This is it folks, our last article of the year. Before we all bubble-up and (hopefully) turn the computer off for a few days, we’ll leave you with some nuggets of wisdom for taking care of your mental health in the New Year.
“Mental health is something that lots of people are talking about more this year which is good. But it is difficult to maintain good mental health when lots of things are out of our control.”
When you’re busy, stressed or overwhelmed, finding time to look after your body and mind is hard, so we’ve found some things to try that only take a few minutes. They’re all taken from professional sources and the anonymous quotes come from our recent survey.
Mental health is on our minds – now more than ever
We recently surveyed 184 accountants and bookkeepers to see how they’ve been feeling. 93.5% reported experiencing higher than normal levels of stress this year and 69.9% have felt unable to cope – either a little or a lot.
“There are always pressures at work and home, the pandemic has made me more aware of these pressures.”
When asked whether they think about their mental health regularly, 60.9% of respondents said that they do. However, 16.3% of those have only started thinking about it this year.
5 simple actions to boost your mental health
None of these tips or activities will miraculously make you feel great, it’s all about – what sports coaches call – ‘marginal gains’. Making small incremental improvements, which added together, make a significant improvement.
“We all have mental health whether it’s good or bad, like physical health. So view it as a muscle group – something you can exercise if you start to do the right things every day.”
Nick Elston, Mental Health coach – Accountex 2020 panel discussion: Dealing with anxiety and burn out
- Eat a rainbow
You might eat a healthy diet (or try) but how varied is it? Do you tend to buy the same fruit and veggies? There’s a lot of new research coming out proving the health benefits of ‘eating a rainbow’ – that’s a mixture of different coloured fruit and vegetables. It’s all about the phytonutrients… obviously. It’s also good for your heart.
Purple fruit and vegetables in particular are thought to promote good brain health, this includes blackberries, blueberries, raisins, plums, purple cabbage, aubergine and purple carrots.
- Activity: Create a rainbow in your trolley – Try to complete the rainbow in your shopping basket – choosing different food for each colour every time – and treat your body to different nutrients.
- Rethink exercise
Unless you’re a die hard runner, the winter weather probably won’t inspire you to start. But there are plenty of ways to get exercise inside, without equipment. Check out the gym-free workouts on the NHS Live Well site – there’s even one you can do sitting at your desk. Getting outside for a walk each day is of great benefit too.
“Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.” The Mental Health Foundation
- Activity: Walk with purpose – If you’re likely to spend your walk worrying about what you should be doing, give yourself a mission. Film a hyperlapse video of your walk on your phone, write down 10 things before you go that you might see and tick them off, take a notepad to do quick sketches in, download the free ‘PictureThis’ app and learn what different plants and trees are, or set yourself step-count goals.
“Taking time out when I can, walking, being out in nature, using my phone less.”
- Be grateful
This is not ‘things aren’t that bad, just think of what you have’ – which is never useful to hear. This is a chemical reaction that occurs in your brain when you practice gratitude, gradually rewiring your brain to appreciate the small things.
“When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.” – The Neuroscience of Gratitude
- Activity: Express gratitude every day – Every day, ask yourself ‘what am I thankful for?’. You could keep a gratitude journal or just ponder on it for a minute or two a day. You might want to bring gratitude into your business too, make it the opener to every meeting for example.
- Bring your attention to the here and now
Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean meditation! You can add miniature moments of mindfulness throughout your day – giving your brain mini-breaks. Not to Butlins, but away from your constant stream of thoughts. As the great philosopher – Tesco – said ‘Every Little Helps.’
Here are some simple, quick ways to be mindful:
- Activity: Focus on your five senses – Ground yourself in the moment by stopping what you’re doing and taking the time to notice things you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. Five senses exercise on PsychologyToday
“I think about what I’m doing ‘right now’ because none of us can do more than one thing at a time.”
It doesn’t have to be a ‘Dear Diary’ stream of consciousness unless you want it to be. You could simply rate each day out of 10 and note the reasons for the rating. Or you could focus purely on recording the positive things that happened that day..
- Activity: What you would record about each day? – Buy a 2021 diary and plan what you want to record and how, ready for Jan 1st.
“Journal keeping, weekly psychotherapy sessions, managing work/life balance”
Where to go for support
CABA supports past and present ICAEW members, ICAEW staff, ACA students and their close families from across the globe.
IAPT – Improving Access to Psychological Therapy
If you live in England, you can refer yourself to the NHS psychological therapies service: IAPT. You’ll get an assessment over the phone, then access to therapy sessions, helping you navigate common problems involving stress, anxiety and depression.
You can always call NHS 111 when you need help but are not in immediate danger, or book an appointment with your GP to discuss your mental health. If you’re worried about harming yourself or others, call 999.
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope.
You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 for free (within the UK and Ireland), 24 hours a day.