Pre­ven­tive healthcare is for the mind, too

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL -

TO­MOR­ROW I S World Men­tal Health Day, an an­nual global cel­e­bra­tion of men­tal health e d u c a t i o n , aware­ness and ad­vo­cacy. So it is a good op­por­tu­nity to step back and take a look at our own men­tal health and to re­mem­ber that spot­ting the signs of men­tal ill health is as im­por­tant as be­ing aware of the symp­toms of phys­i­cal ill­ness.

The pres­sures of the mod­ern age are hav­ing a huge im­pact on our col­lec­tive stress lev­els and all-round well­be­ing. Study and work pres­sures, so­cial and fam­ily lives are all strug­gling for our at­ten­tion and we’re find­ing it harder than ever to switch off. The phone buzzing, com­puter light blink­ing and the 24/7 work cul­ture is putting huge bur­dens on our lives.

Philippa Carr, Jami’s re­cov­ery ed­u­ca­tion man­ager, says: “It’s so im­por­tant for us all to know the signs that our bod­ies are telling us to slow down. These in­clude an in­crease in mood swings, bro­ken sleep pat­terns, eat­ing more or less than usual and an in­crease in al­co­hol con­sump­tion. If we’re notic­ing a cou­ple of these things about our­selves, maybe it’s time to think about our life bal­ance.”

Sam had just moved to Not­ting­ham for his first year at univer­sity when his grand­fa­ther died. Be­ing in a new place and try­ing to man­age his feel­ings of loss, Sam un­ex­pect­edly found his first term ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. He had been look­ing for­ward to meet­ing new peo­ple, rev­el­ling in his course and his free dom. In­stead, he did not want to leave his room and felt home­sick — though he didn’t want to ad­mit it. When Sam came home for a week­end break, his par­ents were shocked to find that their usu­ally con­fi­dent, chatty son was with­drawn and un­able to tell them any­thing about his first weeks at univer­sity. They slowly dis­cov­ered that he was al­ready be­hind with course­work and was find­ing his time away re­ally tough. Af­ter vis­it­ing his GP and re­ceiv­ing a di­ag­no­sis of de­pres­sion with anx­i­ety, Sam got in touch with Jami. An oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist at Jami be­gan prac­ti­cal work with Sam to help him es­tab­lish a new rou­tine now that he was away from home; they also en­cour­aged him to con­tact the wel­fare ser­vice on his cam­pus. He con­tin­ues to touch base with Jami when­ever he vis­its home and finds it re­as­sur­ing to know that help is avail­able if he needs it.

Sam’s story is far from iso­lated. But he was able to re­gain his for­mer self and life thanks to the swift think­ing of his fam­ily. Philippa says: “As well as be­ing able to look af­ter our own men­tal well­be­ing, it’s im­por­tant to help our near­est and dear­est. If you no­tice that a friend or fam­ily mem­ber isn’t quite them­selves, ask them if they’re okay. Of­ten, ac­knowl­edg­ing that there’s an is­sue can be the first step in get­ting back our own sense of well­be­ing.

“If you try to bot­tle up your stress, the stress will be fed even more. As with a shaken bot­tle of pop, it’s bet­ter to let out the stress gen­tly than to let the pres­sure build. If we were all hap­pier to ad­mit to and own our stress, we’d find it much eas­ier to deal with it. Dis­cussing our stress with fam­ily or close friends is prob­a­bly the first step in help­ing to ease the sit­u­a­tion.”

Things we can do to help our own stress lev­els in­clude tak­ing some time for our­selves, for ex­am­ple go­ing for a walk, hav­ing a bath, see­ing friends or pot­ter­ing in the gar­den — all things that can help us re­lax. Mind­ful­ness is also ex­tremely ef­fec­tive in help­ing peo­ple get rid of their stresses, so learn­ing that as a new tech­nique can help.

Jami is of­fer­ing cour­ses to help us to man­age the pres­sure points in mod­ern life. Its In­tro­duc­tion to Mind­ful­ness course will run in early 2016 and a Stress, Bad-hair Days and Get­ting Your Mojo Back course is in the pipeline. For the full range of Jami cour­ses and to book: jamiuk.org or call 020 8458 2223

Dis­cussing our stresses with fam­ily or friends is a first step to eas­ing it

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