This Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to raise awareness of this important topic and share with you my own personal thoughts and experiences. This subject is particularly close to my heart as I’ve seen first-hand just how tough it can be to deal with mental health challenges day in, day out.

Some of my close family members suffer with mental health conditions, so I’m well aware of the pain and the struggles some people have to go through and live with. I’m also aware how hard it is for those who take care of their loved ones and go through the pain of mental illness alongside them. We need to look after these people who care for others and support them in times of stress too.

I’m so pleased that the subject of mental health is now much more widely spoken about and understood, as well as becoming high on the news agenda over the past few years. It’s definitely moving in the right direction!
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on stress in particular and questions whether we are coping. Stress itself isn’t a mental health issue but it can contribute to (and worsen) anxiety, depression, addiction and destructive behaviour.

Whilst a certain level of stress is OK, and can spur us on to achieve our goals, too much stress has a negative impact on our overall health. There are so many factors that can cause stress, such as big life events, like bereavement, workload or other health issues. Extended periods of stress can also lead to what’s known as ‘burn out’, which is when a person is left unable to cope.

I believe that, in order to help deal with stress and manage our stress levels, we all need to regularly get some ‘white space’ into our lives and practice ‘self-care’. White space is a way of completely switching off and winding down from the stresses of everyday life and self-care is about investing in your wellbeing and caring for yourself. I believe these two things are really important, otherwise we can run the risk of getting too stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out.

Four years ago, I took up yoga when I found myself needing a way to de-stress, relax and recharge both my body and mind. I’m a busy working mum and realised how important it was for me to take some time out for myself. I needed a way to unwind and find some balance. This is when my journey with yoga and mindfulness started and it’s become a way of life for me.

Not only is yoga fantastic for physical fitness, but the meditation and mindfulness element is incredibly valuable, helping you to connect with your emotions and ‘check in’ with yourself. Yoga has been known to help reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, as well as being a great way to calm the mind and soothe the nerves. Modern day life has bred an ‘always on’ mentality and because we’re constantly connected to our smartphones, social media and work emails, we never truly switch off. I love the way that yoga encourages you to switch off, be present in the moment and enjoy what’s in front of you.

I recognise what stress can do to people and, as I’ve grown up with mental health conditions in my family, I’ve incorporated yoga and meditation into my daily routine to take care of myself. It’s definitely had a positive effect on my mental health as I find myself less anxious and more resilient to stressful situations, both in and out of work.
I also really enjoy getting out in the fresh air and taking a walk in the park. You don’t have to do yoga to be mindful – you can simply focus on being in the present moment, fully enjoying whatever activity you’re doing. By being present, you’re less likely to be dwelling on anything that’s stressing you out.

We all need a way to break through stress and proactively manage our mental health. So, however you decide to do it and whatever you do, make time for the things you enjoy, practice self-care and get some ‘white space’ in your life.
So, you now know that yoga is my perfect way of dealing with stress and managing my mental health. What’s yours? I’d love to hear from you!