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Why good mental health is so important

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We’ve teamed up with caba, the independent charity helping the ICAEW community thrive, to offer advice for looking after your mental health.

Your mental wellbeing is about your thoughts and feelings and how you cope with everyday life. Long periods of low mental wellbeing can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

What is good mental wellbeing?

Good mental wellbeing isn’t the absence of negative thoughts and feelings. It's about being able to understand and manage those feelings so that you’re better able to:

  • feel confident
  • build and maintain positive relationships
  • have a sense of purpose
  • live and work productively
  • cope with the normal stresses of day-to-day life
  • manage when things change

What can affect mental wellbeing?

We may not be in control of what affects our wellbeing, and it’s usually big live events that cause us the most stress and anxiety - such as bereavement, illness, or redundancy.

It’s how we react to these situations that determines the impact on our mental wellbeing. For example, do you ask for support or withdraw from everyday life? Do you go down a spiral, imagining the worst, or do you see it as a new opportunity?

Resilience plays an important role in your ability to cope with change and adversity. By strengthening your resilience you’ll be better equipped to maintain good mental wellbeing through whatever life throws at you.

What other factors affect our mental wellbeing?

It’s impossible to list out everything that may affect mental wellbeing, as we’re all different, and react differently to stressors, but here’s a list of things that may play a part, and how to deal with them.

Relationships

When relationships waver, it can be tough to keep control of your mental wellbeing. Strong connections with friends, family, and colleagues help to strengthen our confidence and self-esteem. And it’s important to lean on your friends and family for support when you need it.

Physical health

We can boost our energy levels, improve our confidence, and relieve stress through good nutrition and regular physical activity. Small changes make a big difference. If you have chronic health conditions, speak to your GP to see what they can offer to help.

Emotional health

Practising mindfulness can help you understand and manage strong emotions so that rather than feeling overwhelmed, you're able to approach difficult situations with a sense of calm and clarity.

Improving mental wellbeing

Remove the stigma

Work environments can often be stressful - long hours, tough deadlines, and full of pressure to deliver for colleagues and clients. If you feel you can’t cope, it can add to feelings of stress and worry. And we know there’s a stigma attached to admitting you’re struggling.

A culture of openness is essential to encourage early intervention. Senior role models must lead by example, rather than taking a hard-line approach. They need to show empathy and understanding when someone does ask for help.

If you're in a position to make changes happen, it’s important to do so. If you can let someone in that position know that things need to change, again, you could speak up and ask that mental wellbeing is discussed in your workplace.

Share the load

We must encourage team members to share the load. We all need to take care of ourselves, but that’s impossible when all of our energy is spent taking care of those around us.

Flag to your team if your workload is becoming too much, or requests from clients are too demanding. Don’t try to take on everything by yourself. Likewise, look for opportunities to help those around you.

If you’re struggling with the pressures of the job, others might be, too. If you notice a team member working longer hours or withdrawing, consider a quick message to ask how they’re coping.

Set boundaries

It’s important to find ways of separating our work from our everyday lives. This can be difficult when working from home, but it’s vital to avoiding burning out.

Be strict with your working hours. Assign a particular room of the house to use only for work, or, if you have to work from the kitchen table, make sure you put your laptop away at the end of the day. The environments in which we spend our time have an enormous impact on the way we feel.

Use any available support

While there’s still progress to be made in encouraging accountants to be more open about their wellbeing, firms are realising the importance of positive mental health.

It’s becoming commonplace to offer GP helplines, employee assistance programmes, flexible working hours, meditation classes, and mindfulness groups.

Need help with mental wellbeing?

If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, then speak to your GP or other healthcare professional. If there is something about your course or studies that is affecting your mental wellbeing, please get in touch with us. You can also contact caba for advice about managing stress and your wellbeing.

This blog is a joint collaboration between Kaplan and caba. Caba is the charity that supports ACA students, past and present ICAEW members and their close family dependents.