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Top tips for taking care of your mental health

In the most recent instalment of IBTM’s Online Conference series, EventWell’s CEO and founder, Helen Moon shared advice on how to manage your mental health during difficult times.

The session covers six topics which included: What is mental health? What is stress? Positive and negative stress, the stages of stress, the 3 As and the three pillars of health.

What is mental health?

Moon began the interactive session with a short poll to find out how the audience perceived mental health. Moon asked: “What is in mental health?” and gave the following options:

  • Mental health is important to us all, as we all have it
  • Mental health only applies to people with mental health conditions
  • Mental health is surrounded by stigma and discrimination
  • We should treat mental health on par with our physical and emotional health
  • To have good mental health means you’re coping well with life’s challenges

At 70 per cent, the majority of the audience agreed that ‘mental health is important to us all as we all have it.’

Another 12 per cent said that mental health is surrounded by stigma and discrimination. “Discrimination against mental health is being tackled in a head-on way, but the difficulty is with stigma,” said Moon.

“I think that will take a while until people start to feel a lot more comfortable speaking about mental health and wellbeing, especially when it applies to themselves.”

Helen Moon

What is stress?

The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as: “The degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.”

Moon explained that this definition is almost opposite to the World Health Organisation’s definition of mental health which states: “Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Positive and negative stress

“In order for us to understand and appreciate stress, it’s important to understand and appreciate what stress is, how it can be positive and negative and the approaches we can use to manage our stress,” said Moon.

She explained that typically we interpret stress and a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be.

“If you’re wondering how stress can be positive, think: winning a race, taking an exam, becoming a parent or getting married.”

Moon added that the strain of the stress in those situations can produce positive emotions and we need levels of good stress in our lives to develop and grow.

“Managing your stress is not about the eradication of all stresses from your life. It’s about making lifestyle changes that enable you to better manage your stress and build you resilience and wellbeing,” added Moon.

The stages of stress

Understanding the different stages of stress will make it easier to identify negative stress in yourself. “The duration of the stress will determine how you move through each of the stages,” said Moon.

Stage one: Alarm – The initial symptom your body experiences when it’s under stress. This causes your heart rate to increase and a cocktail of hormones to either increase or decrease.

Stage two: Resistance – The body begins to repair itself after the initial response and your blood pressure and heart begin to normalise if the stress is dealt with. However, if it’s not dealt with, your body learns to adapt and live in a higher stress level and this can lead to the exhaustion stage.

Stage three: Exhaustion – This is the result of prolonged and chronic stress to the point where your body no longer has the strength to fight. Signs of exhaustion include fatigue, burnout, depression, anxiety, and decreased stress tolerance.

The three ‘A’s

“In dealing with stress there are many ways you can change your approach to the situation to make it less stressful,” said Moon.

“The three As is a simple way to approach stress and links to the very simple idea that you have a choice.”

Altering the situation – thinking positively, react to a situation differently, improve specific skills to manage the situation.

Avoiding the situation – identifying things that you needlessly stress about or cause you stress and then removing these from your life.

Accepting the situation – this will help you deal with the things in your life that need to be done, even if they’re unpleasant.

Moon added that each of these coping mechanisms are appropriate in different situations. She expands on this in the attached video.

Tree Pillars of health

“The three pillars of health are all about building the foundations of a positive, low-stress, healthy lifestyle and no stress-reduction programme will be successful in the long-term unless you have this solid foundation,” said Moon.

Moon explained that the building blocks in creating these solid foundations are diet and nutrition, exercise and movement, and sleep and rest.

“Taking a break and time off, along with those three pillars of health, really is the best investment you can make for your overall mental health and wellbeing and to make you a better and more productive, more creative and more resilient event professional.”

The full session is available to watch here.

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