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Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and this year the theme is anxiety.

“We all feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a natural response to the uncertain world around us. But it’s important that we recognise and respond when we feel anxious, so that our anxiety doesn’t become overwhelming.”

We’ve chosen anxiety as the Mental Health Awareness Week theme this year to kickstart a nationwide conversation, encouraging people to share their own experiences and any helpful ideas on how they manage anxiety.”

– Alexa Knight, Director, Mental Health Foundation

There’s more information on what the week entails and how to get involved on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

Human beings have been anxious since the beginning of time. The old Stoic philosophers were particularly mindful of this. And way back around 63-65 AD, the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote in a letter to a pal, this about anxiety:

He’s not saying anxiety is made up or anything to be sniffed at. More that the way your brain prefers to work is by tricking you into imagining things as worse than they actually are.

Playing the ‘What If?’ game

One thing that happens when we feel anxious (for any reason) is we start playing the “What If?” game. “What if I lose my job?” “What if I can’t provide for my family?” “What if the rent goes up?” and so on and so forth. The problem with this game is that most of these anxious questions don’t complete their cycle.

In coaching, we often say: “If you start playing the ‘What If’ game, you have to finish it.” It actually helps to run those scenarios to their grisliest conclusion. All the way to rock bottom. Without doing so, we’re simply opening up mental doors to a million negative futures.

Imagining the worst case scenario might seem counterintuitive, but it gives us awareness and clarity about the many different possibilities in front of us. There are no more dark corners or imaginary monsters. We can see how extreme (and sometimes irrational) our fears can be.

This is a useful game to play with any looming or undefined anxieties about the future. It would be the same if an important relationship was at risk or you were coming to terms with a serious illness: the situation itself tends to be so overwhelming, it distracts you from what you can actually do.

Thinking in circles

Anxiety can give you a pretty hefty sense of doom, but not necessarily a clear picture of it. And that vagueness (more so than the actual threat) is what feeds anxiety and increases stress.

Here’s something Stephen Covey wrote about in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It’s a model for collecting your thoughts and planning your actions by organising them in three different ways:

  1. Things we can control
  2. Things we may only be able to influence
  3. Things we have to accept are out of our control

The economy. Businesses restructuring. Redundancies. The boiler breaking. The washing machine flooding the kitchen. There are certain things in life we have little to no control over and, more often than not, are something we have to simply accept.

The things we’re in control of are often much smaller and simpler. How we speak to ourselves and others. The way we view a particular situation. The choices we make and the directions we take throughout the day. This is what to focus on when we feel overwhelmed or anxious.

The Sanctus Coaching model was designed to help people achieve real growth in every area of their life. We don’t focus on any one singular area of development. We are equipped to cater to a broad range of human needs, wants, and challenges.

We believe you are more than your emotions, more than your career, more than your job title. When we coach, we tend to every aspect of what makes you, you. The benefits of holistic, whole-person coaching include better communication, richer relationships, and an increase in quality and innovation at work.