Mental Health Month

Nationally, every May, we raise awareness of Mental Health. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 15th - 21st of May 2023 and focuses on anxiety. We all have mental health, and it covers everything to do with your emotions, to how you think and feel. Mental health can be measured on a scale, having good mental health at one end and having a mental illness at the other.

Everyone has good and bad days, and having good mental health doesn’t mean that you’re always happy. At the same time, poor mental health doesn’t always mean you’re permanently unhappy, rather, you find it harder to cope well with normal day-to-day stresses and challenges. Someone’s mental health can affect them in varying ways and move up and down the scale at different periods of time. It's just as important to look after your mental health as it is your physical health.

Anxiety and mental health

We all feel worried, tense, or fearful sometimes and this is a normal response to certain situations. If you have an anxiety disorder, these feelings of fear or danger can be ongoing and impact your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. In the UK, just over 1 in 10 of us will be living with an anxiety disorder, that's over 8 million people. But, the symptoms can vary from person to person. Anxiety can be treated in a number of different ways and can often be managed so that people can overcome it or, continue to live their lives and manage the condition. Anxiety can trigger mental and physical symptoms making daily tasks seem difficult and overwhelming and this can often lead to depression.

Mental symptoms might include racing thoughts, uncontrollable overthinking, trouble sleeping, dissociation, feeling dread or panic, and physical symptoms might include a racing heartbeat, shaking, sweating, heavy or fast breathing, dizziness, or sickness, amongst others. There are lots of different types of anxiety disorders and these disorders can significantly affect how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with others. Each anxiety disorder can be treated differently, and speaking to your GP is an important place to start.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life and it's completely normal but It can turn into a constant fear of the future and often affects people's daily lives and sometimes result in panic attacks.

If you're experiencing a panic attack, you might feel like you're having a heart attack, faint, or even feel that you're going to die. It can be an extremely frightening experience, but panic attacks aren't dangerous and they will pass. Usually, they last between 5 - 20 minutes, and once peaked they usually fade quite quickly but you can feel quite exhausted and overwhelmed after.

During a panic attack, the most important tool to help you is to focus on your breathing. Controlling your breath, slowly and deeply, can help to manage rapid breathing or anxious feelings. Recognising that you're having a panic attack and trying to relax as much as you can, will help you to get through the moment, remembering that it is only temporary. During a panic attack, it's important to try and concentrate on something else, to focus your mind and distract yourself. This could be something positive, a holiday, something in your surroundings to look at for example.

If you're experiencing feelings of anxiety or panic, speak to your doctor as they can suggest methods or medication to help you.

Keeping mentally healthy

There are lots of things we can do to try and keep mentally healthy. Some days it can be easier than others, and that's ok. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a good nights sleep - trying to get into a good sleeping routine can improve our overall mental health and wellbeing dramatically.
  • Be in the present - try to disconnect from your mobile phone or devices, and limit your time on social media or watching the news. Too much of these can cause us to harbour negative thoughts and take away from doing things that we love.
  • Do something for yourself - explore things you like to do, or perhaps you used to do something in your youth that you might like to revisit. This could be art, dancing, or cooking for example!
  • Get out in nature - going for a walk or even sitting on a bench out in nature can significantly improve our mental health and wellbeing. Take time to look up and notice what is around you, it might just help take your mind away from any negative thinking.
  • Exercise - exercising releases endorphines, it makes us feel good and channels our negative and anxious energy into something positive. Try some yoga, a run or a session at the gym (or with your tins of beans at home!).
  • Connect with others - talking to people can lift your mood, and create a postive mental environment. Try joining a local rambling group, or calling someone you love, or even just popping into your local shop and chatting to the sales assistant will help to make you smile in a day."

Mental Health and the workplace

In recent years, we've experienced a global pandemic, economic downturns, a cost of living crisis, and a change to the way that most people are now working, and as a result, life can feel overwhelming. For many of us, work is a significant part of our lives and where we spend the majority of our time. Poor mental health can cause long-term absence for an individual from work and this can then cause a spiraling effect, that's why it's so important for employers to ensure that their employees are supported and should promote good mental health.

At EIC, we provide Mental Health First Aider training to companies across our industry, which ensures that employers are educated about mental health and they can be confident in providing support and resources for employees who are going through a difficult time. Find out more about Mental Health First Aider Training.

Remember, your employer is there to help, if you're struggling with your mental health, you should speak to your HR team or management for support.