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Emotional Health and Wellbeing / Substance Abuse:

SNR Consultancy and Training provides high quality training and guidance on a wide range of school and workplace issues including:

 

What is Emotional Health?

Emotional Health and Wellbeing - article by Simon Richardson. For consulting and training support on emotional health and wellbeing contact Simon Richardson, SNR Consultancy and Training.

Emotional health is about how balanced and confident we feel emotionally, and how we manage those feelings: Happiness, sadness, guilt etc. Being emotionally healthy or possessing emotional wellbeing is not an automatic state. People have either good or poor emotional health depending on the circumstances they grow up in, the knowledge and skills and experience collected throughout life, and how these are used. As with most things around mental and physical wellbeing, emotional health can be viewed a continuum. We're all somewhere on this emotional health continuum, and people will go up and down this scale - that's part of life and an important part of being emotionally healthy.

So, mental or emotional health or wellbeing refers to an individual's overall psychological wellbeing. It includes the way a person feels about themselves, their relationships, and their ability to manage their feelings and deal with difficulties. It's really important to remember it's not the events themselves that bother us but how we respond to those events. It's also important to recognise that mental health isn't just the absence of mental illness, being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Being emotionally healthy is linked to the presence of positive characteristics:

  • A feeling of contentment.
  • The ability to laugh and have fun to enjoy life and participate in it.
  • The ability to bounce back from adversity managing the stressful events that often face us.
  • Having meaning and purpose, in both work and leisure activities and relationships.
  • Being flexible and able to learn new skills and accept and adapt to change.
  • Possessing balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Having self-confidence and high self-esteem.

 

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow people to participate in life and engage in productive, meaningful activities and positive relationships. If an individual possesses these characteristics they are more likely to be able to manage the stressors within their lives. Another term often used when discussing emotional health and wellbeing is Resilience. Being emotionally and mentally healthy doesn't mean never going through bad times or experiencing emotional problems. 

Disappointment, loss, and change are part of human existence, they are normal and they can cause emotional distress - sadness, anxiety, and stress. However, individuals with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. These individuals are described as resilient; indeed the root of the word resilient does indeed mean to spring or bounce back! People who are resilient are emotionally and mentally healthy they possess and utilise tools and skills they have developed that allow them to cope with challenging situations whilst maintaining a positive outlook. It is important to recognise that resilient individuals still feel emotions but they are able to manage them and not feel overwhelmed by them.

A key factor in resilience is Emotional Intelligence. This is the ability to recognize your emotions and express them appropriately. Whilst some people can appear to manage these challenging situations themselves it is important to recognise the value of supportive relationships. These relationships can provide support, guidance and solace in difficult times

The American Psychological Association highlight that building resilience skills happens in several ways, including:

  • Letting yourself experience strong emotions, and also realizing when you may need to avoid experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning
  • Stepping forward and taking action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and also stepping back to rest and reenergize yourself
  • Spending time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and also nurturing yourself
  • Relying on others, and also relying on yourself

 

There is a growing body of evidence to confirm a link between Physical health and mental and emotional wellbeing The old adage of "healthy body, healthy mind" would seem to be true. When you improve your physical health, you'll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well- being. This doesn't mean you have to be super fit but taking greater care of your diet and doing moderate amounts of exercise can have many benefits.

Some key things to think about are:

  • Get enough rest.
  • Learn about good nutrition and practice it.
  • Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood.
  • Get a dose of sunlight every day.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs.

 

Improving mental and emotional wellbeing

An easy analogy to make is between mental and emotional health and a motorcar; it requires regular attention and maintenance for it to function well, even in bad weather and testing conditions. It is important to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Don't let stress and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself, you'll be better prepared to deal with challenges if and when they arise.

 

Tips and strategies for taking care of yourself:

Everyone is different; not all things will be equally beneficial to all people. Some people feel better relaxing and slowing down while others need more activity and more excitement or stimulation to feel better. The important thing is to find activities that you enjoy and that give you a boost. Jenny Mosely when exploring staff wellbeing suggest visiting five wells. Ok that might sound a bit hippy and a little stuck in the 60s but it works, it really is about finding balance. A little exercise that you could do right now is look at how and when you visit these wells:

 

  • Creative Well - producing something; painting or drawing, cooking singing etc
  • Spiritual Well - It may be Church, Temple or Mosque it may be just taking time to reflect on the beauty and wonder of nature
  • Cognitive Well - thinking about new ideas or concepts
  • Emotional Well - Talking about or reflecting on feelings
  • Physical Well - doing some form of exercise, a walk, a run, a game on the wii fit!

 

Finding time within each day to visit these well goes a long way to keep us emotionally healthy and supports our general wellbeing.

 

I am a huge fan of laughter. Laughter energises, releasing endorphins the body's natural feel good hormone. There is also a growing body of evidence linking laughter with both physiological and emotional health and wellbeing. Laughter need not rely on humour. I know this also seems strange but humour has a cognitive element to it, laughter on the other hand is a whole body manifestation of joy and happiness. Interestingly there is evidence to indicate that the body cannot differentiate between real and fake Laughter.

