We all have mental health. However, many of us never think about it until it has been negatively affected. Mental health issues are common. About 1 in 5 Irish adults of working age will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. However, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues and many people are afraid or ashamed to let others know if their mental health is suffering.

Ideally, we would all exist in a state of good mental health all the time but mental health issues can have many causes and it is not possible to prevent everyone from developing a mental health issue. We can, however, take some simple steps to help to keep ourselves mentally healthy and build our resilience to help us to deal with the normal stresses and strains of everyday life, including work.

Stress is in itself not a mental illness but the symptoms of stress can make us feel unwell. If the stress is prolonged or excessive, it can lead to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Symptoms of stress arise when the demands made upon a person exceed that person’s perceived ability to meet those demands. To manage stress effectively, we need to identify and deal with the things that are causing us to feel stressed. Common stressors at work include the demands of the job, difficult relationships with colleagues, lack of role definition, lack of support and lack of control over how your job is done.

When we feel stressed or under pressure, it can be tempting to adopt negative behaviours to try to cope, such as eating or drinking too much or withdrawing from those around us. The problem with negative coping behaviours is that they can make us feel worse and it becomes a vicious circle.

So how can you help yourself to stay mentally healthy?

1. Getting regular exercise helps, as does eating healthily.

2. Make time for activities that help you to relax. We cannot be ‘switched on’ all the time. Relaxation doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. If going to the gym helps you to unwind, do that.

3. Learning to keep things in perspective helps. Things are often not as bad as they seem. Get to know yourself and what makes you feel under pressure and then work to find ways to help you to deal with pressure effectively.

4. Talk to others; friends, family, or a trained counsellor or therapist. The most important thing if you are feeling under pressure all the time is not to delay seeking help. The earlier you get help, the better.

So, the message is to pay attention to your mental health, even when you feel well. Learn to recognise the triggers that cause you to feel stressed and find positive ways to help you to cope. Talk to someone. A problem shared truly is a problem halved.

Check out the website www.yourmentalhealth.ie for further information and tips to help you to stay mentally healthy.

Susan

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