As you’ll probably know if you’ve followed my blog for a while, I’m a big advocate of improving mental health.
From my own personal and professional experience, I know the giant impact that mental health conditions can have on our lives.
The thing I really want you to know, though, is that you don’t have to have a diagnosable condition in order to suffer from mental ill-health.
You can be having a ‘bad mental health day’ if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just generally in low mood that day.
It’s this kind of ‘every day’ mental health that I want to talk to you about today.
How do others cope with stress?
4 out of 5 adults have reported being stressed at least once a week, with 1 in 10 saying that they feel stressed all the time.
Workplace stress is certainly an issue, too, with the HSE reporting that over half a million workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety; and that 12.5 million work days were lost as a result of these work-related conditions in 2016-17.
1 in 10 adults are stressed all the time.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from ArtSupplies.co.uk. They told me about a survey they’d commissioned of 2,000 British adults, asking about their favourite stress-reducing activities.
You can see the responses in this table, here:
(For those of you with maths skills – not me – you’ll notice that the table doesn’t add up to 100%. That’s because people were allowed to give more than one answer)
After the top 10, the most popular choices were cooking (8.45%), cleaning & tidying (6.95%), art & craft (6.55%), gaming (5.85%), and driving (3.85%).
What I love about these results is that they’re mostly easy, free, and accessible activities. And all totally do-able when it comes to adding them into your daily routine.
Take the top result: walking, for example. You could take 10 minutes’ walk before work to clear your mind, get yourself out for a walk on your lunch break, or go for a longer walk after work to really decompress.
Are you stressed? What can you do to help?
The main thing is to be mindful of how you’re feeling, and when your stress levels are starting to rise.
I know it sounds silly, because everyone knows what stress feels like, but it can actually be hard to recognise that that’s what it is at the time.
So, look out for things like elevated heart rate, feeling faint, hungry or thirsty, feeling tired, starting to snap at people, difficulty concentrating, or just feeling generally overwhelmed.
Once you start to recognise these signs, it’s time to take a break and do something to chill yourself out.
The survey results are all great ideas, but you could have something really niche that works for you, too.
I wish I was artistic, because I love the idea of drawing or painting to help me chill out. Mind you, research does suggest that, regardless of skill level, being arty can reduce stress levels. So, maybe I’ll start trawling Pinterest for craft ideas, or, more likely, just invest in one of those colouring books.
Mind have a whole section on something called ecotherapy, which I’d never really heard of as a group of therapies before; though I’d heard of the separate types. It’s all about strengthening your relationship with nature, which makes perfect sense in a time where we’re increasingly indoors looking at screens.
Things like animal therapy (spending time with cute little animals like puppies has been shown to reduce stress), and nature arts and crafts sound like really fun and accessible activities. Have a look at the Mind website for some more great ideas and links to groups running these kinds of activities.
500,000+ people suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety as a result of their work
Self-care for less stress
For maximum effectiveness, consider how you could incorporate some of these activities into your routine.
Sign yourself up for weekly exercise or yoga classes; lots of community centres run meditation sessions now, too. Make it a habit to go for a 20-minute walk after dinner every night. Really make your bath something to look forward to – candles, bubble bath, and a new book to read.
Or try one of these 15 free activities for when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
My idea of a really relaxed night incorporates all of those things. Except maybe gardening, I’ve only ever kept 1 plant alive, and that’s only because my mum intervened.
Plan time to do it, alone or with friends if you think it’ll help, and note how you feel afterwards. Is it something you can stick to doing as part of a self-care routine?