The United Kingdom is currently facing a mental health crisis, one of which the country has never seen before. Two committees of MPs recently warned that the current support available on the NHS is inadequate and runs the risk of failing a generation who desperately need help.
The average Brit works 43.6 hours a week, with more than four million workers spending more than 48 hours a week in the workplace. British workers also face an average commute to work of 54 minutes, almost 20 minutes more than the EU average.
This means that Brits are struggling to find a work life balance, which some experts believe is fuelling the mental health crisis in the UK and increasing levels of obesity as workers have less time to live a healthy lifestyle.
Did you know? In France there is a law allowing workers the ‘right to disconnect. Employees in an organisation of more than 50 people are forbidden from sending or receiving work emails outside of their standard working hours.
Why is a work-life balance important?
If you are one of the workers that is dedicating nearly 60 hours a week to work, you are at serious risk of burn out. Living in a bubble of all work no play can lead to a disconnect with the world around you and cause you to ignore your mental and physical health.
Although there are no direct figures for work-related suicides in the UK, suicide rates have risen markedly among young people in recent years. Reports suggest that certain occupational groups such as doctors, nurses and farmers are deemed to be at high risk of work related suicide – due to job pressure and the isolated nature of their work.
That might be hardly surprising when you consider that in these professions 60+ hour weeks are the norm. So finding ways to unwind and relax in your spare time are vital to your physical and mental wellbeing.
But what are the best ways to relax outside of work?
1. Go to the gym
Finding the time to go to the gym is often difficult for those in busy occupations, but it can be done. The vast majority of gyms offer guided classes in the evenings and at weekends to appeal to those with a busy lifestyle.
The benefits of going to the gym are tremendous. Firstly, your physical health will improve dramatically as a result of increased physical exertion. Secondly, attending classes or regularly visiting the same gym can broaden your social circles, opening your horizons to future social activities.
Most importantly, exercise has been proven by scientists to improve mental wellbeing. The NHS recommends regular exercise as a way of combatting mild depression and warding of the sceptre of anxiety.
2. Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mind-body based approach that helps people to process their thoughts rationally and reconnect with the world around them.
If this sounds like a new-age, hippy technique then simply think of it as unwinding. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of becoming too involved with the day-to-day processes of going to work, eating, sleeping and avoiding your emotions. Mindfulness can take as little as 10 minutes a day and allows you to unwind, evaluate your emotional state and relax.
Did you know? Mindfulness has been proven to decrease depression by 63%, anxiety by 58% and perceived stress by 40%.
3. Play poker
Playing games with people – such as poker – requires social interaction on some level, and it’s a popular way to meet people and socialise with existing friends.
What makes poker so popular is the relative ease you can play the game. The strategy involved in poker can improve your mental agility and provide a distraction to take your mind firmly away from work.
But if you don’t fancy going to a casino, or you don’t live near one, don’t worry. Gamblers are increasingly going online to play their favourite games. Playing online is so much more convenient than having to find your local land-based casino – as you can play from the comfort of your own home, or if you’re on the move.
What’s more, online casino technology has evolved so much that the games feel as immersive and engaging as they would do in a real casino experience. One option out there for online gamblers is video poker. With its cool retro style and simple gameplay, video poker is an entertaining way to unwind – and it gives you a great opportunity to get your game up before playing against other competitors for real.
Check out this video poker game and you’ll put yourself in the frame for all these benefits, plus one more: winning a huge jackpot.
4. Ditch the phone
Mobile phones have revolutionised the world and given people almost everything they’ve ever wanted at the tips of their fingers. Yet overuse of mobile phones and tablets has been proven to negatively impact on people’s mental wellbeing and social lives.
Putting your phone down for an hour a day and interacting with those around you can have huge benefits to your life. You will develop more meaningful relationships with the people around you and avoid the social isolation that social media can cause.
Added to this, time spent away from social media can be beneficial to your mental outlook. Scrolling through Instagram and Facebook can be chastening as you are constantly confronted with images of people’s successes.
It’s easy to forget that you are only seeing a glimpse of someone’s life, the best bits, and unfairly judge yourself against other people. Take time away from social media and viewing other peoples amazing lives, and instead make memories of your own.
Did you know? Teens in the US using their phones for more than five hours a day were 70% more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those using their phones for one hour a day.
5. Join a social group
Regardless of who you are, you will have your own interests and hobbies, and it’s important to continue those hobbies, preferably with other people. If reading is your number one relaxation technique, then you can join a weekly book club and use your passion to expand your social circle.
Likewise, if you’re a sports fan there are a plethora of amateur sports clubs that you can join to expand your social circles, as well as improving your physical well-being.
A work life balance is important to your mental and physical well-being, and it’s too easy to neglect that fact in modern life. Taking steps to improve your mental wellbeing, physical health and social life are all important factors in having a healthy life.
Take the time to look at your life objectively. Imagine you were talking to a friend and giving them some advice, what would you say to them? Slow down, take a break, do more of the things you enjoy? Whatever it is you would say, apply that advice to yourself.