Mental Health for All
Hello everyone at Barclays 🙂
I want to talk about mental health.
Well, we don’t talk about it enough, and with 1 in 4 people in England experiencing a mental health problem each year, we can’t sweep it under the rug any longer.1
Mental health is extremely nuanced, stigmatised and often incredibly private. However, not talking about mental illness doesn’t make it go away, become less complex or scary; it makes it more isolating for those experiencing it.
So, let’s have the conversation.
What is Mental Health?
According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to her or his community.”2
Having high levels of mental health is associated with positive social relationships, improved health, and an increased capacity to learn, create and produce.
Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are associated with distress, poor relationships, and poor health.3 This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to talk about mental health.
Isn’t Anxiety or Sadness Normal?
While a little bit of anxiety and feelings of sadness are standard and part of being human, a mental illness is when these things go too far. It’s okay to be anxious or sad sometimes, but chronic anxiousness and sadness cause concern. When these feelings are more intense, last longer or impair your life, it belongs in a different category.
If you aren’t feeling like yourself, don’t tell yourself that you’re okay and ignore the changes. Pay attention and notice if you’re acting differently.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, is more than just the winter blues. While researchers don’t know the exact cause of seasonal depression, the lack of sunlight may trigger the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of SAD?
Some of the symptoms include:
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Changes in sleep
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Thoughts of death
- Weight gain or loss
If you have symptoms of SAD, don’t diagnose yourself. Please see a healthcare practitioner who will help provide a thorough evaluation and give you the treatment you need.
What Causes SAD?
Some of the theories behind SAD include:
- A biological clock change: in the colder months, we have less exposure to sunlight, which can shift our circadian rhythms, the regulator of our moods, sleep, and hormones.
- Brain chemical imbalance: neurotransmitters, including serotonin (our happy hormone), send communications between nerves. Since sunlight helps regulate serotonin, the lack of winter sun can reduce serotonin and cause mood changes.
- Vitamin D deficiency: vitamin D is essential in serotonin production. Since sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, less sun in winter can lead to vitamin D deficiency, affecting serotonin.
- Negative thought patterns: this is a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario, but people who experience SAD have negative thoughts or stress about winter, which can worsen experiences of SAD.
How Can You Manage SAD?
- Bright light therapy using a unique lamp can help treat SAD.
- Call or see loved ones regularly; they can provide support.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or talk therapy can effectively treat SAD.
- Eat a well-balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals to support your body during this time.
- Move your body in a way that serves you for at least 30 minutes a few times a week can help manage SAD.
- Plan for what you’ll do if your symptoms get worse. If you notice your symptoms worsen, act.
- Spend time outdoors daily, even if it’s cloudy. Also, introduce more light into your day by going for a walk at lunch or in the early afternoon.
- Talk to your healthcare provider early about what they recommend as a preventative measure.
- Vitamin D supplementation may help improve symptoms.
Ten Tips to Naturally Help Manage Depression and Anxiety
I'd love to walk you through some tips to help you manage depression or anxiety if it's a problem for you.
You can watch the video above or read below for a full play by play.
- Practice Vedic or Other Meditation
A study published in 2020 proved that during times of crisis, meditation and mindfulness complement traditional treatment and provide support for people with anxiety.
While all meditation is excellent, I love Vedic meditation. It can be practised by anyone, pretty much anywhere. It teaches you how to allow, accept and let thoughts go.
In Vedic meditation, a personal mantra is given to repeat in your mind gently. While I can’t give you a mantra, you can still practice meditation at home.
Sit comfortably in a chair with your back supported and your eyes closed. Allow your mind to settle down to increase your internal consciousness. Focus on your mantra, or if you don’t have one, focus on your breath. You don’t have to control the mind in any way. When thoughts come in (which they will!), don’t push thoughts away; just focus on your breath or mantra.
Vedic meditation is practised 20 minutes twice a day.
- Box Breathing
Box breathing, or square breathing, is a technique used to relieve stress. It’s used by everyone – from athletes to US Navy Seals.
Start by sitting up straight and taking a few deep breaths.
Keep your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up.
- Slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
- Slowly inhale for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
- Slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
This is one box breathing cycle.
Ideally, repeat the box breathing cycle at least four times in one sitting. You can do it anywhere, several times a day.
- How To Do Tapping for Anxiety
The emotional freedom technique (EFT) is an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. EFT focuses on meridian points in the body to help restore the body’s energy.
If you’re wondering whether EFT works, in a 2013 study, EFT Tapping effectively treated PTSD in war veterans.
Here is the basic technique:
- Identify the issue or fear: focus on one problem.
