Tips on Staying Sane

There are plenty of things going on in the world to leave you feeling down, anxious, fearful and stressed. Political turmoil, social divisions, housing costs and job insecurity are all affecting our mental health. But there are also some basic things we can all do to try and keep ourselves well. As it’s #Mental Health Awareness week, I spoke to our Wellbeing Manager Nealey to get her perspective on mental health and to find out about her upcoming event — Staying Sane in A Frantic World — next month.

From your point of view, what does it mean for a person to have good mental health?

To me good mental health is an ability to navigate life’s ups and downs; being responsive to whatever comes your way.

You’ve worked in the Wellbeing rooms for a couple of years now. What are some of the most common issues or problems you’ve noticed in your clients?

Many people come to me for a massage with physical ailments, often sore, tired shoulders or an injury that is causing pain. However, it’s always the case when you dig deeper that there is also an emotional/mental component. In my experience beliefs that we hold can have such a profound effect on the way we view ourselves and interact with the wider world, and undoubtedly these patterns have consequences in the relationships we choose, jobs we do and ways we physically move.

What do you think are some of the main obstacles to mental health and wellbeing in today’s world?

Modern day life is so full of distractions, numerous choices to be made, advertisements to be interacted with etc. and it’s exhausting! Not to mention social media and the internet giving us access to so much information and the possibility of comparison that it is very difficult for people to just enjoy being in their own skin, doing what they do without judgement.

At a basic level, what are some of the daily habits we can all do to maintain our mental health?

I really like the approach of 5 ways to Wellbeing as a framework: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, give. It’s so simple and practical.

If we have friends, family members or colleagues who are struggling with their mental health at the moment, what are some of things we can do to support them?

How someone thinks and feels is an internal process and it may not be obvious that someone is struggling at first, even if they are close to you so just taking an open interest in what they are experiencing can be very powerful. Non-judgement is also crucial, I’d say. Life is full of ups and downs and we all respond differently at different times — you can’t possibly know what someone is going through unless you ask them and when you have more information the ways that you can offer support are likely to naturally emerge.

Are there any changes you’d like to see in how we talk about mental health?

There seems to be a prevailing attitude of fear in our society around expressing that you’re struggling to cope and I’d suggest that mental health isn’t the absence of struggle but the way we respond to it and the many other fluctuating states that we can find ourselves in from one moment to the next.

Staying Sane in a Frantic World is a panel discussion happening on 9 June, focused around wellbeing in a turbulent social and political climate. The event is also a fundraiser that aims to raise money towards early intervention and a series of workshops promoting good mental health for primary school age children and their families.