what i learnt at the suffolk mind wellbeing workshop

This month is always tough, as we tackle the financial impact of Christmas, do our best to stick to New Year resolutions and deal with gloomy winter weather. With that in mind, it feels timely to blog about an inspiring workshop I attended at Suffolk Mind recently on improving our wellbeing.

Good mental and emotional health is a topic close to our hearts at polkadotfrog – so much so that we’ve formed a new partnership with Suffolk Mind to support their cause. With one in four people experiencing mental health problems each year, we believe companies can do a lot to boost their employees’ wellbeing.

The course, called Suffolk’s Needs Met, aims to help people in the county understand what it means to be emotionally healthy, why it’s so important and how emotional health supports our physical health. It was fascinating.

I learnt that being mentally healthy means having your emotional needs met – the workshop introduced those needs and how we need to fulfil them to stay well. Also, I learnt that people need to work together to create emotionally healthy places to enjoy living and working in.

Below, I share the highlights from the course; the aspects that made the biggest impact on me and which I hope will help others personally and professionally:

  1. We’re all on the mental health spectrum

The workshop invited us to look at mental health as a spectrum of emotional needs, rather than a problem that needs to be solved. Looking at mental health from this perspective was very refreshing and felt more compassionate, as I learnt that every person is on a different point on the spectrum. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

  1. Fulfilling emotional needs

To help illustrate how unfulfilled emotional needs can put a strain on our mental health, we were given a pack of 12 cards produced by Suffolk Mind, which feature graphics representing the emotional needs that contribute to our wellbeing.

Our emotional connections, our sense of being part of a community, getting good quality sleep and consuming the right food are among the building blocks of wellbeing. If they’re neglected, our internal resources such as our imagination, and our ability to think rationally and manage our emotions are affected. I imagined how I’d be affected if I lost my home, became isolated or rarely slept well. The things we take for granted play a huge part in our all-round health.

  1. Improve wellbeing to improve retention

If a company has a high staff churn it may be due to an unhappy workforce. At the workshop we talked about a wellbeing ‘audit’, which helps to establish the issues among the staff, and provides the opportunity to address the problems, resulting in better morale.

  1. How to calm an anxious mind

The course leader explained what happens in our brain when we feel anxious: the brain’s primal ‘fight or flight’ mechanism kicks into action, releasing cortisol – also known as the stress hormone – which gives the body the required energy to escape a threat.

However, as we’re sitting at our desks, and not using the cortisol to run away from grizzly bears, our bodies have little use for the chemical. If we feel stressed too often cortisol builds up in the body, potentially leading to mental health problems.

There are ways of tackling it, however. Doing a few star-jumps will help use up the energy, or if, like me, you prefer the subtle approach, taking a few deep breaths can bring down the heart rate, and calm the mind.

 I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn about how we can help our own mental health and that of our friends, family and colleagues. If you’d like to take this course too, or learn more about wellbeing at work, why not become a Friend of Suffolk Mind, like us?

Or drop me a line if you’d like to know more about my experience of the workshop: florence.irvine@polkadotfrog.co.uk.