Mental Health Awareness Week (14 to 20 May 2018) gave everyone at work the opportunity to reflect on their mental health both in the context of work but also in their own personal lives. It was a lovely opportunity to do things differently, trying out activities that could help balance your day to day life. We had a great time eating our fill of fruit all day, thinking of others and bringing a smile to their faces on our aPPRECI8 wall, testing out our downward dog positions, having fun outdoors batting a ball and chin-wagging with our colleagues (keeping our competitiveness in check), understanding how we form habits in our lives and what we can do to help change them through hypnotherapy. We shared some laughter online with our family in the field, gave them an opportunity to do a quick Mental Health MOT online and overall share with each other a more positive outlook to our day.
‘Stress’ was the theme this year trying to bring a better understanding and awareness of what that one word really means and its impact in our lives. This one word seems to be bandied about on a regular basis especially in this day and age where we find ourselves on a global fast train of technological progress, much like Victorians experienced in the turn of the 20th Century. Like them, we are feeling the fall back, desperately looking for refuge in the simpler things in life, finding escapism through this roller coaster ride in an attempt to cope and recreate a balance we believe we once had in our lives. Interestingly, the word ‘stress’ was adopted in the 1920’s to diagnose patients who seemed to collectively display symptoms of strain on their bodily functions and just seemed unwell but its origins hail from a differently subject that you might know as physics class i.e. stress or force put on something to change its shape. But history aside, has the word ‘stress’ become society’s gremlin or perhaps a crutch we all use to justify a sense of general unwellness or dissatisfaction with our lives or even a justification for struggling to cope with our day to day that seems particularly challenging at that given time? Well, if you ask anyone what causes them stress, they will give you a shopping list such us; not enough money, work, social pressures, relationships, family and health issues – if we’re honest we’ve all said so but are these all causing us stress or are we just overwhelmed by expectations we and society have put on ourselves?
Stress can motivate us and push us to better ourselves, driving us to do things we never thought possible. Without that pressure we wouldn’t evolve as a species, it has always been there in the background, our primate ancestors certainly felt it with the uncertainty of whether they would be able to feed their own to survive. We might not have had a name for it back then but it has always been very much present in our lives, so why is it associated with illness and something we struggle to cope with?
Constant pressure on the body and mind can pretty much change the chemistry in our brain and in the very way it communicates with our body. Some people thrive on it, constantly putting stress on their bodies and minds, adrenaline junkies come to mind but for others we perceive numerous things as constant threats on our day to day, on a regular basis. The wide array of options, opinions and advice given by all and sundry on what to do to avoid this can sometimes seem overwhelming but bottom line is, you are constantly changing as a person as you experience life and you make choices hundreds of times a day. Is it too much? Perhaps it might feel that way but you are also in a unique position through this wave of leisure and wellbeing activities to cherry pick what makes you feel better and get one step closer to finding that elusive balance within yourself.
As Mental Health becomes ever more a key topic in everyone’s lives and in society as a whole, employers play a pivotal role. Why? Because on average we will spend 1/3 of our lives at work and no one wants to look back and regret that time spent as stressful and wasted. ‘Employers raising awareness has risen from 31% in 2016 to 51% this year,’ according to the CIPD Health and Wellbeing at work 2018 national survey, eXPD8 have been great advocates of this, understanding the ever-changing pressures and demands of their industry on their workforce, giving them flexibility in hours worked, perks and support through their benefits such as Health Shield and Mental Health First Aiders. Balance is always a tricky goal to achieve and we might not always be able to do so on a regular basis but having employers that recognise this and encourage their workforce to recognise it, address and strive for this balance, is in my view priceless.
HR Administration Manager