“Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
This useful definition of mental health is used by the World Health Organisation.
The Health Education Authority defined mental health in 1997 as “the emotional and spiritual resilience which enables us to survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a fundamental belief in our own and others’ dignity and worth”.
The Mental Health Foundation has defined a mentally healthy individual as one who can:
• Develop emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually;
• Initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships;
• Face problems, resolve them and learn from them;
• Be confident and assertive;
• Be aware of others and empathise with them;
• Use and enjoy solitude;
• Play and have fun;
• Laugh, both at themselves and at the world.
Try the quiz below to determine your potential levels of stress
• We all have mental health, but some of us have mental ill-health.
• Around 1 in 4 of us will be affected in some way by mental illness.
• Mental health problems are common and widely misunderstood.
• Definitions of mental health are personal and are dependent upon our individual life experiences and life context.
• They can be influenced by our gender, race, religious beliefs, social class, experience of family life, aspirations and beliefs etc.
• Mental health has been described as multifaceted with six dimensions: affective, behavioural, cognitive, socio-political, spiritual and psychological
• Be active - getting some fresh air helps the body produce endorphins which relieve pain and induce feelings of well-being. Walking is good for you and it`s free!
• Eat healthily - make sure that your diet contains plenty B vitamins, vitamin C, fibre, zinc and magnesium by limiting ready made meals and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
• Get a good night`s sleep - excessive pressure can have a negative effect on your sleeping patterns and a lack of sleep can, in turn, increase your stress levels.
• Limit your caffeine intake - caffeine raises stress hormones and can lead to insomnia. Try to take no more than 300mg of caffeine per day. A cup of coffee contains 90mg and tea 60mg.
• Limit you alcohol intake - alcohol is a depressant and is dehydrating so drink within the recommended guidelines.
• Drink plenty of water - avoid becoming dehydrated, 65% of your body is water, so replenish it regularly.
• Make time for yourself - It`s important to set aside time to do the things that you enjoy.
• Relax - in a warm comfortable atmostphere, turn the lights down and play some quiet music. Visualise yourself in a place that makes you feel happy.
• Breathing techniques - sit or lie down an duncross your legs and arms. Take a deep breath, then exhale as much air out as you can. Breathe in and out again, thisi tie relaxing your muscles while breathing out. Keep breathing and relaxing for 5 to 20 minutes.
• Oil burners and scents - Lavendar, ylang-ylang, and clary sage oils are all relaxing scents.
• Long warm baths - add a few drops of the above oils to a bath of warm water - make sure that the water is not too hot.
Implementing an effective policy can help to raise the profile of mental well-being within the organisation and encourage employees to look out for each other and take positive steps to improving their mental well-being.
Click here to view a mental well-being policy template
Sleep is defined as a state of unconsciousness from which a person can be aroused. In this state, the brain is relatively more responsive to internal stimuli than external stimuli.
Sleep affects our physical and mental health, and is essential for normal functioning of all the systems of our body. For adults an average of 8-8.4 hours is considered fully restorative.
Some people may need as little as 5 hours or as much as ten hours of sleep every day. The period of time a person sleeps depends also on the fact whether he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Sleeping too little creates a `sleep debt`. This debt needs to be adjusted by sleeping longer periods over the next few days.
It`s important to programme your brain to expect sleep at a certain time, you can do this by going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day - even on weekends and holidays. This will allow your body to settle into a regular sleep routine and you’ll actually find that you begin waking naturally at the same time each morning.
In addition, try some of the following tips to help you and your family to establish a good sleep pattern:
• Try not to sleep or doze in the armchair, keep sleep for bedtime.
• Avoid drinking too much coffee, tea, or alcohol as these have been proven to upset sleep.
• Wind down during the course of the evening.
• Try having a relaxing bath and using essential oils, such as lavendar, to prepare you for sleep.
• Go to bed to sleep, not to read or watch television, to help programme the brain into associating bed with sleep.
• Make sure that your bed and bedroom are comfortable - not too cold or too warm.
• If you or a member of your family have continence problems which may affect sleep patterns, contact your GP for information on local services.
• On those occassions when you just can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed and toss and turn, as thinking about the fact that you can’t sleep really does not help! Get up and do something until you are tired enough to sleep. Also don’t look at your bedside clock to work out how long you’ve got left before you need to get up, as your mind will dwell on this and will keep you awake.
• If, after following these steps, you still feel overtired, consult an expert or your GP for further advice.