The latest ONS wellbeing report shows that anxiety ratings are increasing. But our attitudes to mental health are increasingly more accepting than they were a few years ago.
When I first started Breast Cancer Haven, back in 2000, we were pioneering in our insistence on prioritising mental and emotional issues. For us, they were equivalently important as physical health issues. I don't think many hospitals, clinics or institutions at that time fully realised the depth of the effect that mental distress could have on disease. I was always staggered when visitors would ask in despair why they had got breast cancer? They had eaten organic fresh food for years and regularly exercised. What else could it be?
Mind and body: a complex relationship
They attributed their depression and anxiety to the onset of their illness. They really didn't fully grasp that the trauma of their recent divorce, the death of a loved one, or loss of a much loved job could play havoc with both their physical body and their mental health. The mind is incredibly powerful and I often think that we should replace that well known phrase: 'You are what you eat' with the more apposite: 'You are what you think.'
New climate of openness
A recent You Gov poll found that 84% of Brits now regard mental health problems to be as serious as physical health problems. Many high profile celebrities have recently spoken out about their experiences and although this helps promote discussion and honesty, there’s still a long way to go. One start-up attempting to rebrand mental health is Sanctus. It is based in Shoreditch, London, and was set up by 20-something entrepreneur, James Routledge. He suffered depression and anxiety at a time when his work took over his life. After winding up his start-up, he discovered mindfulness, and found it transformative:
I love their analogy that mindfulness makes you feel as if you can choose to be inside a house looking out at the storm of your thoughts. The thoughts are still there, but you're not caught up in them in the same way.
In response to his mental health troubles, he was inspired to set up Sanctus, an organisation offering coaching to individuals and businesses on mental health. Their tagline is 'Making mental health cool'.
I love the life lessons he shares on the Sanctus site:
James's top tips:
- Change doesn’t happen when you try to change, it happens when you accept where you are.
- Being open will pull the right people into your life.
- If you follow your passion and your heart, random serendipitous things will start to happen.
- You are not the only person feeling how you’re feeling.
- Things of social media are not what they seem.
- When you can be yourself, the world becomes your home.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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