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How to support someone struggling with stress?

Stress is one of the most common mental health conditions that everyone is likely to experience at some point in their lives. While small amounts of stress can help us to react quickly in some situations and respond with productive solutions, continuous and extreme levels of stress can have the opposite effect causing us to be slow to respond and see a decrease in our productivity.

Stress produces cortisol, which over time can have significant negative effects on our physical health (e.g. heart problems, digestive issues, and weight changes) as well as our mental health – leading to depression and anxiety.

If you think someone is struggling with stress, here are some simple ways you can support them.

Listen

Simply talking about how you’re feeling and what’s making you feel stressed can be a great outlet for people who are struggling. Voicing your feelings can make them feel more manageable and help you find solutions much more easily.

Make it known that you are there to listen if they need you and even start the conversations if they seem hesitant themselves.

Never underestimate the power of asking “how are you?”

Help them to relax

It can be difficult for people who are struggling with stress to relax. Even in their downtime, they’re likely to be thinking about and dwelling on the things that are causing them stress – making it difficult to truly switch off and recover.

Make the first move and invite them to do relaxing activities (e.g. a walk, movie night or spa session) with you.

Read more: How can mindfulness help with stress?

However, depending on the person and the cause of stress, they may not respond well to you trying to ‘distract’ them from their problems. In this instance, find small ways you can help to free up their time (like running errands or doing chores) so that they can then relax on their own terms.

Identify triggers

It can help both you and the person struggling with stress if you identify triggers that make their stress worse. This can help you avoid the triggers altogether, or, if that’s not possible, prepare for them and practice coping techniques.

For example, if you find that hunger and dehydration tend to make their feelings of stress worse, encourage them to carry around snacks and a bottle of water to limit how often these triggers can impact them.

Find solutions to overall causes of stress

As well as the triggers for momentary occurrences of stress, it is useful to know what is causing longer-term stress. These are often more difficult and complex to solve, but simply having an understanding of them can help you to empathise with and support those close to you.

Common causes of long-term stress include financial difficulties (e.g. debt), workplace pressures, caring responsibilities, and lifestyle transitions (e.g. moving house).

Ultimately, finding a solution to these overall causes of stress would be a massive help to those who are struggling. For example, putting those with financial struggles in touch with a debt advisor, or helping those with difficulties at work find new employment.

However, in reality, many of these common causes of stress are rooted in complex issues that take time to be fully resolved. Again, those struggling with stress may appreciate it more if you can find ways to help them with the everyday tasks in life (e.g. school pick-ups or shopping trips) so that they have more time to work on resolving these issues themselves.

822,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020 – 2021. Stress can significantly impact productivity, long-term health, and morale at work. Make sure your company is equipped to support employees with stress and other common mental health conditions by completing our 2 Day Mental Health First Aid course or our Mental Health For Managers training programme.

Help them stay physically healthy

Many of the behaviours and coping techniques people have for stress can actually make stress worse in the long run.

According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, 46% of people in the UK reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.

While their focus is on the stressful situation, do what you can to help them stay active, hydrated, and well-nourished. Invite them for a walk, invite them for dinner (or help them prepare it if you live together), and avoid outings that would encourage unhealthy behaviours.

It can be heart-breaking when those we care about are struggling with mental health conditions like stress. These tips can help you support them without being overbearing or condescending.

If you want to learn more about stress, how to prevent it, manage it, and support those with it, sign up for our Understanding Stress online course. You can complete it in your own time (approx. 1 hour) and it only costs £30. All proceeds go to our #Headucation campaign to provide training to teachers that helps them support school children with their mental health. Adults need help dealing with stress – so why do we expect kids to manage it on their own?

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How does social media affect mental health

Social media is part of most people’s lives to some degree. In recent years, the focus has often been on the negative impact social media can have on people’s lives – but we think it’s important to acknowledge the positive and negative effects it can have on mental health, as well as how you can realistically use social media in a mentally healthy way.

Positive effects of social media on mental health

Encourages connections

One of the major selling points for social media platforms is that they enable you to connect with people anywhere in the world.

