Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Tuesday 11th May 2021

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme for 2021 is Nature!

Having good mental health is important from both a psychological and a physical standpoint, although it can be difficult to feel great all the time. Mental health can be impacted by a range of factors including one’s own personal experiences, genes, or social environment.

Learn with Unite offer a certified CPD Mental Health Awareness course. Take a look here.

Connecting with nature can contribute to keeping mental health in check by reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing physical activity and exercise.

stressAccording to ONS research from 2021 into self-reported depression in the UK and rates of depression as diagnosed by a GP in England, the figures show that self-reported experience of depression has increased, compared with pre-pandemic levels. One in five adults have experienced depressive symptoms in the last quarter, compared to one in ten before the pandemic outbreak.

Conversely, the number of GP-diagnosed cases of adult depression has fallen during the pandemic. However, depression rose as a proportion of all diagnosis during that period, suggesting adults have been avoiding or putting off speaking to their GP about depression. It is important that everybody can feel that there is support for those in need and can feel able to confide in others should they need to.

ONS data also shows that certain groups have been disproportionately affected, with women, younger people, people with less disposable income, and people who are disabled or have another long-term physical health condition more likely to report depressive symptoms. 

The Great Outdoors

Get active! Getting out and about in the fresh air is a great start. Exercise safely in green spaces. Whether it be for a high-intensity run, a short leisurely walk, or a bike ride. You can take time to reflect on your thoughts.  Setting goals with others is a great way to stay motivated. Try teaming up with others in your household or friends. Building this into the regular routine is a good idea.

bird feederExercise boosts mood and helps eliminate feelings of anger, tiredness, and sadness, so it will stand you in good stead for the rest of the day. Try walking without earphones and listen to natural sounds rather than your favourite music or podcast.  Outdoor spaces are ideal to practice mindfulness. For those unfamiliar, mindfulness can be described as taking time to acknowledge feelings and surroundings by using senses, grounding yourself in the present.

You might find new routes or areas to explore and meet new people.

For those of us who are creative, one could also increase their nature connection by taking photos, writing, or drawing surroundings, such as plants or animals.

Connect From Home

Not everybody has access to local parks and large green spaces but that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Bring nature to your door. Put a bird feeder outside your house and take note of the different species.  Take your yoga mat or alternative exercise routine or indeed your evening meal out into the garden one evening a week.

plantThe vast majority of us have been working from home for months now so turn your office space into a green space with house plants. Not only can they be pretty to look at, but they’re also a brilliant way to improve air quality. Having indoor plants can even help to reduce stress and create a peaceful environment, which can only benefit productivity. 

There are plenty of low-maintenance plants such as a cactus or spider plant that require little care and perfect for people with busy schedules or who perhaps forget to water them often! 

Looking after a plant, pet, or even growing your own vegetables can be very satisfying and can also have a calming effect. If possible, occasionally walk to your destination instead of driving to give yourself a small workout while helping nature.  Recycling or composting could also provide a feel-good factor.

Some of these solutions can definitely be used while working from home.  It can be difficult to separate work and free time and tempting to continue working. Leave your desk at the end of the day.  Use your lunch break, disconnect for a few minutes. Staying in close contact with a friendly colleague and confiding in them over any concerns may prevent an issue from festering and help to preserve positive mental health.

Don’t be afraid to seek support. 

Remploy delivers a confidential service funded by the Department for Work and Pensions available at no charge to any employees with depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues affecting their work.

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