Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stress awareness is vital to improving health and wellbeing

Given the recent statistic that stress levels have doubled in the last four years (insurance company AXA), National Stress Awareness day on 2 November 2011, seems particularly pertinent. 

The aim of this day is to raise awareness of the stress in our lives so we can tackle it before it becomes a major problem and negatively impacts on our well-being.

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or demands placed on them and it can come from many sources. However, not all stress is bad. Some stress can motivate us, prepare us to take action and alert us to danger. The problem comes when we remain in this heightened state of awareness continually for a long period of time. This can then lead to ill health in both body and mind.

Stress is difficult to measure in real terms, but one of the best ways to measure it is to consider its impact on our working lives.

According to a survey carried out this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, stress has become the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees. 

In 2009/2010, The Health and Safety Executive found that 9.8 million working days were lost due to work-related stress and health charity Mind recently estimated that £26 billion was lost by British businesses each year in sickness absence and lost productivity. They believe that with greater awareness and mental health support, one third of these costs could be saved, equating to £8 billion a year.

Evidently stress has a major impact on our work which in turn, has enormous implications for other parts of our lives. So it would seem that knowledge of stress management has become essential and more relevant today than ever. 

For resources on stress or to find out how to get involved in Stress Awareness day visit

Monday, 24 October 2011

How to get a better night's sleep

31 October - just one week away - is National Sleep-In Day. This is the day when the clocks go back and we get an extra hour in bed. The aim of National Sleep-In Day is to increase awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep on our well-being.

Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep over a prolonged period of time has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and depression. A good night’s sleep has been found to make us more alert, bolster our memory and reduce stress.

A study has revealed the position yourself and your partner adopt while sleeping could affect the level of quality shuteye you get. Even more so in the winter months when we catch more coughs and colds which further worsens the statistic that already 50% of British men snore at night. Indeed, it would seem that 84% of couples attribute ‘bedroom rage’ with snoring.

So, what is the perfect sleeping position? According to sleep specialist, Dr Elizabeth Scott, it is best to sleep on your side with your head at a five-degree angle to the bed. If your spine is straight this should elevate your head around 15 centimetres from the mattress. She has also suggested trying not to sleep on your back as this can lead to increased snoring.

But how else can we improve our sleep? Read our five tips to an improved night's sleep below.

  1. Maintain a regular sleep and wake cycle even at weekends so that your circadian clock in the brain can help sleep onset at night. 
  2. Establish a calming ritual before bed such as reading a book, listening to some relaxing music or soaking in the tub. 
  3. Create an environment conducive to sleep which is dark, comfortable and not too warm. 
  4. Cut back on caffeine and nicotine (which are stimulants) and alcohol which can all disrupt sleep. Make sure you eat and exercise a few hours before bedtime as well. 
  5. Remove any distractions such as televisions and laptops from the bedroom. This space should be used for sleep or sex only and by doing this, it will strengthen the association between your bed and sleep.

Monday, 10 October 2011

World Mental Health Day - 5 tips to good mental health

Five points to better mental health below:

1. Balance is the key 
Doing too much of any one thing (e.g. work) can be unhealthy. It is important to have some leisure time because when a person does something they enjoy it balances their emotional and mental health. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help you keep fit. Taking time to relax (using formal techniques) and to pamper yourself (e.g. a massage or a warm bath) can also reduce stress.

2. A problem shared, is a problem halved 
We all lead busy lives, but it is important to take quality time out for family and friends. Being surrounded by those whom we can trust, gives us support when we need it and connecting with others improves our emotional intelligence, which is good in resolving conflicts.

3. Focus on the bigger picture 
We all lose perspective at times and let small annoyances in life drag us down, but we should try to push these aside so we can focus on what really matters. Take a moment and remove yourself from the stress, even just for a short time. However, if you feel overwhelmed by just how much needs to be done, do not focus on each task's deadline but take things one step at a time.

4. Be creative 
Taking a break from the old routine to challenge your creativity or be inspired, may not only teach you new skills and keep your brain active, but can also be a temporary diversion from your troubles and improve how you feel.

5. Be nice to yourself 
Writing down, and saying positive statements about yourself can lift your spirits and are proven to better your outlook on life and your behaviour. By doing this, it may help you limit negative thoughts, which can waste your time and drain your energy, and in turn, improve your mental health.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Next Monday is World Mental Health Day

As much as 12% of the world’s population is affected by mental illness and of the 12% one in every four people could benefit from some form of diagnosis and treatment.

Statistics like these highlight the very reason why World Mental Health Day was born in 1992 and continues to take place on 10 October each year. This event, which is supported by the United Nations through the World Health Organisation (WHO), aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the globe by promoting open discussion about mental illness. It also seeks to encourage investment in prevention and treatment, particularly since resources offered in many mental health services around the world are severely lacking.

Over 100 countries participate in World Mental Health Day holding their own local, regional and national programme of activities and events which include lectures on mental health issues and the presentation of awards to individuals or organisations who have made significant contributions in the mental health arena.

One organisation in the UK which is actively involved in World Mental Health Day is The Mental Health Foundation. This year they are marking the day with a Tea and Talk Fundraising Event. They are hoping you will join them in putting your own kettle on and inviting your friends and family round to make a donation, as they realise the benefit that a cuppa and a good natter can have on your own mental health and wellbeing.

For more information or to find out how to organise your own Tea and Talk Event, visit