5 things YOU can do to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing and mental health
Reducing stress and improving wellbeing and mental health:
Part 1: 5 things YOU can do to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing and mental health
Are you feeling a little low?
Are your energy levels not where they should be?
Has the onset of spring not lifted your spirits?
Are you unable to focus on anything for very long?
Are you present at the dinner table, but not really ‘there’?
Are you irritable?
Are your personal relationships suffering?
Are you sleeping badly?
Are you waking up in the morning, but not feeling refreshed?
Has your sex life gone out the window?
Are you drinking too much?
Are you eating rubbish food?
Are you not feeling that optimistic about the future?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and colleagues recently, and the above things keep coming up in conversation. I think there’s something going on here.
Uncertain times lie ahead. We’re dealing with Brexit, and now there’s a looming general election – but it’s not just external things – it’s the way we’re living our lives. We’re not taking care of ourselves.
We’re ‘always on’. 75% of UK adults sleep with their phone next to the bed. It’s the first thing we look at in the morning (it’s probably your alarm clock!) and the last thing we look at before going to sleep. It’s not a Smartphone. It’s a Stupidphone.
It’s having to deal with transportation – grumpy, inconsiderate people on trains and tubes, ‘idiots’ on the road. We turn up to work already irritated! Then we’re at work, with the associated pressures and competitiveness there.
A common complaint:
“I’m drained by the time I leave work in the evening. And then I’ve got the commute home.”
And then there’s the external factors that all contribute. That turns up the heat even further!
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (Source: Mind).
We’re heading for an epidemic.
Perhaps we’re already there.
If there wasn’t already uncertainty with Brexit, this week’s snap election announcement didn’t do much to make people feel better about the stability of the UK economy. And it’s clear that many are feeling the pressure of the uncertainty, the insecurity.
This week, I’ve had many conversations with people about what’s going on, but 2 of them stick out to me.
On Tuesday, right after I finished a client training session on stress, one of the trainees came and spoke to me. She is originally from Poland and is extremely worried that she and her husband will not be able to stay in the UK as they’re not UK nationals, although their 10-year-old child is.
She didn’t know who to speak to about this and she’s been feeling stressed since the EU Referendum last June. Next week, she’ll have been suffering from 10 months of “Brexit-associated stress”, as she calls it. Her husband, a normally happy-go-lucky type, was diagnosed with depression just after Christmas. Their future is uncertain.
She’s not alone.
Just today, a close friend of mine heard through the office grapevine that his company will be downsizing as after the Brexit vote, they experienced a significant reduction of new clients into the business; and the company is worried that the election announcement will further increase the instability. He’s worried he’ll be one of the people who won’t have a job come June.
There is so much cause for concern at present. People are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression – and many aren’t talking about it.
What control do you have to change anything?
You’ve got no control over whether you’ll be forced to leave the country, no control over how Brexit will impact the state of the UK, and little to no control over whether you lose your job.
For many people, things seem quite dire, and they’re feeling it. Who can blame them?
This sense of having no control over what’s going to happen affects a lot of people deeply. It causes stress and anxiety – and those feelings aren’t going anywhere.
So, what can we do to make us more resilient, more able to stay positive in the face of the harsh realities we are facing?
5 things you can do to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing and mental health
1. Talk to someone
- Talk openly and honestly with your loved ones. Let them know how you’re feeling
- Contact your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program. Most organisations have an EAP these days. The EAP’s trained counsellors are experts in a variety of fields and can provide support and advice on a multitude of personal and work-related topics including stress, finance, moving home, going through divorce, etc
- Speak with your line manager, HR or Wellbeing representative
2. Practice mindfulness and / or meditation
- Both are extremely effective at reducing stress and anxiety, and are recommended for people suffering from depression, too
SAWT PRO TIP: The ‘Headspace’ app is a brilliant meditation / mindfulness app. It takes you through meditations, from just a few minutes of guided meditation right through to hour-long unguided sessions. There are even meditations for kids!
They have meditations to listen to whilst you’re walking, cooking and commuting, as well as meditations that focus on sleep, sport, fear of flying, health and relationships, to name but a few. Your first 10 sessions are free. What are you waiting for? Headspace.com
- Exercise boosts your wellbeing and mood, whilst reducing stress
- When you exercise, your body releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins
- These neurotransmitters, namely serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine reduce stress, relieve pain and regulate mood
4. Get plenty of good quality sleep
- The amount needed varies from person to person, but most studies recommend 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night
- During sleep, our bodies perform essential detoxification, building, balancing and repair work which helps to keep us healthy and fend off illness and disease
During May, SAWT’s extended Wellbeing Special will be released, which features a special edition on good sleep habits
5. Cultivate compassion
- Be compassionate with yourself – and others. Many people are feeling the way you are feeling
- Compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration
- This increases happiness and wellbeing, whilst decreasing stress
Life can get us down, and it’s easy to get stuck in the doldrums. Even if you address just 1 of these areas a week for the next 5 weeks, you’ll have taken huge steps in the right direction, and you should be feeling more positive about the future.
Of course, there are also times that it’s appropriate to go and talk to a doctor about how you’re feeling. Stress, anxiety and depression affect millions of people. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you need help. The stigma around mental health is changing – because we’re finally starting to talk about it.
So, go, be kind to yourself and to others, and look after yourself.