Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 runs from 15th to 21st of May. With past themes focused on mental health topics including ‘loneliness’ and ‘body image’, this year’s theme concentrates on ‘anxiety’.
Although the feeling of anxiety is something that most people experience at some point in their lifetime (and is a natural response in some circumstances), feeling constantly anxious and experiencing symptoms – such as dizziness and restlessness – can be caused by generalised anxiety disorder.
So this Mental Health Awareness Week is about bringing awareness to the ways in which an anxiety disorder can impact your lifestyle – especially at work. Whether you have an anxiety disorder or not, it’s imperative to nurture your mental health and keep it well.
That’s why I asked my Avrion colleagues what they do to look after their mental health. Why not try one or more of these tips to discover the positive effect on your mental health and general well-being? This could be the day to start something new. It is Mental Health Awareness Week after all.
One of my colleagues, who has experienced poor mental health, anxiety, and depression in her lifetime, is a running enthusiast! She revealed that the colder seasons can have a negative effect on her mental health – commonly known as the “winter blues” or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Since marathons often take place in April, running and training for them during the dull days of winter helps with her mental health. Being part of a running community (or any community – choir, swimming, gaming etc.) can be a big boost for your mental health too. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it, it’s getting it into your daily schedule that counts.
“People who exercise regularly may benefit from an increase in the volume of their hippocampus, which can result in improved memory and focus as well as better mood — all of which can have a positive effect on your mental health and overall well-being.” – 1907 Foundation
(The Hippocampus is a brain structure in the temporal lobe of the brain. Its main roles include regulating learning and memory.)
Whilst ensuring their dog maintains a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, another colleague explained how their daily morning dog walks contribute massively to her positive mental health. Following a beautiful scenic route that could have been missed during the commotion of daily life starts the day off really well. This workmate takes great pleasure in embracing nature, mindful observations of birdsong or plant growth, and focusing on the rare moments of silence – regaining inner peace.
With the fast pace of day-to-day life, it’s important to take a few minutes to get some fresh air, appreciate the beautiful world around us, and let our minds relax and enjoy the moment.
Playing squash is a mental detox that another one of the Avrion team enjoys. Participating as part of a group at a local club contributes towards their positive mental health too. Regularly playing sports and taking regular exercise supports a healthy lifestyle, while socialising with fellow enthusiasts and friends introduces an opportunity to share any feelings and worries within the safety of the group away from work and family. Not to mention all the endorphins that are released!
“When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body.” – WebMD
Another colleague found that listening to mindful music can have a “snow globe effect” on their mental health. When your mind has a multitude of information and thoughts whirling around it, playing mindful music can settle these thoughts and return you to a grounded mental state. This theory has been scientifically proven, as a part of the brain called the “superficial amygdala” is sensitive to sounds that are perceived as pleasant or joyful.
“Research has shown that it (music) can lessen the impact of depression and anxiety. A study done in 2019 found that college students who listened to classical music every day for two months lowered their levels of anxiety significantly.” – The Jed Foundation
Research has shown that listening to music can have many positive effects, such as:
- Reduced anxiety
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved sleep quality
- Boosted mood
- Increased mental alertness
- Enhanced memory
This is one very easy and fun method of looking after mental health that most people can do and you could start right now!
Constantly running in “work-mode” can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. Therefore, incorporating an enjoyable hobby into your daily lifestyle can have a hugely positive effect on your overall mental health. One team member that I spoke to said that they play guitar every day after work to make the transition from a busy work mind to a more relaxed one.
“Pleasurable pastimes can be a good way to calm down an overactive mind, alleviate anxiety and lower panic symptoms.” – No Panic
You don’t have to be incredibly skilled at your chosen hobby. The physical action of doing something that you take pleasure in can uplift your mood and keep your mental health in a steady position. This could include things like baking, gaming, drawing, cycling, walking, gardening, doing a jigsaw puzzle, playing an instrument, etc.
Olympian, Tom Daley, has often been seen knitting by the side of the pool in serious competition, as it’s a brilliant way to calm the mind and focus attention to detract from anxiety.
Due to a combination of overworking and constant multitasking, one of my colleagues finds their mind can become “foggy” – causing an inability to concentrate. This can result in a negative impact on their mental health; they feel a loss of control over their own thoughts.
Experiencing these emotions regularly can lead to an increase of stress and a claustrophobic pressure in their mind.
Realising that something had to change for the sake of their mental health, they began meditating each evening before bed with one of their children – who also suffers from mental health issues. This has proved invaluable for them both and creates a haven of quiet (as well as quality family time). Whether it’s a guided meditation, with music or in silence, meditation has a calming effect that forces you to pause any chaos within your mind – this is extremely beneficial, especially if you do it regularly.
Here’s a free resource providing a 10-minute meditation session you can follow along with: Daily Calm | 10 Minute Mindfulness Meditation | Be Present
We’d love to hear about how you look after your mental health and keep anxiety at bay. Use the #AskAvrion hashtag in a LinkedIn or Twitter post to let us know.