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Mental wellbeing for adults

Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool, able to help you flourish both personally and professionally. But sometimes feelings can overwhelm us, leaving us feeling lost.

Use this helpful guide to spot, support and sustain the different aspects of yours and your family’s wellbeing.

Mental health illustration

Handling stress

Stress affects us all at different times. Learn about its symptoms, causes and find effective ways to reduce it when it happens.

Stress is your body’s physical response to mental or emotional pressure. Jobs, relationships, money, health and unforeseen events can all have an impact. When you’re stressed, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. When the threat passes, your body usually recovers, but if you’re continually stressed it can take longer to return to normal.

Stress can affect how you feel, think and behave, but we all experience it differently. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it can go unnoticed. Look out for the following signs and take action to help prevent stress from getting worse:

  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Losing your appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • A racing heart
  • Tingling in your arms or legs
  • Muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • A nervous feeling in your stomach
  • Drinking or smoking too much
  • Eating poorly or too much
  • Low quality sleep
  • Problems having or enjoying sex

Reducing stress helps maintain your physical and mental wellbeing by:

  • Improving your mood and productivity
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Reducing your risk of developing other illnesses, from a head cold to heart disease or diabetes
  • Preventing other mental health conditions from developing, like anxiety or depression
  • Enhancing your sleep quality

Managing anxiety

Anxiety is normal, but never enjoyable. Learn about its symptoms, causes and how you can help keep it at bay.

Anxiety is a feeling of fear or panic that most of us feel occasionally, like with debt or new jobs. It usually goes away on its own, but if it continues beyond those types of situations, it might be time to take a closer look.

Because it’s a normal emotion, issues with anxiety can be hard to spot. But there’s an important difference between mild, manageable feelings and overwhelming emotions that disrupt and make you feel unhappy. So, what are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

  • Being unable to sit still
  • Feeling on edge and restless
  • Feeling like something horrible is about to happen
  • Feeling easily irritated
  • A racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Pins and needles
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Shaking
  • A dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • A nervous feeling in your stomach

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes anxiety, especially as we all experience it differently. But there are several things that will make it more likely to happen:

  • Going through a traumatic experience
  • Having friends or family with anxiety
  • Fearing you’re not in control of your life
  • Your physical health and lifestyle choices

There are several types of anxiety. Here are the most common:

Generalised anxiety disorder is long-term anxiety about various situations and issues, where one anxious thought replaces another, leading to ongoing worries and difficulty relaxing.

Social anxiety disorder is intense fear and anxiety related to everyday activities like shopping or phone conversations. You may worry before, during, and after different situations, and have a fear of embarrassment over physical reactions, like blushing or sweating.

Panic disorder is when you have recurring panic attacks, usually for no clear reason. You may start sweating or shaking, have a racing heart, feel nauseous or simply want to escape. They can be frightening and intense, but they’re not dangerous. You may just need a little support to help manage them.

Regular or long-term anxiety can have a bigger impact on your body and mind, so it’s important to manage it as best we can in order to:

  • Enhance sleep quality
  • Improve your digestive health
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Reduce risk of a stroke
  • Prevent depression
  • Boost concentration
  • Maintain strong relationships
  • Build confidence

There are lots of different ways to manage your anxiety. Depending on how often you experience it, you may find help through:

  • Self-management programmes providing support to help you successfully complete them
  • Group work with others who have anxiety
  • Relaxation techniques including deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness
  • Exercise plans to boost endorphins and reduce anxiety
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help manage your thoughts and emotional triggers
  • Medication such as antidepressants, to help with moderate or severe anxiety

Building resilience

Resilience is invisible, but incredibly powerful, helping us manage our emotions. Discover why it’s important and how to build it to keep stress levels low.

Resilience is finding effective ways to help manage stressful situations. We all respond to stress differently, so there isn’t one specific solution. But there are always things we can try to help us respond to, learn and recover from stress.

Resilience evolves over time through your experiences and the environment around you. From challenging days, to big life events, our responses to these experiences shape our resilience. Things like humour or trusting your gut are powerful tools during times of need.

Low resilience can mean you’re more easily affected by stressful situations, so the symptoms are fairly similar to stress and anxiety. Look out for:

  • Unexpected anger
  • Regular sickness
  • Increased dependence on friends and family
  • Isolation from those around you
  • Mood swings
  • Overreacting to normal stress levels
  • Weakened memory
  • Risky behaviour

We can’t control every situation, and that’s OK. But we can try to control how we respond to them. Building up your resilience empowers you to protect yourself from the harmful impacts of stress.

Overcoming loneliness

Loneliness is a sad and common issue. But help is out there. Uncover the different types of loneliness and follow steps to help overcome feelings of your own.