For some, this can have a positive effect on mental health by allowing them to interact with friends and loved ones regularly who they cannot see in person – this impact was highlighted particularly during COVID-19 when social media was a key source of connection for isolating families and friends.

This ability to connect with others can also benefit mental health by helping people, especially children and teenagers, to find and engage with those who have similar interests and challenges – giving them a sense of belonging and someone to talk to who may understand them better.

Facilitates mental health support

One of the first steps to getting support in any mental health journey is to talk about it – either with someone you know or with an organisation. Social media makes getting support with any challenging situation, including mental health, much easier as you can instantly connect with others and have conversations in a variety of formats depending on what suits you e.g. voice call, video call or text-based message.

Children and young people, as well as vulnerable or less confident adults, may find accessing mental health support via social media much easier and more achievable than approaching a GP or mental health professional in real life.

Helps to raise awareness and reduce stigma

Social media can be particularly effective at helping to raise awareness of mental health, encouraging open conversations and reducing stigma. With so many people regularly using social media in their daily lives, it’s one of the best ways to get mental health messages seen.

Mental health organisations like Shawmind use social media to raise awareness of mental health issues, share mental health resources for those in need of support and provide a safe space to challenge mental health stigma.

Negative effects of social media on mental health

Cyberbullying

One of the biggest problems with social media, particularly for children and young people, is cyberbullying. 1 in 5 children aged 10-15 have experienced cyberbullying which is a significant cause of mental health problems in children.

Cyberbullying is often considered more harmful than physical bullying at school since it can carry on 24/7, be spread to a wider group of people, and go undetected by parents and teachers unless raised by the bullied student.

Body image views

Another widely publicised criticism of social media is the impact it can have on body image for both adults and young people. Images are often highly edited or show someone only at their best and instil a belief in the user that they also need to achieve the same type of body as the person in the image.

While lots of work is being done in this area to combat this problem, this can still lead to adults and young people feeling as if their body is not good enough ultimately resulting in low self-esteem and, in the worst cases, eating disorders.

FOMO

While the ability to connect with others 24/7 has been beneficial for some, it has also amplified the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO). People (both younger and older) spend hours every day on social media so that they don’t miss out on something that may interest them. This is not the individual’s fault, the social media platforms have been engineered to be addictive and keep people wanting to come back, but this excessive use is bad for both our physical and mental health.

FOMO itself can keep us from being able to rest properly in case we miss something while hours staring at a screen is not good for our eyes or brain. All of these physical effects can worsen our mental health in addition to FOMO making us feel more anxious and isolated.

Triggers

Social media content is not heavily monitored or moderated by any central agency which can make it very easy to come across posts that can trigger those with mental health conditions. Anything from a post glorifying self-harm to a distant relative making discriminatory comments can trigger someone, especially those already in a vulnerable state of mind.

Similarly to cyberbullying, this content is available 24/7 and can feel near-impossible to escape from. Particularly controversial content that receives a lot of engagement may even be shown more prominently to sensitive users as the platform algorithms work to show them the most popular posts.

How can you realistically balance mental health and social media?

Some people avoid social media altogether, but for many, this may not be an option. Here are some simple tips both adults and young people can follow to limit the negative effects of social media without avoiding it completely.

  • Follow positive influencers for your mental health
  • Use social media to check in on friends and loved ones (delete the posts from your old neighbour that only annoys you)
  • Limit the time you spend online
  • Disable notifications so you don’t get them on your phone all the time
  • Only check social media during the day so that it’s not the first or last thing you see

Learn more about social media and mental health with our online course.

Social media is an integral part of children’s and young people’s lives but they will likely face mental health challenges because of it. We’re on a mission to improve mental health support for young people by training teachers to provide early intervention and support, thereby reducing the demand on NHS mental health services like CAMHS.

Find out how you can get involved with Headucation and help us improve mental health for the next generation.

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How to support common mental health conditions in schools

1 in 6 school-aged children develop a common mental health condition, yet at present teachers receive no training to support children’s mental health.

As part of our Headucation campaign, we’re aiming to train teachers in the basics of mental health so that they can provide early intervention to children and support the development of positive mental health.

