A Thought Piece by Heather Rowe 4 August 2017

Spending time in Italy on my travels (bear with me), I was fortunate enough to visit a museum in Salo which was exhibiting work by artists who used art as a coping strategy during periods of stress and poor mental health.

I appreciate that we all have our own coping mechanisms (art-based or otherwise), and that some of us may be quicker than others at recognising changes in our mental health, but I’d like to take this opportunity to stress one simple message: speak up to reach out. 

Using coping strategies as a way to maintain good mental health and to build resilience, and drawing on positives even during difficult situations, can provide comfort and confidence for the future – that you’ve been able to get through adversity once, and that you can and will work through it again.   

What works for you during periods of stress?

You might try recording your thoughts in a journal or blog – anything that allows you to express yourself. These notes can provide something to reflect on and help you to understand what triggered those initial negative thoughts.  

However, to help you ‘in the moment’, try to challenge your negative thoughts by questioning yourself: why am I thinking this way? What do I need to do to overcome this? My advice – focus on the things you can control and address those. 

Personally I rely on music. Spotify is great for this as they have playlists that you can filter by mood – these can either motivate you or help you to relax. I find that by listening to a collection of songs I enjoy I am more likely to think positively, giving me energy and motivation.  

Much has been written about mindfulness and it is sometimes unfairly described as a fad, but in my experience those same people have given up after just one week as the results haven’t been instantaneous! But that’s the problem – we sometimes expect immediate gains, but to really develop effective coping strategies we need to take time to discover what works for us. 

Finally don’t underestimate the importance of exercise as during physical activity your body will release endorphins – your body’s feel good hormones that provide us with welcome relief from stress.  

“Personally I rely on music. Spotify is great for this as they have playlists that you can filter by mood – these can either motivate you or help you to relax.”

Speak up

I do though want to encourage everyone to speak up and reach out to others. You may prefer to speak to a family member or friend about how you are feeling, someone who can provide perspective and help to normalise those feelings. It is important to speak to someone you trust and who can understand the struggles that you have had.  

Accessing support

When you’ve a spare moment check out Hannah Daisy on Instagram who has created illustrations to celebrate small achievements during periods of poor mental health – try searching #BoringSelfCare for inspiration. 

Of course for persistent stress it is important to make contact with a professional; support groups and a list of services can be found on the Rethink website by clicking here. Don’t forget that you can also log onto the online EAP portal through Insight Intranet where you will find a plethora of useful resources.

Heather Rowe is E-ACT’s HR Administrator and our resident well-being expert. Her blog pieces will be published here fortnightly, so keep your eyes peeled. You can contact her by clicking here.