Chris Jones, Executive Director - Centre for Assessment
I find that my mental health has a circular effect – when I’m feeling positive then that seems to focus my thoughts on the things that are going well, and makes those inevitable setbacks seem more manageable, which in turn builds my positive mood. Conversely, when I’m feeling low, then life’s normal setbacks take on a disproportionate significance and creates a more negative circle.
If I can capture the positive circle and sustain it, then I’m often able to create a virtuous circle. For me, physical exercise (often outdoors), and being mindful about what I eat helps me gain and then sustain that positive circle. I try to spend time each week walking and jogging (although not everyone would recognise what I’m doing as that) outside. Being in the big outdoors seems to put me and my worries into context, letting me blow off steam while sorting my thoughts or thinking of nothing at all. In a similar way, I find that eating well makes me feel healthier and that in turn brightens my mood.
I’m not always able to keep up a good run of exercise or eating well. Sometimes, this feels like a failure and sparks the negative circle. Of late, I’ve tried to focus on the longer-term picture and not on those days, or weeks, when I’ve not been as active or eaten as well as I would have liked. I have had breaks getting outdoors, and then it can be hard to get back into a routine. But I always find that once I’m able to get a few walks or runs under my belt, the desire to keep up my streak acts as a positive motivator.
GC’s support and commitment around mental health has helped me maintain my positive circles longer and more often. I’ve especially found the increasing acceptance that taking regular breaks is a good and normal thing, supportive. One example I’m seeing more and more people is colleagues marking off time for lunch and exercise in their Outlook calendars – and I hope that encourages more people to do the same. It’s certainly given me the ‘permission’ to do so and actually use that time to get outside or take a little longer preparing a healthier lunch.