Laughter is good for your physical and emotional health: 

  • L aughter releases endorphins, giving us the feel good factor 
  • A cts as aerobic exercise and is like internal jogging 
  • U nleashes inhibitions, breaks down barriers 
  • G enerates better communication and team building 
  • H elps boosts immune system 
  • T ones muscles, improves respiration and circulation 
  • E ncourages positive thinking and creativity 
  • R elaxes the whole body and reduces stress and tension

 

The importance of Emotional Intelligence and emotional and mental wellbeing has been recognised by Governments across the world. Business leader recognise the need to have a mentally healthy, resilient workforce.

One in five workers reports their job to be very or extremely stressful and one in six workers are likely to experience anxiety, depression or stress-related problems at any one time. Mental illness was estimated to be the cause of more sick days than any other health problem in 2007- 2008 and it was estimated that 442,000 people in Britain believed they experienced work- related stress at a level that was making them ill. With self-reported work related stress, depression or anxiety accounting for an estimated 70 million lost working days in Britain; the financial cost is huge and the personal price sufferers pay is even higher.

As we've seen emotional health and wellbeing is something that is learned, and fortunately it is something that can be developed and continue to be developed in adulthood. People need not stay in a state of emotional or mental anguish engaging with professional services can help as can joining groups that promote emotional wellbeing, Laughter Yoga clubs etc. It's also important to continue to develop those skills and be open to new ideas that can help and support wellbeing. Ofsted (1995) recognised the benefits of teaching and supporting the development of emotionally healthy children and young people and the part that schools can play in that development. They recommended that, Local authorities and other agencies should:

  • ensure that services for pupils with mental health difficulties are co-ordinated effectively within their area and that access to services is clear to schools, parents, children, young people and other service users
  • commission, where appropriate, the services of voluntary organisations.

 

Schools and other settings should:

  • use the DfES national guidance on mental health difficulties to develop clear procedures, that are known and used by all staff, for identifying and supporting pupils
  • ensure that issues concerning mental health are tackled successfully, either through the National Healthy School Standard (NHSS) programme or the PSHE curriculum
  • establish arrangements for preventing bullying and promoting positive relationships and monitor their effectiveness
  • work together to ensure that the DfES guidance is disseminated to all staff.

 

(Healthy Minds, Ofsted 2005)

It is clear that Ofsted recognised the role that effective teaching of Personal Social health and Economic education (PSHEe) can have in supporting the development of emotionally health children as well as promoting general wellbeing.

In more recent publications the Department of Health White paper "Healthy Lives Healthy People" as part of the Government's strategy promoting wellbeing through life is a key aim. The Government states it is radically shifting power to local communities, enabling them to improve health throughout people's lives, reduce inequalities and focus on the needs of the local population. This White Paper highlights local innovation and outlines the cross-government framework that will enable local communities to reduce inequalities and improve health at key stages in people's lives, including:

  • empowering local government and communities, which will have new resources, rights and powers to shape their environments and tackle local problems;
  • taking a coherent approach to different stages of life and key transitions instead of tackling individual risk factors in isolation. Mental health will be a key element, and we will shortly publish a new mental health strategy;
  • giving every child in every community the best start in life. We will do this through our continued commitment to reduce child poverty, by investing to increase health visitor numbers, doubling by 2015 the number of families reached through the Family Nurse Partnership programme, and refocusing Sure Start Children's Centres for those who need them most. An Olympic and Paralympic-style sports competition will be offered to all schools from 2012;
  • making it pay to work through our comprehensive welfare reforms, creating new jobs through local growth and working with employers to unleash their potential as champions of public health;
  • designing communities for active ageing and sustainability. We will make active ageing the norm rather than the exception, for example by building more Lifetime Homes, protecting green spaces and launching physical activity initiatives, including a 135 million Lottery investment in a Mass Participation and Community Sport legacy programme. We will protect and promote community ownership of green spaces and improve access to land so that people can grow their own food;
  • working collaboratively with business and the voluntary sector through the Public Health Responsibility Deal with five networks on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change. We plan to launch the Deal in early 2011 and expect to be able to announce agreements on further reformulation of food to reduce salt; better information for consumers about food; and promotion of more socially responsible retailing and consumption of alcohol. It will also develop the Change4Life campaign, for example through the 'Great Swapathon', 250 million of partner-funded vouchers to make healthy lifestyle choices easier."

 

Healthy Lives, Healthy People (DoH 2010)

Whilst some of the previous government's strategy and initiative around emotional health and wellbeing have been reduced in profile, for example the National Healthy Schools programme had a clear role in "health Lives, Brighter futures" (DfES 2009) the coalition believes that this now needs to be school led rather than Local Authority led. Despite these changes it would appear the coalition clear commitment to the health and emotional wellbeing agenda, with local communities and schools being able to commission services that will enable them to provide effective support, learning and teaching around wellbeing and emotional health.

 

For more articles on emotional health and wellbeing click here to see the SNR Consultancy and Training blog.

 

Further details can be found in the RESOURCES section of this web site. Please CONTACT US  if you wish to book a course, need any further assistance or details associated with a course.