Without sufficient training, teachers may feel unprepared to deal with common mental health conditions that children experience and that have an impact on their education. We want to help teachers to feel more confident and prepared. Here are some common mental health conditions you may see in children and some initial steps you can take to support them.

Anxiety in schools

Anxiety is incredibly common in children and may be more common in particular situations such as public speaking, demonstrations and socialising. Some children may experience anxiety so severe or frequent that it disrupts their daily lives.

Signs of anxiety in school

Some common signs of anxiety in children can include poor performance, irritability and even physical manifestations like stomach aches. Find out more about the signs of anxiety in children.

How to support anxiety in school

  1. Help children face their fears by helping them identify what is making them anxious and help them to develop strategies for coping
  2. Ask questions about previous experiences to help them uncover triggers and emotions linked to the anxiety-inducing situation
  3. Celebrate small wins with pupils when they take a step towards facing their anxiety
  4. Talk openly about anxiety with all children to reduce stigma and encourage them to seek help

ADHD in schools

ADHD describes children who demonstrate overactive and impulsive behaviours as well as difficulties concentrating and paying attention. It is thought that 2-5% of children have ADHD in the UK. Without proper support, ADHD can make it difficult for children to achieve high grades, build relationships and develop high self-esteem.

Signs of ADHD in school

Common signs of ADHD in school children include forgetfulness, difficulty focusing on and completing tasks, fidgeting and interrupting.

How to support ADHD in school

  1. Find opportunities for children to walk around the classroom during lessons, e.g. games, writing things on the whiteboard or regular breaks
  2. Give children more time to process information before responding by outlining the lesson prior to starting
  3. Break work into smaller chunks so that there is less to focus on at once
  4. Use special phrases that grab attention and stimulate interest, e.g. “wait for it”, “here we go”, or “the next part is really interesting”
  5. Develop your knowledge and understanding of ADHD with courses and training

Eating Disorders in schools

Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or background – despite the stereotypes that exist in the media. Eating disorders are often associated with severely limiting one’s food intake or purging after eating through laxatives or inducing vomiting – however it can also include eating extreme quantities of food at once, excessive fasting, excessive exercise in response to food intake or any combination of these behaviours.

Most eating disorders start in childhood or adolescence, so schools can play a crucial part in spotting the signs and providing early intervention.

Signs of eating disorders in schools

Children and young people with eating disorders may skip meals, avoid eating around others, disappear after mealtimes and even display physical symptoms of malnutrition including thinning hair and dry skin.

How to support eating disorders in schools

  1. Educate yourself about eating disorders to better understand the signs, symptoms and help available. (Why not take a look at our online course on eating disorders?)
  2. Talk openly about eating disorders to reduce stigma and encourage children to seek help
  3. Share tools and resources that children can use to access support when they need it. Beat is an incredible eating disorder charity with great support for young people.
  4. Discuss any concerns you have with your school’s safeguarding lead as well as the child’s parent/carer

Insecure attachment in schools

Attachment is a complex psychological theory around the bonds formed between children and their primary caregiver(s). Insecure attachments are formed when a child has a negative or poor bond with their caregiver that is often a result of the home environment being a source of fear rather than safety. Insecure attachments in school children can lead to disruptive behaviour and difficulty forming relationships in later life.

Signs of insecure attachment

Many children with insecure attachments do not feel safe around other people and as such may refuse to ask for help, avoid social situations and elicit inappropriate responses to emotional situations (e.g. laughing when someone is in pain).

How to support insecure attachment in schools

  1. Build positive relationships with the child that help them feel safe, enabling you to work on any behavioural issues they display
  2. Engage with other adults in their life to understand what is causing the child to feel this way
  3. Discuss the attachment issues with a professional or undertake training in attachment theory

Depression and low mood in school

It is normal for a child (or adult) to not feel 100% happy all the time and to experience times when they feel irritable with little pleasure of motivation. However, if someone feels this way consistently for longer than two weeks, they may be suffering with depression or low mood.

Signs of depression in school

Depression can be caused by many factors including bullying and exam stress – common signs of depression in children include irritability, not wanting to attend school and losing interest in things they once enjoyed.

