We have been talking a lot about how we can help our staff who experience mental health problems and how we can promote a culture of well being at Iris Care Group. I want to encourage an open conversation in our organisation about this issue. To help do that, I thought that I would share my story and some of the ways I look after my mental wellbeing.
Mental health problems have been a significant feature in my family. My great grandfather died in a psychiatric hospital after living in a workhouse. My grandmother developed dementia in her 60s and died in a psychiatric hospital. Several other family members have also suffered with anxiety and depression, one of whom tragically committed suicide and my mother and sister also developed dementia at a young age.
I have experienced periods of low mood in my life and am very aware that I am probably at greater risk of developing mental health problems or dementia because of my family history. Maintaining positive mental health is central to how I live my life.
The things that help me are:
- Meditation: I have done transcendental meditation twice a day for over 30 years. It really helps to calm my mind, particularly at the end of a busy day when my head is buzzing with thoughts.
- Exercise: I either go running or to the gym 4 or 5 times a week and I always feel great afterwards. I also do yoga and Tai Chi which are both really good for promoting a feeling of well-being.
- Food: I’m a vegetarian and I try to eat healthily, including having a lot of cooked vegetables in the Winter and salads in the Summer. I also take 3 of the 4 “super foods” that promote brain health: omega 3 oil, turmeric and blueberries. The fourth is green tea which I don’t like.
- Sleep: poor sleep affects my mood and I need 8 hours a night to feel well and healthy. I find having a strict sleep routine works for me: lights out at 10.45 and up at 6.45.
- Socialising: I make sure that I see friends regularly. Social interaction improves my mood and a lack of it can get me down.
- Spending time in nature: I live in the country and go walking regularly. Being in nature, particularly woods and forests, always improves my mood. The Japanese have a great expression for this called “forest bathing”.
- Helping others: I chair a local charity that helps older people and people with a learning disability and I am also a volunteer counsellor, both of which I find very rewarding. There is a lot of evidence to indicate that voluntary work is beneficial for the mental health of the volunteer as well as the people they are helping.
Please let me know what you think about this important issue and how you look after your mental health.
Let’s get a healthy conversation going.