What is ‘Mental Health’?

Mental Health is the condition of your psychological and emotional wellbeing

This month has seen Prime Minister Theresa May put the issue of mental health firmly on the agenda but what is ‘Mental Health’ and what do you do if yours is impaired?

Mental Health is the condition of your psychological and emotional wellbeing. Everyone has ‘mental health’ just as we all have ‘physical health’.

It’s about how healthy your mind is in relation to how you feel about yourself (self-esteem and self-confidence) and people you come into contact with, how well your mind works – concentration, memory, decision-making, thinking patterns – your capacity to interact with people and maintain relationships and your ability to learn and develop psychologically and emotionally.

Basically, its about how we think and subsequently behave

But the term can often cause confusion because when you mention mental health, it’s frequently referred to in terms of mental illness such as autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disease or depression. These are ill-health problems that may need help from a mental health specialist.

The Importance of Cortisol

Even stress is a mental health problem because the pressure you are experiencing puts your body into fight or flight mode which has resulted in the over-release of the hormone cortisol. As part of fight or flight, the mind has been altered to help you cope with the pressure.

Cortisol has an impact on memory, concentration, decision-making, mood, confidence just to name a few things.

It’s Important to Get Help Early

As with any condition, it’s important to get help early and this goes for stress as well. But just how open you are about it with others is a whole new ball game primarily because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

At any one time it’s thought that 30% of the working population will be experiencing symptoms of mental ill-health and 30% of those people feel they can’t talk openly with their manager for fear of reprisals or because it’s just too difficult.

If you Want the Protection of the Law, you Need to Discuss It

But the thing is, if you want the protection of the law, you need to discuss it with your manager, employer’s HR department or occupational health and follow your firm’s policies and procedures; which should be published and available as a staff handbook, web page or some other method.

Key Tips

As with any condition, it’s best for you to take action. Consider the following:

1. Talk to someone. Once you have discussed with your GP, raise it with your line manager or HR or occupational health provider if your line manager is a problem.

If you anticipate it may be hard talking to someone at work, contact the charity MIND, which has a confidential help-line that can provide advice and information.

Think before you talk about the terminology you will use; how much information do you want to give away (you don’t have to go into personal details), how will you describe how you are feeling, how this may impact your work and what adjustments are required that may help you – such as changes in working hours, working from home or getting some mentoring?

2. Look after the basics – that’s your mind and physical health.

Eat regular, healthily meals, (lots of fruit and vegetables, good quality protein and whole carbohydrates). Drink plenty of water (the brain doesn’t function so well when dehydrated). Get enough sleep, take exercise (this doesn’t just mean the gym, team sports or running but also gentler forms of exercise such as yoga, pilates, walking and swimming).

Get out in the natural light and fresh air daily and avoid alcohol and processed foods that often contain unfavourable chemicals.

3. Mindfulness can be an incredibly powerful self-help technique.

It takes regular practice to get results but research shows it has a positive effect on mental wellbeing. There are a couple of great apps that can take you through some guided meditations such as Headspace and Mindfulness.

Or look out for courses being run local to you. They usually run for six to eight weeks and train you to meditate.

Now download our Top 10 Tips to Building Career Resilience

Susan Scott
How to prevent burnout and reignite your life and career
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