How to support depression in schools

  1. Educate yourself so that you can fully understand how children with depression may feel and act
  2. Signpost to professional resources that can help children understand their own mental health
  3. Express an interest in how they are feeling so that they know they can talk to you (or another member of staff they may feel more comfortable with)
  4. Share any concerns with other wellbeing leaders within the school who can take the appropriate next steps

Take a look at our online self-led course Understanding Depression or get in touch to discuss mental health training for teachers through #Headucation.

Teachers and schools play a vital role in the support of mental health conditions in children but they need more help to do it effectively. Help us raise money for Headucation so we can provide fully-funded mental health training to schools that will enable their teachers to act as first responders and support children in the early stages of mental health conditions.

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How can young people get mental health support

Young people need mental health support more than ever. Help us make it better by supporting our Headucation campaign.

50% of all mental health problems start by the age of 14 (with 1 in 6 school-aged children having a common mental health condition) but there is an average 10-year delay between showing the first signs and getting appropriate treatment.

According to research, the most common reason young people had for not seeking support was ‘not feeling like their problem was bad enough’. Because of this sentiment, it’s not surprising that nearly 70% of young people would prefer to not have to go through a GP for mental health problems but only 50% are aware of other routes.

Even when teenagers are referred to specialist mental health services such as CAMHS, they are often rejected or made to join a long waiting list as these services are massively overstretched.

It’s clear that young people need more mental health support alternatives to the GP and NHS providers.

How can young people get mental health support without a GP?

Mental health organisations for young people

Many organisations offer great advice and resources for young people struggling with their mental health that can be accessed for free online and therefore require no referral from a GP.

There are also several great books on mental health available from Trigger Publishing that can help young people to learn useful techniques and draw from others’ experiences with mental health.

Mental health support in schools and workplaces

Many of the problems around young people’s mental health support come down to a lack of knowledge, a lack of accessibility and existing stigma around the topic. We can overcome these issues by making mental health support available within schools and young people’s workplaces.

Training a Mental Health First Aider or providing basic mental health training to staff can help to:

  • Increase awareness of the causes of mental health problems in young people
  • Spot the early warning signs of mental health problems in young people
  • Provide early intervention and initial support
  • Signpost to appropriate professional mental health support services when needed

Our Headucation campaign aims to provide fully-funded mental health training to teachers so that they can provide this mental health support to young people in schools.

All proceeds from our workplace mental health training programmes go straight into our Headucation fund.

Mental health peer support groups

Peer support groups are the perfect way for young people to support each other with mental health, normalise the conversation and reduce stigma for future generations.

Mental health peer support can take place in person or online and are offered by many mental health organisations

Mental Health Helplines

Young people must know about a few mental health helplines so that they can access support in critical times or outside of other organised support events.

By helping young people to access alternatives to GP mental health support, we can reduce the number of young people in need of intense clinical support and enable professional services to provide fast and efficient critical support for those who still need it.

Help us improve mental health support for young people by supporting our Headucation campaign – buy a product from our store, enrol on one of our courses or donate to our fundraiser.

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6 tips for socialising without alcohol

As a nation, Brits are renowned drinkers. Many of our social activities tend to revolve around drinking alcohol, pubs, bars and clubs. The drinking culture we have in Britain can make it hard for those avoiding alcohol to still be social without feeling like an outsider or even pressured to drink. Removing yourself from social situations completely can impact your wellbeing given how integral socialising is to building and maintaining positive mental health.

Some choose to forgo alcohol for personal or religious reasons, whilst others may be battling problems with alcohol or alcoholism. Many people forget (especially those who don’t struggle with alcohol) that alcoholism and other substance addictions are serious and challenging mental health conditions that need the appropriate support from those around them. But many people don’t want to sacrifice their social habits which means that sober people can often feel excluded.

But it’s not impossible to maintain a social life without. This is a perfect opportunity for us to share some tips for those with a difficult relationship with alcohol to maintain a healthy, sober social life.

