We feel this year's mental health awareness theme, BODY IMAGE has an indirect or direct relevance with almost everyone. Did you know one in eight adults (13%) had considered taking their own lives because of concerns relating to their body image?
First thing first, it is important for everyone to realise that no tech wonder would ever match the complex, sophisticated and regenerating powers of our bodies. In spite of that fact, for most of us, our bodies are a source of distress.
A Report by the Centre for Mental Health revealed that absence due to mental health cost the UK economy £34.9 billion last year and the situation is deteriorating due to the following factors:
Increase in the number of sick days: Ignoring mental health issues can eventually lead to physical sickness and inability to work. Based on the average UK salary of £27,000 those sick days have a combined value of £1.4 billion to the UK's GDP.
Presenteeism: Showing up at work when ill can result in loss of productivity, exacerbate mental health issues and add more pressure to what is an already toxic cycle. 86% of over 1000 respondents to the 2018 survey said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010.
Lack of career options: Due to lack of awareness and sensitivity around mental health at work, 35% of people think they are less likely to get promoted if they suffer from depression.
To help combat this challenging issue - the first step necessary is to start talking about it. At Paritas, we never discussed mental health openly before this mental health awareness week. By encouraging them to share their personal #bodyimage stories we made them contemplate about something which ordinarily, would not cross their mind.
We were always keen on promoting a healthy work-life balance, but this year we are proud we have made an effort to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues and encouraged team members to speak up.
Below our director Leigh Albrecht, our risk manager Keith Jones and our marketing manager Aanchal Dhawan share when they felt the most comfortable in their skin and try to embark a positive message:
The above picture depicts how I come into work every day (cycling 22 miles each way) and have done so over the past couple of years, even in the winter! I haven't felt more stress-free or comfortable in my own skin. As Director of a 10 employee firm and working with them on an everyday basis, I feel it's not only my responsibility to keep myself stress-free, but them as well. As they say, 'lead by example', I keep encouraging everyone to go to the gym, or a run, or something to keep themselves fit even during work hours.
But I do occasionally like to spoil them with their favourite doughnuts and chocolate bars!
Something as simple as cycling to work solves four stress points for me; no trains, lower cost, environment-friendly and keeps me fit. Body image is such a big contributor to mental stress and some little changes here and there can certainly help in this space.
The picture above is from an Ultra MMA event I took part in to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Throughout training for this fight, I kept telling myself that losing wasn't an option, and on the night my body paid attention and did as instructed. Not only did I win in the first round but I was the top fundraiser for this particular event. That day I realised how much physical and mental health are related, my body could stand almost anything - It was my mind I had to convince.
If people feel discouraged about their bodies it affects their mental wellbeing. If everyone is too busy focusing on what their bodies cannot do, how their body does not look and everything negative then it's directly going to result in deteriorating mental health. In turn, you need to respect your body, take care of it and realise that everyone is gifted with a unique one without any benchmarks.
Even though I was 66 pounds above my ideal body weight in the picture above I didn't really care. I was always confident, loved trying new clothes the same way as I do now, without an XL or XXL bothering me.
Now I have managed to shed the excess off, I am fitter, healthier but a lot more stressed when I can't fit even in a size bigger than my usual!
Over time though, I have realised our bodies are evolving with us each day and we are affecting our mental health by being in a battle with them! Every time my jeans feels little tight after lunch at work - I can't drive my mind to focus on what is actually important. My work involves being creative, generating ideas and it all goes down the drain with just one jeans button! Not worth it! This has just made me realise the importance of being healthy and including a little activity during the day as it makes me feel stronger as a person, mentally and physically. (I also ended up purchasing a size bigger jeans because that is what I feel comfortable in and I don't need to feel bad about it.)
Let's spark a conversation around #bodyimage this week and encourage each other to share their stories regarding when they felt the most comfortable in their skin.