Loneliness is a strong and unwelcome sense of feeling alone. You may be spending more time on our own and want to be in the company of other people, or surrounded by others and still feel as though you’re on your own. There are a number of different types of loneliness:

  • Emotional loneliness is when we feel the absence of someone close who’s no longer around
  • Social loneliness happens when we have little to no interaction with others on a regular basis
  • Transient loneliness is when we feel lonely from time to time, for any number of reasons
  • Situational loneliness happens as a result of changing circumstances, like moving home or finding ourselves alone at Christmas
  • Chronic loneliness is when we’re alone for a long period of time and it takes a larger toll on our wellbeing
  • Isolation happens when we’re separated from others, either by personal choice or circumstances beyond our control

Loneliness is linked to several mental wellbeing issues including depression and anxiety, as well as physical health problems such as heart disease and strokes. But there’s hope. With small steps you can better manage your thoughts and emotions to help overcome loneliness and its impact.

Follow these steps to help overcome feelings of loneliness:

  • Think about what might be causing you to feel lonely, and write it down
  • Make a list of new hobbies you’d like to try when by yourself
  • Stay in touch with friends and family regularly, even if it’s just a text here and there
  • Find an online community like Facebook to find others to socialise with
  • Research local community groups to connect with like-minded people
  • Look after yourself with a healthy diet, fitness and sleep routine

If you’re still struggling, find more support here. Or we’re here to listen over the phone.

Dealing with depression

Depression can be a scary prospect, but we can all relate in some way. Explore its symptoms, causes and set up a personalised plan to stay on top of your emotions.

Depression is caused by changes in our brain chemistry which affects our emotions. If you suffer from depression, you’re not alone. One in five of us will experience it at some point. It can seem scary, but help is out there. The first step is to recognise the symptoms so you can get the right support.

Depression can range from mild to clinical. Sometimes it’s even difficult to notice it yourself. There are many different symptoms to look out for, both physical and mental. If you experience five or more of these constantly for two weeks, speak to your GP:

  • Difficult concentrating or making decisions
  • Having negative or suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling pessimistic about the future
  • Blaming yourself or feeling guilty
  • Feeling numb or helpless
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling irritable or impatient
  • Having low motivation
  • Getting no pleasure from life
  • Feeling anxious or restless
  • Feeling isolated
  • Lacking an appetite or losing weight
  • Feeling constipated
  • Having random aches and pains
  • Feeling overly tired
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Noticing changes in your menstrual cycle
  • Sleeping longer or having low quality sleep
  • Struggling at work
  • Neglecting your hobbies
  • Facing difficulties with your relationships
  • Making unhealthy lifestyle choices

Depression is complicated, and its causes can be different for everyone. Here are some of the most common:

  • Our biology can actually contribute to depression developing. Taking prescription drugs, having an underactive thyroid, diabetes or heart conditions; these can all make a bout of depression more likely
  • Our psychological make up, like confidence and self-esteem, can influence how likely we are to develop depression. You may be more vulnerable if you have low self-esteem or are overly self-critical
  • Our social environment can also contribute to periods of depression. Relationship challenges, stress at work and financial pressures can all increase the risk of depression developing
  • Stressful life events can have a huge impact on us. A sudden death, for example, could trigger depression for certain people. And if different life events happen together, it’s even more likely to happen

The key is knowing how and where to find support, and that’s where we can help.

These are the most common types of depression you, your partner or your family may experience:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs in autumn or winter with fewer daylight hours, and usually improves as days lengthen
  • Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings from sadness to happiness, as well as manic episodes involving risky behaviour, like gambling
  • Postnatal depression affects parents after childbirth, causing sadness, low energy and difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Grief and depression share similarities, but do differ. Grief is a natural response to loss, whilst depression is a condition. Grief may trigger depression, but feelings of grief come and go, whilst depression feels constant

Help is out there, the important thing is to get valuable support that matches your unique circumstances. Help may include:

  • Exercise programmes to help release endorphins and keep you active
  • Self-help programmes for you to follow
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) to help you identify and challenge assumptions
  • Interpersonal therapy which focuses on helping you manage your relationships with your friends, family and colleagues
  • Other psychological treatments like counselling
  • Antidepressants which are normally only offered following psychological treatment

Words cannot express my gratitude for all the support I received. Thank you to the Bank Workers Charity for being so professional and stepping in and helping me at my darkest time. I felt so supported and listened to from start to finish

– from our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to help better manage your mental wellbeing.

Keep a diary to note down the times when you felt most stressed or anxious. After a little time, you’ll have a clearer idea of what’s causing your challenges, without having to worry about it in the moment. You’ll then be in a better place to start making small, positive changes.