1. Find alternative activities

If you can find other ways to spend time with people besides drinking, you will find it much easier to have an enjoyable social life without alcohol. Rather than going to a club for your birthday, why not try an activity like paintballing or a trip to the cinema? These activities don’t always have to be completely alcohol-free either – you can simply find ways to minimise the emphasis that will be placed on alcohol. Instead of going to the pub for dinner, find a restaurant where the focus will primarily be on the food.

It helps to have a couple of good options on hand for when people suggest something you think could be difficult for you. Figure out what activities you enjoy and what’s on offer locally so that you can always make a counter-suggestion if needed.

2. Find alternative drinks

While it may seem obvious to find something non-alcoholic to drink when staying sober, the key is to find something you genuinely enjoy drinking so that alcohol becomes less appealing. This can also make it easier to attend the same social gatherings as usual since you’ll have an alternative drink to look forward to. This can be a standard soft drink, speciality alcohol-free option (like mocktails) or even a hot drink. Try a few things out and see what you like.

3. Learn to say ‘no’

The people-pleasing part of many of us can make it difficult to say no to people when they ask us to do something or offer us something.

But it’s very unlikely that a situation will arise when refusing to drink alcohol will have catastrophic consequences – if anything, it’s likely to have the opposite effect in the long term.

Get used to saying ‘no’ by continuously turning down offers for drinks (or alcohol-centred social events if you find them challenging). You could even engineer this by having a friend who knows what you’re trying to do and get them to continuously offer you drinks so you can practice.

At the start of your sober journey there will always be questions about why you’re not drinking or why you won’t have ‘just one’. In this situation, you’ll massively benefit from having some prepared responses to decrease the chance of you being talked into drinking. Here are some examples:

  • “I just feel better when I don’t drink”
  • “I’m not feeling great and don’t want to make it worse”
  • “I had a bad experience a while back and I’ve been put off since then”
  • “My doctor said I can’t drink for a little while”

These don’t always have to be completely true, sometimes you just need a way to get people to drop the subject and move on.

If someone keeps pushing you and seems intent on getting you to drink, Mark Willenbring, an addiction psychiatrist, suggests asking “does my not drinking make you uncomfortable?” as this will often get them to immediately stop and reflect on their actions.

4. Prepare your friends and family

If you feel comfortable opening up to your loved ones about your choice to stop drinking, it will make it easier for you to avoid alcohol in social situations. They’ll be less likely to offer you alcohol (which means you don’t have to feel awkward about saying ‘no’) and may actively try to find non-alcohol-centred social events for you to go to.

Similarly to when saying ‘no’, you don’t have to tell everyone the whole story if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Keeping it simple and saying “I feel better when I don’t drink” is absolutely fine!

5. Have a sober network

We can probably all agree that it’s easier to stick to any commitment when there is more than one person involved. Arrange social events with other people who are sober or invite a sober friend along to other social events to help you stay away from alcohol. If you can’t bring them along, you can send them a message or give them a call with things get tough.

If you don’t have someone who is actively trying to avoid alcohol, ask for help from someone you trust who can help you stay away from alcohol.

6. Find healthy ways to respond to triggers

Some people drink when happy, some drink when they’re stressed and others drink for a variety of reasons. Take some time to identify why you drink so that you can prepare alternative ways to respond to that situation.

Drinking when stressed? Try going for a walk.

Drinking in celebration? Why not go out for afternoon tea?

Knowing what your triggers are can also help you avoid them – but we know it’s not always a realistic long-term strategy.

It’s not impossible to maintain a social life while battling alcoholism – but it might take some work.

Sometimes your social life will change as a result of becoming sober, but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Often, going sober can help you spend more quality time with your friends and family, build stronger relationships and allow you to feel better both mentally and physically.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol, reach out to Drinkaware.

Want to find out more about the mental health side and implications of additions like alcoholism? Take a look at our mental health awareness courses covering a range of mental health conditions and how you can spot and support those struggling.

All funds from our courses go directly into our Headucation campaign that aims to improve mental health in children and young people by training teachers in the basics of mental health support.

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Signs of anxiety to look out for in children

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness or fear that, in many situations, is normal to experience – however when you feel this way most of the time it can be debilitating and massively impact how you function on a day-to-day basis.

