Today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. Since mental health conditions affect 1 in 4 people, and 50% of those conditions began before the person was 14-years-old, it’s a pretty important thing to become more aware of.
As a Mental Health Practitioner, I have been experimenting with well-being exercises that support my writing, and I want to open up discussions about writer’s well-being.
Well-being is defined as “the state of feeling healthy and happy” by the Cambridge Dictionary. Thus, there are multiple facets to our health and happiness than just our mental health, which can impact each other.
Today I want to discuss Burnout.
[Usual Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and please see your GP if you feel you require any form of support for your mental health. If you live in England, every county has access to a free IAPT psychological therapies service. Additionally, The Samaritans are a free, confidential listening charity, and you can contact them on 116 123 if you need to talk.]
Environment :: Mental Space
In the mental health field, we use a phase known as ‘burnout’ to describe when someone is becoming so stressed or run-down, they are no longer functioning efficiently.
For some, burnout just needs a few days to rest and recover, while for others, it can have very long-term effects.
It’s the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, but it’s not the end of mental health awareness. Think about how many people you see in a day: every 1 in 4 of those people has experienced, or will experience a mental health condition. That may be a depressive episode following a bereavement, or work stress during a time of transition. It may be triggered by Burnout.
But sometimes, Mental Health conditions just find us. They are an equal opportunities experience. It doesn’t matter your age, your gender, your education level or your financial situation: anyone can be affected.
So I’m asking you to be aware, and to be supportive.
If you discover a 14-year-old is self-harming, offer them support, not judgement. If a colleague looks exhausted at work, make them a cup of tea in your break. If you recognise the symptoms of burnout in your own life, take a day off work: call in sick and visit your GP for mental health support.
Mental Health is just as valid as Physical Health.
One of the key reasons I’m looking at the things we can do to manage burnout this week, is because I’m noticing it in myself. I have experience of low mood and anxiety, and when I’m running out of resources to manage the stressors in my life, I can feel my mental well-being waver a bit.
So rather than focus on how burnout may look different for each person, let’s focus on things which may help lower that temperature, or refill our ‘well’ of ‘wellness’.
Self-Care :: What Can We Do?
I find it useful to think of our ‘stress level’ as a thermometer or a bath. Something that fills up.
Equally, some people like to imagine something that drains, and call this their mental wellness” indicator.
Using the thermometer idea, the higher our temperature normally, the fewer stressful things it will take to rise. And when we reach the top, the thermometer is going to break.
Remembering that you are the expert in your own care, here’s a list of some useful resources to help manage things before you burnout:
- Take some slow, deep breaths. Are you slouching? Sit up straight for 5 seconds. Sometimes, this can be enough to stop racing thoughts or to jolt us out of an emotional moment just to give us that a moment of of space.
- Go for a walk.
- Balance your activities: do fun things, restful things and things which give you a sense of achievement.
- Ask yourself what you need: this quiz is a great check-list asking ‘how am I doing now?’ and helping to fix problems.
- Relax: look up some great meditations or relaxation exercises online. I love this loving-kindness meditation (the kids one is really simple to learn).
- Laugh: watch your favourite comedy DVD or if you’re like me, some good old Disney movies with hilarious lines. If you’re stuck for one, the 1973 cartoon version of Robin Hood is a good place to start.
- Drink: sometimes, a sip of water or your favourite tea while looking out the window can just give us a sense of stillness in the busy world.
- Stretch: yoga may not be for everyone, but this video is 7 minutes of yoga stretches you can do sat on your sofa, while watching TV.
How do you empty your stress-meter?
How do you know when you’re burning out?
Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
A similar check-list via youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek-B_EZyoM8
Couch Potato Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzhGqjlYU14
Loving-kindness Meditation: http://buddhanet.net/metta.htm