From the dozens of emails to the never-ending phone conferences- your work life may have you biting off more than you can chew sometimes, especially if you’re chasing your goals head-on. While there’s nothing really wrong with working relentlessly, it is important to remember that working without breaks can put you dangerously close to a burnout and damage your mental health. You may already be feeling the pressure and searching for coping mechanisms. I have written before about my own mental health issues as a teenager and I have seen how easy it is to turn to self medicating when things get really tough.
Whether it is feelings of anxiety, insomnia, burnout, exhaustion, helplessness or overwhelming emotions you are not alone.
Are you are aware that new research suggests that 24 million Britons self-medicate their mental health symptoms, including using illegal drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health issues. This is staggering and why I write so much about wellbeing in addition to personal finance. Parenting teenagers in this climate also worries me as they are also feeling the pressures and burnouts in much the same way as adults.
The new study by the UK’s leading life insurance broker, LifeSearch, demonstrates the scale of the issue for the first time. Nearly half (45%) of over 16s use coping mechanisms to ‘self-medicate’ current mental health issues, and six in 10 (60%) say they have done so in the past. For one in five (21%) self-medication comes in the form of drink, over the counter meds or even illegal drugs, while others use gambling, sex, food or spending to alleviate chronic mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia or even depression.
Why do nearly half of Brits ‘self-medicate’ their mental health?
Looking at the drivers behind this behaviour, one in three (34%) self-medicate to get a sense of control over their mental health, while one in five (21%) say they don’t have anyone to talk to about their issues.
When it comes to talking about mental health in general, one in eight (12%) don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it and only two in five (42%) talk to their partner about it. It is still a hard subject to broach and many feel that they will be judged negatively if they start talking. We often see memes on Facebook saying my door is open for a coffee a chat, but how many just don’t know how to start that conversation and search out that support.
LifeSearch is now urging people to confide in others about these issues rather than trying to cope alone as part of its Let’s Start Talking campaign, which aims to encourage Brits to have those necessary but uncomfortable conversations.
Let’s look at how else we can start to fix ourselves.
- Know your Breaking Point
One of the simplest ways to prevent burnouts is to know when you’re close to one. Pay close attention to how your body and mind is when you’re close to a burnout, and identify the signs as early as you can. When you feel you’re nearing one, stop yourself right there and hit pause for a bit, allow yourself to relax.
- Get Out
Spending some time close to nature can literally heal you, and that’s exactly why you need to do it everyday. Taking a short walk barefoot in the grass after a long tiring day can get you relaxed and less stressed almost instantly. This little self care trick can work wonders, and can offer many health benefits too!
- Take Mini Breaks
Sneaking in little breaks in your hectic work schedule can also help prevent burnouts more effectively than you can imagine. Make it a point to get these breaks throughout the day- even if they just mean stretching a bit or standing in the sun or just walking around and getting a change of scenery.
- Practise Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness on a daily basis, and making it a part of your work life is again, one of the best ways to prevent burnouts. Instead of doing too much altogether and ending up feeling exhausted, take it slow and focus on doing one thing at a time and then moving on to the next. This will help you do things better too!
- Take a Nap
You’ll be surprised at how effective this little trick can be when it comes to making you feel more energetic and driven and ready to hit your goals! So ditch that 4th cup of coffee and take a short nap instead- it can help you relax and refresh for a little bit. And of course, make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every day.
- Have Some Fun
With life and its highs and lows affecting you so much, it is important to find the time to have fun too! Look after yourself and give yourself some time to enjoy and have fun every day. It can be anything- going out with a friend, catching a movie or even just taking your pet out for a walk- the idea is to take a break and do something different that makes you feel happy.
Emma Walker from LifeSearch commented: “Mental ill-health shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your family’s future – and it all starts with one open, honest conversation. We know that this is easier said than done, but we hope that we can inspire people to have those conversations. Talking openly and honestly and awkwardly is the bedrock of LifeSearch – it’s what we have to do to protect people. And it’s what we’re asking people to do to protect themselves.”
LifeSearch has created a range of guidance and advice to help people talk about mental health. Starting the conversation will enable the whole family to support each other and if like me, you are parenting teenagers you will be giving them the tools to hopefully manage their own mental health in a positive way which can only be a good thing for their future.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Lifesearch