As adults, it can be incredibly difficult to identify and manage anxiety. So, just imagine what it feels like for a child who is struggling with anxiety themselves.

What factors put children more at risk of anxiety?

While anxiety can arise for seemingly no reason, there are some situations that more often lead to children developing anxiety:

  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • Bereavement
  • Substance abuse
  • Divorce or difficult home situation (e.g., frequent arguments between parents)
  • Moving house or school
  • Pre-existing conditions such as ADHD or autism

Signs of anxiety in children

With children spending seven hours a day at school, here are some signs of anxiety that teachers should look out for:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in eating habits
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Frequent toilet visits
  • Constant worrying and negative thoughts
  • Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
  • Emotional outbursts (e.g., crying or tantrums)
  • Being clingy
  • Disruptive behaviour

What to do if a child in your class has anxiety

  • Have someone in the school start a conversation with them – preferably a teacher or teaching assistant with mental health first aid or ELSA training
  • Talk openly about anxiety in the classroom to reduce the stigma around mental health – you can use our Sock It To Stigma classroom materials to help you
  • Talk to the child’s parents and refer them to professional support if appropriate

According to the latest research, one in six UK school children have a probable mental health disorder. Aside from parents, teachers are the adults that children spend most of their time with during the day. It is crucial that anyone who works with children can recognise the signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health and, more importantly, that they know how to take appropriate action. But with no compulsory mental health training, this task can feel overwhelming and difficult.

Our Headucation 2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025. Your school could be eligible for fully-funded mental health training. Get in touch with our team to find out more.

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Why think about mental health first aid in the workplace?

We know we talk about mental health first aid in the workplace a lot, but it is increasingly important for businesses to make sure they are doing everything they can to look after their employee’s mental health. Here’s why.

Improve productivity

Staff suffering with mental health conditions may find it hard to focus and carry out day-to-day activities. There has also been a rise in presenteeism, particularly in 18-29 year olds, where employees will not take time off to deal with mental illness and will instead continue to work either at a poorer level or until they burnout completely.

Mental health conditions that are not dealt with early on can lead to more severe situations where employees end up taking extended time off.

In 2019/2020 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health, according to the HSE’s Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain report 2020.

A mental health first aider is equipped to spot when someone is showing signs of depression, stress or anxiety and can step in before it becomes a problem that has a huge impact on their day-to-day productivity.

Improve staff morale

Someone suffering with a mental health condition like anxiety or paranoia may cause them to doubt themselves, take criticism personally, and need constant approval for even minor tasks – none of which is good for the overall staff morale. By having Mental Health First Aiders in your business, you can spot when people are struggling with anxiety and put practices or processes in place to improve their self-esteem and support their mental health.

Save money

It is estimated that poor mental health at work costs the UK economy up to £70bn each year. This is because untreated mental health conditions lead to poor productivity, presenteeism, absenteeism and high staff turnover.

However, research conducted by Deloitte found that businesses who invest in supporting employee mental health get an average of £5 back for for every £1 spent on things like Mental Health First Aid training, Employee Assistance Programmes and other mental health training.

Attract and retain top talent

While only 42% of employers believe that workplace mental health strategies are important to job hunters, research has shown that 88% of professionals consider it when searching for new roles.

Research has also shown that mental health support at work is vital when it comes to keeping staff. Businesses who actively look after their employee’s mental health could retain 78% of 18-24-year-olds who leave, 42% of their overall workforce and 25% of their critical staff. (Source)

Investing in employee mental health will help your business grow and make sure that employees enjoy working for you. Get started with our Mental Health First Aid training.

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For more support with mental health strategies in your workplace, get in touch with our team.

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Help with Health Anxiety

Health anxiety (or hypochondria) is when you become obsessed with the idea that you are – or will be – physically ill. Worrying about your health can lead you to miss out on experiences in your life and even develop physical symptoms.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable to be more aware and wary of physical illnesses – however if you are experiencing so much anxiety about your health that you are struggling to focus on anything else, you may want to consider seeking help.

