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On your mind
The busy, modern world we live in can be a major stress factor in developing mental health problems. These problems can cover a broad spectrum of issues, and can include severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, that affect only a small percentage of the population, and more common problems, such as anxiety, that affect maybe one in four people. Clearly, different disorders require different treatments, and there’s been much discussion recently about the technique of mindfulness and how helpful it can be to people with problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.
The topic received publicity during Mental Health Awareness Week held in May, so what is it all about and how does it work? Its roots lie in meditation techniques, and it is really about becoming aware of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions, and try to work with those, rather than those things that are outside your own control.
This isn’t just a new fad in alternative health treatments; you’ll find reference to it on the NHS website pages on stress, anxiety and depression treatments, and in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for depression. There are a number of NHS Trusts who are offering training in mindfulness at no charge.
Trying the techniques
So, to try the technique of mindfulness you need to set time aside from your daily busy life, and take note of all the sensations, thoughts and feelings of everything around you. It’s not really about trying to change your way of thinking – it is more about acute observation of the way you experience things. Exercise, yoga, breathing and meditating are all ways in which you can help practice mindfulness. There’s lots of evidence that mindfulness makes people mentally stronger, and helps them manage their emotions, where previously they were overwhelmed by them. For example, the Oxford Centre for Mindfulness has produced figures to show that Mindfulness-Based Therapy prevents depression amongst people who have experienced recurrent bouts of the condition.
As health and social care workers it is important we keep abreast of new ways of thinking in mental health – it can help our clients, and can help us as workers manage our anxieties and stresses.
There’s lots more information out there on how to practice mindfulness, which can really be done at little or no cost. It is important to get the information to do this properly, so have a look at the Mental Health Foundation’s Mindfulness website to get to know more about it.