. It’s easy to rely on coffee, sugar and snacks to get us through the busy days but what we eat has a big impact on our brain and mental health.
Get out. Fresh air, sunlight and stretching your legs are great for a quick mental health reset. Daylight, and the impact of exercise, (even gentle stretching) is well known to help reduce stress and improve mood. Nature is also known to have positive effects on the body and mind so use whatever is available to you to get a different perspective on things.
Get your heart rate up. Exercise is a trigger word for some so let’s call it energetic activity of any kind! This movement and increase in heart rate releases “feel good” hormones that reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and anger. It also helps boost your self-image and improve your sleep quality. (And, if you like team sports- these are great for added social interaction and support too).
Talk to someone. It can be family, friends, or by seeking professional help. It can help bring relief or at very least, may help you (and the other person) get to the root cause of how you are feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved as the old adage goes! See below for more talking therapy resources.
Take a bath (anytime)! Studies have shown that taking a bath can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, (the part of your body responsible for relaxation). Like exercise it can be a great reset in the middle of the day.
Listen to and acknowledge your feelings. Fighting a feeling, ignoring it or hoping it will go away isn’t always a good solution. Simply acknowledging it, understanding what you feel and why, then ‘allowing’ that feeling to be can bring a lot of relief.
Talk kindly to yourself. Are you beating yourself up, resisting how you feel or engaged in negative or over-thinking? Just changing how you speak to yourself, using kind, positive language, and not catastrophising in your own head can be the start of feeling better.
Pick your battles wisely. You can only do so much at any one time and anything that requires willpower (even doing that dreaded report you have been putting off) can drain your energy faster. All too often we have too much going on and are paralysed by the decision on where to start. Just breaking your day down into small achievable tasks helps reduce the overload. Question where your willpower is being used up and consider focussing just on the most important things.
Practice mindfulness, meditation or gratitude exercises daily. Being present, thankful or just quietly reflecting is a great way to improve our mental health. These techniques take practice and dedication but even small actions like listing 3 things daily you are grateful for can be really helpful.
Plan in things to look forward to. Having something to look forward to is hugely rewarding and makes the tough times a little easier to cope with. Make sure to prioritise time to do what makes you happy.
Face up to your crutches, addiction or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s true most people have some form of emotional coping mechanism – from food, alcohol, and shopping, to more extreme habits like substance abuse. Whatever it is, it’s likely to bring only short-term relief and it’s best to tackle these issues head-on as many (like alcohol, drugs, gambling and even food) can exacerbate and compound your low mood either chemically or through the guilt experienced after a binge.
Get help (admitting you need it is the first most important step). Tackling what’s making you unhappy (if you can) – financial problems, caring responsibilities and even abuse can seem impossible to solve. You may feel very alone in your problems, but the truth is – no matter what the problem, you will not be alone. You just have to ask for help. It’s not easy but it’s THE surest way to starting on the road to being mentally ‘well’ again. You are not the only person in your shoes and there is support and help available to you.
Consider the following useful sources of help and advice:
Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available – some companies (like The Clean Space) offer 24/7 professional counselling and support for employees. Use it if you need it – it’s free, confidential and can help with almost any concern or worry.
Your GP (doctor) – while getting an appointment can be tricky, be persistent and ask for the help you need. That’s what the GP is there for. Also review this page for NHS support and talking therapies self referrals. Or you can self refer via this page.
You can also always call the Samaritans for urgent mental health issues ANYTIME:
Email: email@example.com or call them on 08457 90 90 90.