Health anxiety symptoms

You may be struggling with health anxiety if you:

  • Visit/call your GP regularly
  • Worry that medical tests and doctor’s examinations may miss something wrong with you
  • Frequently check yourself for signs of serious illness and self-diagnose
  • Constantly worry about your physical health
  • Obsessively research health information online
  • Avoid reading, watching or listening to things that talk about physical illnesses (e.g. medical dramas, case studies, etc)
  • Live your life as if you were ill even when you’re not – taking sick days, avoiding physical activity, not travelling far from home

Physical symptoms of health anxiety

Health anxiety can also manifest in several physical symptoms brought on by continuous stress and worrying, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic attacks
  • Dry mouth
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Aching body and muscles

Help with health anxiety

There are a few different ways you can manage your health anxiety

  • Write down and challenge your thoughts – rather than letting worries build in your mind, jot them down along with some reasons why they might not be true e.g. “I’m getting lots of headaches which means there’s something wrong with me” leads to “headaches are often a sign of stress” which in turn leads you to question what’s causing stress and address it.
  • Keep busy – when you feel the urge to check yourself or research illnesses, go for a walk or do an activity that keeps your mind distracted.
  • Face your fears – if there’s a part of your life you’ve been avoiding (such as exercise or travel), start to introduce these back into your routine to gradually become more comfortable doing them and teach your brain that these activities aren’t dangerous.
  • Talk to someone about your health anxiety – talk to a friend, your workplace mental health first aider or use services like our Breathe Café Online to get support from trained volunteers.
  • Talk to a professional – if these self-help ideas don’t work to relieve your health anxiety over time, contact a GP or mental health professional for more support.

 

Anxiety of any kind is debilitating. It can destroy productivity and takes the joy out of life.

At Shawmind, we’re here to help you enjoy your life and perform at your best through support groups, mental health training and professional advice.

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Signs of anxiety to look out for in the workplace

 

Anxiety is a normal response to worrying situations and everyone is likely to feel moments of anxiety in their lives. However, when feelings of anxiety persist it can be hard for someone to control their worries and live their lives as normal.

Knowing what signs of anxiety to look out for in the workplace can help you to a) support someone in their time of need and b) prevent the anxiety from deteriorating into other mental health conditions.

Mental health conditions overall can be hard to spot since they affect people’s thoughts and emotions – however there are a number of physical and behavioural signs that might signal someone you work with is struggling with anxiety.

Signs of anxiety in the workplace:

  • Taking unusual amounts of time off work
  • Increased pessimism and lack of enthusiasm
  • Seeking constant approval and reassurance from managers and/or peers
  • Struggling to meet deadlines
  • Overreacting to comments or situations
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Change in eating habits
  • Forgetfulness

What can you do if you think someone is struggling with anxiety

Mental Health First Aid

If your workplace has a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA), this is a great person to mention your concerns to. Mental Health First Aiders have been trained to spot the signs of common mental health conditions in those around them but if they don’t work closely with the person affected they might miss them.

The MHFA can then start a conversation with the person to understand why they’re struggling and what next steps need to be taken.

Mental Health First Aiders are not currently a legal requirement for businesses but they have significant benefits.

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Start a conversation

If your workplace does not yet have a Mental Health First Aider, you can start a conversation with the person who is struggling yourself. Often, the stigma attached to mental health prevents those suffering from reaching out for help – so by initiating the conversation yourself you may encourage them to open up. If you have a story of your own that you’re comfortable sharing this can be a great way to further reduce the stigma and encourage them to talk.

However, not everyone will want to talk to you so be careful to push or put pressure on them to open up. Simply let them know you’re there if they want to talk.

Ensure they take breaks

Anxiety can make people dwell on the negative parts of their life or job which only triggers more anxiety. So a good way to combat this is to help people take breaks to remove themselves from the anxiety triggers and focus on the things they enjoy.

It can be hard to enforce breaks at work, especially if it’s busy so you might want to try encouraging people to spend more time on the things they enjoy rather than trying to get them to spend less time dwelling on the bad. E.g. if the person enjoys reading, you could set up a book club amongst your colleagues to encourage more time reading outside of work rather than simply telling the person to stop thinking about the negative parts of their day.