- Rate the problem’s intensity: once you have identified your problem, set a benchmark for its level of intensity, from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst or most difficult. This scale can assess the emotional or physical pain or discomfort you feel from that issue.
- Establish a phrase: establish a phrase that explains what you’re trying to address. It must focus on acknowledging the issue and accepting yourself despite the problem. The typical way to phrase it says: “Even though I have this [fear or problem], I deeply and completely accept myself.”
- Begin by continuously tapping with your fingers, while reciting your phrase three times. Then, tap each point seven times, moving down the body in this order:
- The crown of the head
- Between the brows
- Side of the eyes
- Under the eyes
- Under the nose
- On the chin
- Under the collarbone
- Under the arm, near where a bra strap would be
- Sometimes practitioners include the wrist
After tapping the underarm point, finish the sequence at the crown of the head, and repeat it.
While tapping each point, recite a reminder phrase to maintain focus on your main problem. If your setup phrase is, “even though I feel overwhelmed about work, I deeply and completely accept myself,” your reminder phrase can be, “the overwhelm I feel about my work.” Recite this phrase at each tapping point and repeat this sequence two or three times.
At the end of the sequence, rate your intensity level on a scale from 0 to 10. Compare your result with your initial intensity level.
You can also seek out the guidance of a trained EFT practitioner. Yu can start by running through the cycle once and then do it as many times as you like.
- Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is crucial for our brain health, allowing our neural networks to slow down and reset for the day ahead. To prioritise sleep, implement a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake at the same time every day and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
- Practice Gratitude
Keeping a daily gratitude journal or speaking to someone about things you’re grateful for is a great way to re-train the brain to look for something to be thankful for each day.
Yoga isn’t just for increasing flexibility, doing headstands, or building strength; it profoundly impacts mental health. One research study showed that even 15 minutes of yoga can have a profound effect on stress. Yoga can help increase mental clarity and calmness. There are plenty of yoga studios and online spaces that offer a range of classes – from yoga for beginners to the advanced.
- Connect with Others
Healthy relationships form part of the foundation of good mental health, while social isolation or poor relationships is a risk factor for mental health conditions. A fundamental part of building solid relationships is creating a space to have open and regular communication to share your thoughts and feelings.
Finding a trusted therapist, psychologist or counsellor, you feel comfortable speaking to is also highly beneficial in helping you work through your thoughts and feelings.
- Learn a New Skill
While many of us associate learning with being a student in school, the research shows that learning improves mental wellbeing in adults. It can boost self-confidence, give a sense of purpose and even foster connections with others. People engaged in learning report having a greater ability to cope with stress.
Try your hand at:
- Pottery, knitting, painting, writing stories or poetry
- DIY projects around the house, like gardening
- Reading new research material or non-fiction books
- Learning to cook
- Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Eating nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables with adequate protein and healthy fats is essential in mental and physical wellbeing. Aim to include protein, fats and vegetables at every meal.
- Focus on Specific Foods
While it’s essential to have balanced meals, some foods, such as green leafy vegetables, brightly coloured berries, salmon and herring, are particularly beneficial for mental health.
One of my favourite foods to include for mental health is ginger. Ginger is a gorgeous warming root that increases neurotransmitter activity in the brain, which helps improve focus and concentration, regulates mood, and aids sleep. Fresh ginger root also assists in stabilising anxiety.
To help you increase your ginger intake, check out my Stir-Fried Ginger Beef.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, don’t sweat it! Simply swap out the beef for tofu, and you’ll have a delicious protein-packed ginger stir fry.
Stir-Fried Ginger Beef or Tofu
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 brown onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 red capsicum (pepper), seeds and membrane removed, sliced
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) beef, cut into very thin strips. If not using beef, 500g of tofu, sliced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 120 g (41/4 oz/2 cups) broccoli, cut into florets
- 125 g (41/2 oz/1 cup) green beans, roughly chopped
- 100 g (31/2 oz/1 cup) snow peas (mangetout), sliced on the diagonal
- Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- brown rice, to serve
- Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, garlic and capsicum and saute for 5–7 minutes.
- Add the beef or tofu and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Add the turmeric, lemon juice, ginger, tamari, tahini and apple cider vinegar.
- Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the broccoli, beans and snow peas to the pan.
- Cook over medium heat for 12–15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Season to taste and serve with brown rice.
I’d love you to try some of these tools when you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious and let me know if they help?
Take care of yourselves and each other 🙂
Until next time,
1McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.
2World Health Organization. Promoting Mental Health. Concepts, Emerging Evidence, Practice.Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004
3Slade M. (2010). Mental illness and wellbeing: the central importance of positive psychology and recovery approaches. BMC health services research, 10, 26. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-10-26