This year, Mental Health Awareness Week is focussed on anxiety – what it is, how it affects us and what we can do about it.
The last few years have been really scary for everyone. Living in a global pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, combined with attacks on our communities from all directions, it would be strange if we weren’t all feeling a bit worried. Cuts to support services and the ongoing decimation of our NHS, create additional harms and the mental health burden of waiting lists cannot be overstated.
I am always happy to talk about my professional experience supporting others around their mental health or the wellbeing resources and training I’ve created for practitioners working with survivors of abuse. I have also had my own personal mental health challenges, and somehow that feels like something less easy or comfortable to share. Like so many people, for me managing chronic anxiety is an everyday reality. As is so often the case, I know what I encourage others to do to look after themselves, what I should be doing, but actually doing it is a different matter.
So I wanted to share the things I try to do to keep well, in case they help anyone else and also, let’s be honest, as a reminder to myself!
Physical manifestations/impacts of our mental health are physical health conditions – the two things aren’t separate, they all happen in our one body. If you look after one and you look after the other. Annoyingly all those well-being articles are right, a bit of movement, getting enough sleep and eating properly really can make you feel better in body and mind!
This will pass. Our mental health is not static and however hard it is to believe when you are in them, bad times won’t last.
There is so much help out there, wonderful services offering help to all of us. You deserve support, reach out for it when you need it. Check out our well-being resources page for members who can help you.
When I forget everything else, and my anxiety is spiralling, the one thing I can always come back to is to sit comfortably, with my feet on the ground, close my eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Then keep moving forward.
Briony Williamson (she/her), Head of Membership and Engagement
Mental health, like for most people, is a non-linear journey. Mental Health Awareness Week is an important time to acknowledge this and recognise that all our tools for coping look different.
My own journey has been bumpy and confusing at times, but I have learned valuable tools along the way. For myself, running has been great as an output for lots of feelings. I started running in my first year of university when my mental health was deteriorating. It was a transformative experience to find an activity I enjoyed, which also provided an escape from my thoughts and allowed me to appreciate the beauty of nature in my local park. While running has been impactful for me, I have learned (the hard way) not to rely solely on one tool, especially when it is closely tied to performance and body image.
Other coping mechanisms I use include having a break from seeing friends, spending hours scrolling as a distraction and just lying on my floor (and doing some deep breathing if I remember). Are there any tools that are perfect? Absolutely not and it’s not about judging what we need to do to get by. Daily activities like taking a walk or cooking may not always be feasible. Mental health and how we cope shouldn’t be another thing we feel guilty about when we don’t do it ‘right’.
Through working for Consortium and the Equity Fund, I have met numerous groups that support mental health in our communities. Various activities such as crafting classes, guided walks, climbing, strength training, peer support, and social events, both in person and online have been incredible to learn about. Their impact on community health is outstanding- huge shout out to all the amazing LGBTQIA+ groups out there supporting our communities every day!
During this week, it is enough to do what you need to do for yourself. Whether it’s resting, enjoying some sunshine, or any other activity, it’s all valid.
Leyla Helvaci (she/they), Equity Fund Project Officer