Taking care of yourself and others

As we're entering Mental Health Awareness Week from 15 to 21 May 2023, we're looking at some ways to cope with anxiety and stress, when life just feels like a bit too much.

Mental Health Awareness Week is held from 15 to 21 May and this year's theme is "anxiety". Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems people face. In a recent survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation around stress and anxiety over personal finances, a quarter of adults said that the anxiety they felt was so intense it sometimes stops them from doing things they want to do.

Focusing on anxiety this year will help increase awareness on this often disregarded issue and provide better information and support to anyone who needs it. The aim is also to pressure the government to change and make sure that improving mental health is a key priority in our society.

In the meantime, what are some easy practice tips we can keep in mind to deal with our stress and anxiety every day?

Be open

It can be really easy to think that trying to bury and ignore the stress and feelings you have will make them disappear. However, it doesn’t really work that way and more often than not, the pressure will just build up and end up making you feel worse.
Talking to someone you trust about what makes you feel anxious could be a great relief.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to someone you know, you can always reach out to helplines from the Samaritans and Anxiety UK.

Keep a healthy lifestyle

When feeling low, it can be hard to find the motivation to move. However, many people find that physical activities help them maintain a more positive mental health. Now, not everyone is able or even willing to start running marathons so take it easy and don’t put pressure on yourself.
It can be as easy as going on a stroll, doing some gentle yoga or stretches, the important being to do it regularly throughout the week.

Being active will also help you get better sleep to help you cope with these difficult situations throughout the day.

Finally, as much as you can, try to keep a balanced diet. We can easily feel tired and irritated when our blood sugar levels are low and it’s therefore important to eat regularly, prioritising food that releases energy slowly. Drinking plenty of fluids will also help you be more focused and think clearly.

Try relaxing techniques

When feeling anxious, our heart rate and breathing tend to get faster. Focusing on your breathing can help relax your body and mind and help you calm down. Box breathing is a popular one but there’s a range of exercises you can do to help you get back in the moment.

Visualising can also be a very handy tool to help you ease your mind and relax your body. Sitting in a quiet place, think about your “happy place”. It can be any place and image that helps you feel safe and relaxed. Spending time imagining all the tiniest details whilst breathing deeply will help lift the anxiety.

If you’re not one to sit still, why not try to write down your thoughts? As well as being calming, it can also help you find patterns and triggers in your anxiety and help you manage it in the future.

Finally, whilst some people find it hard to stick to, regular mindful meditation can be a great tool to learn to dismiss any negative thoughts from your brain before they take all the space and start feeling overwhelming. Again, if sitting still is not your thing, you can try walking meditation and apps like InsightTimer can be great tools to help get you started.

Léa's takeaway

Even if you don’t tend to experience stress and anxiety yourself, it is very likely that someone you know suffers from it. Whether it affects you directly or not, there’s ways you can get involved this week to help raise awareness on this important issue.

For example you can donate to charities such as Mind or Mental Health Foundation so they can keep offering support to those who need it. If you want to do something more meaningful to you than simply donating, why not take part in a challenge event, organise a baking sale or do your own creative thing!

Finally, the green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health awareness. Wear one to show people around you that you care about their mental health and want to help end the stigma around it.

Whatever you decide to do, take it easy on yourself and show kindness, this week but every other day as well!

Blog Author: Léa Gorniak - May 15th 2023

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