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World Mental Health Day: Listening... to yourself and checking in with your own mental health

At Socitm Advisory, we are dedicated to the wellbeing of our employees, especially their mental health. As this Saturday, 10th October, marks the 2020 World Mental Health Day, in the days leading up to this we will be sharing a series of blogs written by members of our team with the theme of "Listen".

We all know it is important to have an awareness of mental wellbeing in others and recognising symptoms and checking in with friends is always important. However, many individuals fail to extend the same pro-active behaviour when it comes to their own mental wellbeing, and often fail to recognise symptoms in themselves before they experience mental ill health. This damaging notion of a "new normal" which is described as living with untreated mental illness long-term without taking appropriate steps to combat these feelings.

Mind advocate for understanding and raised awareness and an important step in this is recognising symptoms in yourself. It can be hard, even for the experts, to recognise symptoms in themselves as often many of us assume "others have it much worse" and that "we're probably just over-reacting" that "we are fine really, it's just a bad day'. This mindset prevents us from coming forward and receiving the help we may need.

There are a wide range of mental health issues that can present themselves for individuals in a number of ways. Here we will discuss the most common, anxiety and depression, and how each can present themselves in ways we might not necessarily identify as the respective condition. 

Understanding that having anxiety doesn't mean that you will only have panic attacks and understanding that depression doesn't just mean you are suicidal is important in understanding the spectrum of mental health disorders. There are different degrees of severity that garner their own important symptoms therefore it is important to recognise when you feel your behaviour differentiating from your baseline of "normal".

Symptoms can include:

  • Restlessness

  • Irritability

  • Loss of appetite

  • Stomach aches and upsets

  • Sleep problems

  • Aches and pains that don't go away

Experiencing any of these as a one off many not be an issue, whereas regularly noticing that you are experiencing any of these may be an indication to take some time and reassess your mental health and how you are feeling. 

Addressing any mental health issues is necessary when you feel you are:

  • Being held back from your normal life

  • You notice an impact on the people you live or work with

  • You see your mood being affected for over several weeks or feeling or looking overly tired and trained

In these cases, you should then contact your GP.

Stigma may be another reason for individuals who are facing mental ill health as many believe by making their personal struggle known they may experience stigma from their colleagues or workplace who do not understand or do not care for their situation. This fear of repercussions of their mental ill health is just; in a survey ('s survey of 48 organisations employing 350 thousand individuals), 56% of UK adults said they would not hire someone who they knew had previously suffered with depression, even if they were the best candidate for the job. A further 35% of people surveyed stated they think people with depression are less likely to be promoted.

Mental health stigma prevents people from seeking treatment and can result in them becoming isolated or struggling to build or maintain relationships. Due to this factor the individual may view sharing their struggles or even acknowledging that their mental health may be slipping as inadvisable and so therefore they may choose to suppress these feelings until they become more serious.

Here are some easy ways you can take a proactive approach to protecting your mental health and ensuring you are well equipped to deal with future stressors: ​​​​​​​1 | Take time to talk about your feelings Take time to talk about your feelings with people you feel comfortable with doing so. Sharing your feelings with those you trust is an important tool in protecting your mental health as it allows both parties to express how they feel inside. Opening up with someone you feel comfortable with may encourage others to do the same and show a proactive approach to your own wellbeing and your commitment to staying healthy. 2 | Exercise! Exercising can be highly beneficial to improving mood and your ability to combat stress. Experts believe that exercising releases a chemical in your brain called endorphins that triggers a positive feeling lifting mood and your overall sense of wellbeing. Stretching throughout the day is a great way to relieve tension you may be holding in your body and to step away from your workspace for a few moments. Try these gym-free workouts from the NHS. 3 | Eating well Looking after your body can take several forms and ensuring that you are providing yourself with important nutrients is key to feeling your best. A healthy balanced diet that includes 3 good meals a day alongside plenty of water is optimum for your body and mind to be functioning at its best.

4 | Asking for help when you need it This is a huge step towards listening to yourself and understanding your own needs. We can all feel overwhelmed sometimes and by understanding that it is okay to seek help when you need it you are acknowledging that we are all human and that we all need help from time to time. This help may be in the form of friends or family and perhaps your local GP if you feel further help is needed. 5 | "Me time" Taking a moment for yourself and taking a break from the activities of the day by doing something you enjoy or taking a short walk allows your mind to relax, however momentarily. This can be important so as to not feel overwhelmed or over-stressed. With working from home taking appropriate breaks can feel difficult and you can feel like you are never truly "off work". Scheduling breaks and stepping away from your workspace can be more important than ever in breaking up the day.

Here's a five-minute mental check-in that's useful for understanding how you are feeling:

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