03 May BLOG: Mental Health Awareness Week at Oakleaf 2023
The 15th-21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) for 2023, a time for increased conversations about mental health and what we can do to improve the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. This year’s theme is ‘Anxiety’.
Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It can manifest itself in many ways including panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias and generalised anxiety disorder. It can be triggered by a variety of factors such as stress, trauma or a medical condition. Research suggests that every week in England, 6 in 100 people are diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. While over 8 million people in the UK are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time and less than 50% of people with generalised anxiety disorder access treatment.
This year’s MHAW theme aims to shed light on the different types of anxiety disorders and the impact they have on individuals’ lives. The week-long campaign encourages people to talk openly about their experiences and promote self-care whilst educating and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.
So, we thought we would share some lovely quotes from our clients about their experiences with anxiety at Oakleaf as well as some advice on how to manage anxiety, with the aim of instilling the message that everyone deals with anxiety at some point in their lives; and that we are all in this together.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, there are several things you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your mental health. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is a technique that helps you focus on the present moment and stay grounded. It can be done through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualisation, meditation, yoga, or by simply paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and surroundings. Mindfulness is a great way to calm the mind and slow down racing thoughts.
“Positivity hour helps to lift me out of negative anxious thinking and ends the week well. It’s great to laugh with online friends and feel included in the group. The sessions involve sharing our wins of the week, looking at positive news stories, photos and videos, and also sharing what we feel grateful for.”
“Qi Gong at Oakleaf is good for mindfulness, anxiety and breathwork but also represents a kindness practice for me. I find it very helpful in improving my mental, physical, and emotional health.”
- Exercise regularly – Exercise is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Regular physical activity can help reduce stress, boost your mood and improve your overall wellbeing by releasing endorphins, which are natural chemicals that help you feel good. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week if you can.
“Going to the Active-zone gym regularly has really improved my focus and keeps my anxiety and depression at a maintainable level. Exercise has become a cornerstone of my mental health and I have learnt so much in this class.”
“Initially there was value in getting out of my home and walking to the weekly Yoga sessions. It was the first group attendance I achieved. Then there was the physical exercise which helps my well-being. Then I started to learn the breathing techniques which help with my calmness and anxiety.”
- Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep can worsen anxiety symptoms, so it’s important to prioritise good sleep habits. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Eat a healthy diet – What you eat can affect your mood and anxiety levels. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help reduce anxiety. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and processed foods can also help.
- Connect with others – Attending events or joining support groups or clubs that align with your interests can help you meet like-minded individuals and form connections. This can be a great way to socialise and reduce anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious or isolated, make sure to reach out to friends and family for support or simply make plans to spend time together.
“Oakleaf has a great support system which I am grateful for. I have always been an anxious person and struggled to talk to people, however after speaking to the team over the phone and attending online sessions, I feel my confidence growing and discovering the coping mechanisms to use for my general anxiety and depression.”
Volunteering is another great way to connect with other people and in turn, give back to the community. There are many ways in which you can use your time and skills to volunteer at Oakleaf:
- Wellbeing Activities
- Work-Related Training
- On reception or in our coffee shop
- CV writing and job searches
- Fundraising Events;
Oakleaf is looking for volunteers this MHAW to join us at The Friary Shopping Centre, Guildford to help us promote our Wall of Kindness, where we will be asking the general public to leave a message to encourage or inspire. If you would like to sign up, please email Jen: email@example.com or Jane: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you will be in the Guildford area during this week, please do stop by and say hello to our team – and of course, leave your message. You never know how your kind words could make a difference.
We also have two fantastic events coming up to mark MHAW:
- Self-Care Therapeutic Art Workshop Fundraiser – Join us on Friday 19th May for a relaxing morning of self-care at the New House Art Space in Guildford.
- The Shalford Walk – Join us on Sunday 21st May to raise money for Oakleaf by walking 1.6k, 5k or 10k routes across Shalford.
The list is endless! Click here to learn more about all the volunteering opportunities at Oakleaf.
- Seek professional help – If your anxiety is interfering with your everyday life, it is essential to seek help from a mental health professional (therapist, counsellor, GP, etc) who can provide you with tailored support, guidance and treatment needed to manage your anxiety effectively.
“Being supported by Oakleaf and Bridge the Gap has given me an insight into how badly I struggle with my anxiety and mental health. I realised that my recovery would rely on me going back to the basics. I feel like I have finally been given a chance to sort my life out and have a roof over my head. The path ahead looks more cheerful than I would have thought a year ago!”
Remember that managing anxiety is a journey, and it may take time to find the right combination of strategies that work for you. Be patient, stay committed to your mental health, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
At Oakleaf, we offer clients a wide range of wellbeing activities and support groups designed to help reduce anxiety, ranging from: our Mental Health support group, Positivity Hour, Mindfulness, Art, Social Anxiety workshops and many more. Click here to view our client calendar in the Month of May.
Our ‘Pathways to Work’ Employment Project will also be offering various workshops and events for clients in May including:
- Job Club Brunch (17th May): One of our former clients Ash will be coming in to talk about her experience around preparing to return to work, requesting reasonable adjustments in the workplace and her journey back to full-time employment.
- Learn and Lunch courses (24th May): Stress Awareness and Management, Dealing with Anxiety, and Managing Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work.
There are plenty of things you can do throughout the week – and for weeks to come – to combat anxiety and help reduce the stigma surrounding it. To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 and the ways in which you can get involved, click here.
We hope that this small insight into our clients’ thoughts and feelings about anxiety will remind you that #YouAreNotAlone and #HelpIsAlwaysAvailable.
If you or someone you know is struggling or simply just needs someone to talk to, please make use of the resources below:
- Mind: How to Find a Therapist
- Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours)
- Citizens Advice: 03444 111 444 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
- Guildford Safe Haven: 6-11pm, 365 days a year
- Young Adult Safe Haven: 5-9pm, 365 days a year