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It’s good to talk: the importance of conversation when managing anxiety

Posted May 08, 2024

To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness week, our colleague, Liam Bewell, talks about the importance of conversation and his three pillars for managing anxiety.

I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 12…

For me, anxiety is something normal to experience and it’s never going to completely go away. It has its place in my life now. I’m always trying to understand and manage it better.

I’ve had a few experiences that strengthened my stance on mental health…

Just over five years ago, my best friend, who’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar, took his own life. My friends and I didn’t know how to help when our friend was going through it. It was such an upsetting experience and took a long time to process but it made me more willing to speak up.

Mental health issues can make you feel isolated…

Everyone has struggles whether they realise it or not. Talking to someone who’s been through something similar can help you feel a lot less alone.

Traditionally men have been forced to fit a particular ‘strong and silent’ mould…

This needs to change. Around 75% of deaths by suicide in the UK are men. Men need to call out other men who encourage toxic environments, such as making fun of men for being too ‘sensitive’ or ‘emotional’ so that everyone feels valued and able to open up.

My three pillars to cope with the stresses of life…

Getting enough sleep, eating a good diet and doing regular exercise are essential for me. Breathing exercises are a powerful way to calm yourself. But remember, don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day and don’t stick to the routine. Be kind to yourself.

It’s important to access the right type of support, where you can…

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was very effective for me, particularly when I had periods of depression. The NHS can provide this and other talking therapies. Medication has also worked for me, but don’t feel pressured to take it if it’s not for you. Everyone needs to find the right kind of support for them.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a great starting point to get people talking…

There’s still a reluctance to speak about mental health. There can be a stigma when people talk about schizophrenia compared to anxiety, for example. We need to talk about and understand it all so we can support everyone’s mental health experiences.

Reading has been really beneficial for my mental health...

I’ve read 29 books since the start of January. I’m actively engaged when I’m reading so it’s great to stop my overthinking. One of my all-time favourite books is An Unquiet Mind, a memoir by Kay Redfield Jamison, who’s a doctor with bipolar disorder. It’s very honest and while it was a tough read at points it moved me a lot. I feel it’s important more people read it to get a better perspective of what it’s like for people who have bipolar disorder. It’s important to do things that allow you to switch off, kick back and relax, whatever that may be for you.