Make time to book an appointment with your GP. They can help if stress or anxiety is starting to impact your daily life. It may feel daunting, but speaking openly with them can help speed up accurate diagnoses and treatments.

From counselling, to therapy, support groups and in some cases medication, your doctor will be well-equipped to offer the support you need for the types of stress and anxiety you’re facing.

Share your experiences with those closest to you, or who’ve been through something similar. You may find you get more day-to-day support from friends and family, or colleagues and HR if you’re struggling at work.

Online communities like Togetherall are always ready to listen, and Mind has helpful information on finding support in your area. You can also find digital support for your wellbeing through the PAM Assist Wellbeing App.

Sleep is vital in helping our mind and body rejuvenate. Stress, anxiety, depression and low resilience all have an impact on how much quality sleep you get. Take these steps to ensure you’re getting the best night’s sleep possible:

  • Plan ahead and make to-do lists before you go to bed
  • Stick to a consistent wake-up time and avoid snoozing or napping
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed, and avoid large evening meals
  • Only go to bed when you’re genuinely sleepy
  • Minimise screen time before bed or adjust the screen settings for reduced brightness
  • Ensure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature
  • If you wake up at night, avoid clock-watching and try reading, a podcast or a herbal tea

Try to cut back on certain lifestyle choices to help reduce stress and anxiety, including:

  • Having less caffeine to keep you calm and help you rest
  • Planning and sticking to a healthy diet with help from the NHS
  • Quitting smoking with help from Smokefree
  • Drinking less alcohol with support from friends, family and the NHS

Making time to relax can seem impossible. By building small self-care steps into your daily routine, you can start to reduce stress and anxiety, improving your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some tips for relaxing:

  • Set aside specific time in your daily schedule for relaxation, and stick to it
  • Remove unnecessary distractions during rest periods, like laptops or phones
  • Try controlled breathing sessions to relieve tension. Place your hands gently on your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose, counting ‘one, two, three, four’ and exhale through the mouth at the same count of four. Repeat a few times until you notice a difference
  • Practise progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) by tensing and releasing different muscle groups in your body to relieve tension. Start from your feet and toes, move upwards, and focus on each group for a few seconds while inhaling, then release while exhaling
  • Take up a therapeutic hobby like drawing, painting or baking
  • Try meditating with calming music to help transport your mind to a place that brings feelings of joy
  • Find ways to have fun to reduce stress. From your favourite films, to a comedy podcast, or a walk with a friend. Small smiles can all contribute towards your resilience.

Build a network to help you feel more confident. It might not seem easy, but it’ll ensure you have a strong support system when things get tough. Set realistic steps and stick to them, like:

  • Speaking to someone new every day
  • Signing up for a new class
  • Going out with friends or family once a week
  • Volunteering for something close to your heart
  • Not using your phone to avoid speaking to people

There are lots of different types of counselling and therapy, all aimed at helping you understand and cope with your emotions. It can seem uncomfortable, but opening up is the best way to start seeing real progress. Here are the different options that may be helpful:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) teaches you practical techniques to change how you think about your life and develop realistic and positive feelings and behaviours
  • Person-centred therapy puts you in control of the conversation, with your therapist encouraging you to find your own solutions. This kind of therapy is helpful for relationship challenges, grief, depression, anxiety or stress
  • Psychodynamic therapy explores how unconscious thoughts affect your behaviour and emotions, helping you understand your own memories and experiences and their impact. It’s often used to help with depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders and relationship challenges

Accessing counselling or therapy varies depending on the service. Some are free, but may take time to begin, and some come with a cost. Explore the different ways you can get started:

  • Book an appointment with your GP. Make sure you come prepared by writing down how you’re feeling with helpful advice from Mind
  • Explore the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy for a private therapist, but be mindful of costs
  • Refer yourself by researching available therapies in your area
  • Ask your HR team or line manager at work about an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which can help with short-term counselling
  • Access free or low-cost therapy with help from a charity like Anxiety UK, or use Mind’s helpful Infoline service. If you or your family have a banking connection, we can also help through our partner PAM Wellbeing, with a 24/7 emotional support line, wellbeing app and structured counselling service. Give us a call to chat about a referral

Set yourself goals to focus on your own wellbeing. Trying these simple steps may help improve the way you feel about yourself:

If you, or someone you know, are in need of immediate support, there are organisations who can help 24/7:

  • Call the NHS on 111 for non-emergency care, or 999 if there’s a danger to life or serious injury
  • For a safe place to talk, call the Samaritans on 116 123, or text Shout on 85258 for anonymous mental health support
  • For more support in a crisis, explore Mind
Illustration depicting a mental health matters.

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