Anxiety. We all feel it from time to time, it’s our body’s natural response to uncertainty. The Mental Health Foundation’s research found that one third of adults are anxious about their financial situation and 73% of adults have felt anxious at some point in the two weeks prior to being asked. There is no right answer to manging anxiety either - what works for one person could be the wrong option for another.
It's important we recognise the strains that anxiety and other mental health issues can place on us both at home and in our working lives and in recognition, our team has organised, a range of activities across the week, including a leisurely lunch time stroll down the Thames, a visit to Tate Britain, online meditation sessions and visiting our friendly neighbourhood alpacas at Vauxhall City farm! Each gave us a chance to get away from our desks, try out various activities that can improve mental health and provide a safe space for conversations around positive mental health and well-being.
Exercise, of course, is a tried and tested way to combat anxiety and this week, some of the Principle One team got together for an after-work team trip to the local climbing wall. For Nick Radford, exercise is at the centre of how he manages his mental health. “For me, exercise is how I escape from stress. It’s just me, my music, and a vigorous workout. I started my career at Principle One just over six months ago and can still remember the anxiety of a new start in a new city after four years at university. Upon reflection, what felt like first day nerves was actually anxiety from dealing with so much change at once. Exercise helps me to feel prepared for the day ahead, gather my thoughts and approach challenges head on.”
Midway through the week, Tania du Plessis ran a Lunch and Learn focusing on understanding what makes us anxious and how our natural responses often make it worse. The session opened up a discussion around some practical tools and techniques for better supporting ourselves when it comes to our mental health. Tania was able to build on her personal experiences, having recently begun to work towards a Masters in Psychotherapy in her spare time. She also dipped into Why has nobody told me this before? - a collection of tips and coping strategies written by clinical psychologist, Dr Julie Smith and recommended some resources she’d found useful.
"There are so many different techniques that we can use to turn our anxiety and fear of change into a positive, and that’s been my own starting point for tackling my anxiety. As a parent, I’ve become used to dealing with new challenges that I never expected on an almost daily basis and to try to turn these into positive experiences. Mindfulness and meditation works for me and simply making sure that I treat myself with kindness and compassion can make a huge difference at the end of a difficult day.”
Charlotte Peach reflects “I’d never really thought of myself as an anxious person. It’s only over the past couple of years since mental health has been something at the forefront of people’s minds and spoken about more openly, that I’ve realised, that I’ve adopted certain rituals as part of my routine as a way to keep anxiety at bay. My daily cleaning routine – tidy house, tidy mind – is one of those. Working for an organisation where I know I can talk openly about anxiety, reach out to my fellow mental health first aiders and get help when I need it takes a lot of anxiety out of the workplace; I can relax and take on new challenges, knowing support is there when I need it.”
We recognise that it is still often hard for individuals to talk openly about anxiety and mental health. As consultants, we are familiar with Impostor Syndrome, and can often feel under pressure to show we are in control in difficult, fast changing situations when tackling customer problems. Our week of mental health activities has helped us be more open with each other, connect with colleagues in a different way and some will become regular fixtures on the Principle One social calendar; our commitment to mental health is not just for one week of the year.
Through our consulting work across policing, we are acutely aware of the strains on resources and the pressure this places on the individuals that are working to keep us safe. Couple this pressure with the often traumatic nature of the incidents that police are expected to deal with and the result can often be complex mental health issues that police forces nationally are ill equipped to deal with. Furthermore, despite regularly dealing with the fallout from poor mental health across the wider population, police officers are often reluctant to talk openly about their anxiety or lack awareness of the resources that are at their disposal.
This is why Principle One is proud to be a supporter of Police Care UK, a charity for serving and veteran police officers and staff, volunteers, and their families who have suffered any physical or psychological harm as a result of policing. Their work covers funding counselling sessions through to undertaking cutting edge research to help understand the true impact mental health issues are having on the policing workforce. We have been a partner of Police Care for the last five years, supporting them as fundraisers and in providing pro bono advice and consulting support. We recognise the importance of their work not just in providing care and support but in breaking down the stigma of mental health to enable those who need support to feel confident in asking for it.
For more information on managing anxiety, visit the Mental Health Foundation.