Stress and supporting someone's mental health
We all have mental health in the same way as we have physical health, and our mental health can fluctuate along a continuum depending on the challenges and opportunities we experience in life. At times someone may feel they are thriving and at other times they may feel they are just surviving, struggling or worse, in crisis.
How might you spot signals that someone may be struggling with too much stress or a mental health problem? What simple yet powerful actions could you take?
In this video session, Dean Capon explores mental health, stress and resilience, and teaches you the signals to look out for if someone is struggling and the actions you can take to support them.
Scroll down to read the content broken down by section.
What is mental health? (05:43)
The World Health Organisation define mental health as - Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
We all have ‘mental health’, in the same way as we all have physical health and our mental health can fluctuate along a continuum depended on the challenges and opportunities we are experiencing in life. At times in our lives we may feel we are Thriving and even Excelling and at other times we may feel we are Surviving or sometimes Struggling. What we want to try and avoid is feeling we have reached Crisis where we're very anxious, very depressed, maybe missing work, feeling completely exhausted not sleeping and even maybe losing weight.
About one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.
Proactively checking in with yourself on a regular basis and asking yourself: “How am I doing today?” can be very valuable in understanding where you are on that continuum and what you might do to move you into good mental health.
Stress and resilience (10:17)
We need a certain amount of stress to perform well, otherwise we can become bored or stuck on our comfort-zone. We need the right amount of stress and pressure in order to stretch ourselves and to perform optimally. However if stress is persistent and intense we can start to feel strain and if prolonged and intense, even feel like we are burning out. Symptoms of high stress might include: a racing heart; excessive sweating; breathing rapidly; feeling tense; irritable or guilty; finding it harder to make decisions or finding it harder to sleep.
Stress is not a mental health condition but if it's intense and persistent it may actually lead to experiencing a mental health problems.
Our resilience can be an antidote to our stress. Resilience is: our ability to manage or tolerate ‘ordinary’ distress, including disappointment and failure; the way we normalise difficult feelings and being able to see beyond them; our ability to access and have confidence in your own resources to help you cope.
Our levels of our resilience can change depending on the actions we take. Having regular breaks, connecting with other people, eating well, sleeping well, exercising (and other healthy coping strategies) can increase our levels of resilience and increase our tolerance to our stress.
Signals that someone might be struggling? (19:44)
It can be hard to notice signals that someone you know may be struggling with their mental health (and particularly challenging when we are now interacting in the virtual world so much). People are a bit like icebergs; we just see what’s above the waterline but there is so much more going on under the surface we don't see.
Signs to look out for that someone may be struggling (that may develop slowly over time or quite quickly): not getting things done – missing deadlines or forgetting tasks; irritability, aggression, tearfulness; generalised anxiety or worry; indecision; loss of confidence; taking on too much work; volunteering for every new project; tiredness; headaches; lack of care over appearance; being run down; changes in language they use (negative/self critical); changes in their tone of voice.
Actions you might take if someone is struggling? (21:52)
Some simple and powerful actions you might take, if you feel confident enough and you feel it is appropriate to do so are:
ASK the person if they are OK? We often ask this in everyday exchanges so you may have to ask them more than once: “Are you really OK?” This may encourage the person to open up to you.
LISTEN – one of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person is to just listen; actively listen. We can be tempted to jump into solutions-mode and offer advice and share what we might do. Sometimes all someone needs is the space to be and share.
SUGGEST – if you do think it’s appropriate to suggest actions the individual may take, in order to maintain or improve their mental health, then one of the best frameworks to use is NHS the 5 ways to wellbeing:
- Connect with others – to build a sense of belonging and emotional support
- Give to others – to create positive feelings and sense of reward
- Be active – to create chemical changes in the brain which can boost self-esteem
- Keep learning – helping build a sense of purpose and self-confidence
- Take notice – being mindful of thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the present moment
SIGNPOST – if you don't feel confident suggesting actions to someone who may be struggling, then signposting them to relevant resources and or organisations who support mental health may be life changing. Please see our Get help now page view information on how to find direct support.
SELF-CARE – one of the most important things you can do to support the mental wellbeing of others is to invest time and energy in looking after your own mental health!
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