Go for walks together

The effect that a walk outdoors can have on a person is amazing. The physical activity of walking (or doing any exercise) releases chemicals in the body that reduce stress, anxiety and depression while being outdoors has a whole raft of similar benefits triggered by increased daylight and exposure to plants.

Going on these walks together also ensures that the person will take a break from their day to do it as you’re holding them accountable. You may even find that they open up to you about their mental health during these walks being out of the office environment and away from their triggers.

Encourage them to seek support

If someone you work with is struggling with anxiety, encourage them to seek support from a mental health professional or organisation like Shawmind. Getting the right advice as early as possible can prevent mental health issues from deteriorating into a life-threatening situation.

There are several mental health organisations that offer a variety of services depending on a person’s needs. At Shawmind we have a Whatsapp number that anyone can use to get support alongside a selection of support groups including our Breathe Café and ManCave.

Important: you are not responsible for making sure a person seeks mental health support. All you can do signpost appropriate services and then leave it up to the individual to take it further.

Everyone is likely to struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives. Let’s make sure your business is able to help your employees when they’re struggling. Want more advice about looking after mental health in your workplace? Book onto one of our mental health training sessions or get in touch.

 

 

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What does mental health first aid training cover?

This April is Stress Awareness Month. With 55% of sick days in 2019/20 being directly attributable to workplace-related stress, anxiety and depression*, we wanted to look at one of the best ways to provide workplace support: by having mental health first aiders in your organisation.

To become a mental health first aider (MHFA) you need to attend an accredited course, there are several to choose from.

But what do you cover in mental health first aid training?

Knowledge of Mental Health Challenges

The first step to being able to help those in your organisation with their mental health is to have a thorough knowledge of the various mental health challenges that people face. Understanding exactly what mental health issues employees are struggling with (e.g. stress, anxiety or depression) can help you to build trust and provide appropriate support.

What factors affect mental health

Understanding what factors affect a person’s mental health and wellbeing can not only help you anticipate when someone is likely to be struggling based on their environment, but it can also help you to take preventative measures to protect their mental wellbeing in the first place. If you knew that the workforce was about to become stressed because of certain factors like deadlines or personal commitments – wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to help them?

Identifying signs of mental health struggles

Not everyone will feel confident enough to come to you when they are struggling with their mental health so you must know what signs to look out for. By being on the lookout for these signs you can reach out to people who haven’t yet talked to you and implement tactics in the workplace to protect their mental health from deteriorating further.

How to support someone struggling with mental health

Once you’ve identified that someone in the workplace is struggling with their mental health, a large part of your role as a mental health first aider is to provide initial support and guidance. In mental health first aid training, you’ll learn how to best support individuals based on the mental health challenges they are struggling with. You will also learn about the mental health first aid action plan that you can follow for each individual who needs help with their mental health, and how to work with your colleagues to develop a workplace wellbeing plan.

Enhanced interpersonal skills

Being a mental health first aider in the workplace requires you to have strong interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening. This course will help you develop those skills so that your employees and/or colleagues feel comfortable talking to you about their mental health and so that you feel confident providing support.

Resources & support for individuals

As a mental health first aider, you are the first point for support and guidance. For complex or long term mental health conditions you will likely need to signpost individuals to professional resources and support services such as helplines, GPs or private therapies. During your mental health first aid training, you will be educated about the various resources that are out there and when they would be the most appropriate next step for those in your workplace. These may also be guided by your company’s wellbeing policies.

How to look after your own mental health in your MHFA role

The adage “you cannot look after anyone else if you’re not looking after yourself” rings true for mental health first aiders too. ‘Everyone has mental health’ is one of the first things you learn on the MHFA course. Just like physical health. As a mental health first aider you will be taking on the challenges that everyone else in your organisation is facing which can be emotionally draining and stressful on top of your regular work responsibilities. Our mental health first aid training will teach you how to manage your own mental health and wellbeing while carrying out your MHFA role.

 

Want to become a mental health first aider? Book onto our next training

 

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