Coping with stress, anxiety, and mental ill-health in the workplace & daily life.
Part of a blog posts series by guest writers for the Jobs In Mind #VoiceYourStory awareness campaign.
Author: ‘C’. Reading time: 8 minutes.
One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. I am the one in four. You, or someone you care about, could be the one in four. The suffering is real – its debilitating, overwhelming and insidious, affecting every area of our lives. That being said, there are wonderful organisations such as Jobs In Mind who’s mission it is to empower us. They provide effective, personalised support.
You are not alone. Many people who have struggled with mental health are slowly and surely empowering themselves. As part of the #VoiceYourStory awareness campaign, here is some tried and tested wisdom from my own long journey of coping with depression and anxiety.
This post is the second of a trilogy, and overviews simple daily tricks you can start doing today. The first sister post covers self-compassion and reframing your perspective, and the third (coming soon) addresses activating motivation through structured action.
Here we go…
Part 2 – SMALL DAILY THINGS TO SIMPLIFY A COPING MINDSET
You’re knackered. You’re juggling so many responsibilities, and all the ruminating thoughts in your head. Despite the exhaustion, it’s still hard to fall asleep at night. So, even if you struggle to fall asleep, relax and just take the time to lie calmly and breathe. Stay away from electronic screens a few hours before bed. This alone rejuvenates your mind and body.
This refers to more than just the influence of food. Consider the expanded concept of ‘nourishment’ as anything “necessary for growth, health, and good condition”, and ‘consumption’ as “using a resource”. Your physical and mental health is also influenced by your exposure to media, current affairs, entertainment, and people. Ask yourself what things in your life are good, or neutral, or negative for you? What might you need to change?
Let’s make exercise more accessible. Yes moderate exercise over the long term will help manage your body clock, focus, and thinking. However, it’s infuriating being told “you just need exercise to clear your head”, when in reality your despairing situation makes a run (or whatever) feel like putting a plaster on a broken leg. Be patient. Start small. Today it’s doing some stretches, tomorrow it could be getting off the tube one stop earlier and walking. One day soon you’ll get up to a run.
#15 Body Clock
Did you know your body naturally works best for different tasks at different times of day? Why work uphill if you can schedule a down-hill glide? Perhaps you’re better at creative and mentally demanding tasks in the morning and late evenings, routine tasks in the afternoon, and exercise in the early evening. Working a 9-5 can restrict this, but it’s worth exploring your natural rhythms and what options are available to you. This varies from person-to-person, year-to-year, and season-to-season.
We’ve all heard the rising evidence that mindfulness helps us to deal with a range of difficult psychological and emotional challenges. It’s not about “emptying the mind”, but rather engaging your ‘observer’ mind to step back from your overwhelmed ‘thinking’ mind to notice what’s happening to you. It involves learning to detach your self-worth and happiness from the external world which you can’t control, and attaching it to the only thing you can control: your freedom of choice in response, and your deep fundamental values.
Life will happen to us, one way or another. Better instead to flow with it, rather than fight it. Trying to control everything is not only exhausting, but futile. You can start learning the simple principles of mindfulness today: search about for an app that you like, or find online resources that work for you, such as this excellent contemporary podcast.
#17 Moving Meditation
Particularly effective for those who feel they just can’t sit still. This might be yoga, swimming, or a slow, conscious walk around your neighbourhood. Do an online search for local centres where you can try these activities and meet encouraging people.
Having a few pots of green kicking about the place is both calming and enlivening. In colour psychology, plants stimulate a sense of harmony, growth, and balance. Pick up a couple of house plants that you can keep at your desk or workspace.
#19 The things that make you come alive
Make a list and incorporate at least one item into each day. For me this includes both introverted time spent reading to satisfy my curiosity; and social time with kindred spirits who build me up. Super simple, but effective. I promise.
This can serve as a healthy break from negative thoughts; or help us to keep perspective when we voice our troubles with close peers. This Thursday 1st February is Time To Talk Day. Also a good way to introduce routine into our day. There’s a lot of evidence suggesting stress hormones are reduced by the simple gesture of our hand being held by a loved one.
#21 Get Outside
Into the outdoors, amongst the elements, even if only for five minutes at a time. This can go a long way towards tipping us out of ruminating thoughts and into a constructive perspective.
Watch a favourite stand-up comic. Spend time with encouraging friends. There’s plenty of evidence that laughter not only reduces stress hormones like cortisol, but also increases pain-relieving endorphins.
Ever been jolted out of your thoughts and realised that you’d been holding your breath? Shallow breathing prevents a healthy oxygen supply to the body and brain. Box Breathing is a common and effective technique to calm down your nervous system and get you back into the present moment.
#24 Let go of resistance
Visualise this: if I take your hand, twist your arm against your will and you resist. Hurts doesn’t it? Now if I twist your arm again, but this time you accept it and move with the momentum, making it less painful and enabling you to wriggle out of my grip. This is the holistic basis of many martial arts. Likewise, in life, our suffering is made worse by our mental resistance of our situation. Better instead to accept the reality that the situation is happening; feel the resulting emotions; and focus instead on what steps can be taken to proactively work a solution.
#25 Slow down
Our busy London lives demand we move faster, work harder. Be more, more, more. How sustainable is this? Intense periods of work are okay in short, irregular bursts, but the human body needs recovery time. That to do list will continually grow. You are the only one who can wrestle time back for yourself. Look for ways to slow down: set your alarm for a half hour earlier in the morning to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. Get off the tube one stop earlier to walk the last distance. Switch your Citymapper app from ‘fast’ to ‘slow walk’ speed to build in time allowance.
Good mental health means more sustainable energy; clearer thinking; wiser responses; and focused motivation. Getting this state back again can be a steep and difficult climb. You can do it, there are many others on this journey with you. Hopefully you’ll have learnt some new tricks from this post and will be able to implement some with positive improvements soon. Remember – be patient and kind to yourself!
To be continued…
How about you? Jobs In Mind would love to hear what tips, tricks, and approaches work for you? Put a comment below or join your story to those being shared on our platforms and get involved with our #VoiceYourStory awareness campaign (anonymously or not). Go on, you can do it!