The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Anxiety’ (you may recall last year it was Loneliness). focusing on when this emotion becomes out of our control and raising awareness on one of the most common mental health issues.
At Greengage we are aware that anxiety can stem from anywhere – work life, home life and everyday stressors such as finances or inability to meet our basic needs. Through our work we encourage the creation of spaces that aim to limit the impact of external stressors on people’s mental wellbeing, particularly anxiety. We achieve this though the creation of nature rich spaces, by pursuing social sustainability and by bringing communities together.
How is anxiety related to Greengage’s mission?
“Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity and can facilitate concentration’’ – this is at the heart of our work as we create places where biodiversity thrives, and people have access to nature. Our natural capital and green infrastructure teams are at the forefront of design thinking, creating opportunities for nature rich corridors, green connecting routes and biophilia in our built environment. By creating access to nature, we can begin to reduce the high levels of anxiety that society faces. Spaces that reduce anxiety give people time to truly immerse themselves, offering seating and spaces to relax.
Greengage will continue to explore how the projects we work on impact on the anxiety levels of the people who interact with them. We continue to research, learn and innovate, exploring how best to create opportunities for meaningful connection. This can reduce fear of isolation and give people the chance to talk about worries or struggles.
Things we can do to alleviate the feeling of Anxiety
Spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health. It can help us feel calmer and less stressed. This can be as simple as tending some flowers in a window box or going for a walk. Ideally spending an hour or more to really connect and immerse yourself with nature to get the best benefit.
Exercise serves as a powerful tool for dealing with anxiety. It diverts your attention and allows you to escape from the worries of your daily life. Beyond being a distraction, exercise provides other scientifically backed benefits that can ease your nerves.
When anxiety becomes more severe, it can become more difficult to fall asleep due to constant fear and worry. But maintaining healthy sleep habits is an effective way of fending off anxiety because it helps regulate the immune system and therefore reduces stress.
When you feel anxiety coming on, taking a second to breathe can be a simple but powerful way to stay calm and collected. As anxiety can lead to increased heart rate and hyperventilation, turning to deep and intentional breathing is an effective way to reset your nervous system and calm yourself when feelings of panic arise.
One of the best coping skills for anxiety is recognizing your accomplishments. Rewards release dopamine in the brain and make us feel happier. Additionally, they validate the importance of a situation and your feelings around it—and give you a light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to.
Keeping pent-up feelings of anxiety to yourself can often lead to an outburst or your anxiety worsening. If you’re not ready to try therapy, finding support in a loved one or close friend is an excellent way to sort through your feelings and get validation for your stress.
The message behind this year’s theme is opening up and having more honest conversations about anxiety, recognising that “anxiety disorders will affect 30% of adults at some point in their lives.’’
Greengage is spending this week refocusing on what it means to care for our mental health and wellbeing. The team already has several weekly activities in place to help; time in nature with team lunches in our office courtyard, moving and being active through weekly running clubs, and talking about mental health with our trained Mental Health First Aid Responder. This is at the core of ensuring the team priorities their wellbeing every week of the year.
Our Mental Health First Aid Responder, Laura Thomas, has completed the St John Ambulance mental health first aid course and is an ambassador for mental wellbeing at Greengage. By encouraging people to talk openly about mental health, we hope it will promote a positive attitude towards it.