Mental Health Awareness Week is upon us and it’s wonderful to see so many people opening up about their struggles, encouraging others to look after their wellbeing and helping to make these discussions the norm.

This week is great for awareness, but mental health can affect anyone at any time of year and should be something we have on our radar all year round – for ourselves and for others.

We have been making a conscious effort at Liz Lean PR to adopt healthier working practices and have been encouraging each other to look after our wellbeing. Physical and mental health impact each other so we’ve been introducing simple things such as fruit bowls across the office and taking time to learn more about the science behind stress.

Earlier this year, our MD Liz Willingham spoke of protecting employees’ mental health in the winter, when seasonal affective disorder affects a staggering 24% the UK population*.

Liz explained: “Employers can take inexpensive small steps to help their teams navigate those days where they often to come to and from work in darkness during the winter months. They may be feeling lethargic, have lower concentration levels and may even experience weight gain as a result.  Increasing exposure to light is a key factor and simply moving the workspace around to accommodate natural light for employees is a good start.”

Now that the weather is drier and brighter, more of us are getting out and walking on our lunch breaks. Breathing in fresh air and feeling the sun on your skin really is a mood booster, we’ve seen from experience. Exposure to the natural environment does you the world of good and is so important for our wellbeing, happiness, energy levels, and creativity. For the past two months we have been trying to increase our step count, meaning if nothing else, we have got out walking! It’s a simple way to encourage everyone to get more active, no matter their fitness levels.

No matter the weather, and something so simple to adopt, is listening and encouraging open communication with each other. Whether that’s between senior and junior positions or simply from one human to another, feeling comfortable to discuss your challenges with someone you trust, is so important! Why not make a conscious effort to become that trusted person and find your trusted person?

Alice is our mental health champion here at Liz Lean PR and has introduced monthly Tea and Chat sessions, where we are encouraged to talk with each other; not about work or clients, but to find relief and respite in a good ol’ cuppa and a chinwag. We’ve also introduced ‘I’m grateful for Friday’ where we all share one thing we are grateful for that week. Thinking positively helps to keep the mood lifted and is a great way to enter the weekend. Alice is currently investigating mental health first aid training and seeing what other initiatives we can bring in to make mental health an ongoing priority.

Alice says that for her playtime with her kittens, singing in a soul choir, swimming, yoga and mindfulness colouring all really help ground her and help her set an intention for the day ahead.

Belinda, Senior Account Manager, explains how she de-stresses: “I find that writing a journal is a wonderful way to destress. By committing thoughts to paper (or to keyboard, whatever your preference), it really helps add order to your thoughts – and the simple act of writing down your concerns or worries can help reduce those sleepless nights.

In a similar manner, I found that taking up photography can really help with anxiety and stress. The act of taking a photograph is very mindful; it’s almost impossible to think about anything else when you’re in the process of framing a shot. It doesn’t matter what you photograph or what your skill level is – it’s a hobby which anyone with a camera phone can enjoy. Plus, if you aren’t good with words, you can start a ‘photo a day’ visual diary – an enjoyable activity and something to treasure in years to come, all rolled into one!”

Similarly to Belinda’s suggestion of photography, Claire reminded us not to just look but to really see: “It’s so easy to be absorbed in our thoughts that we don’t engage in the world around us or actually SEE what’s in front of our eyes (especially as we are so lucky to have the beautiful things that exist naturally right here in Dorset) and of course ‘breathe’ big deep breaths of wonderful sea air!!”

Carpe diem we say! Breathe in that air, notice the gentle sway of tree leaves in the breeze, sing loudly to your favourite song, ask someone how they are. Taking care of ourselves shouldn’t become a fad, it should become a habit and we are proud to be part of a community taking steps in the right direction.