13 May, 2019

Mental Health and Body Image

Today sees the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is Body Image. We're marking the week with the second BLOG in our series with this contribution from our interim Health Team manager, Lucy H.

I know too well from the work we do with young people that there’s a massive correlation between negative body image, low self esteem and anxiety and depression later in life. We try and teach young people the skills they need to be resilient and cope with what life throws at them. But what does this mean in real life? I have to say I’m still trying to work this out as a 40-year-old, so trying to develop this in others who are experiencing stress, distress and often extreme chaos is well, tricky to say the least!

I’m writing this not just as a health team manager, but as a mother of a teenage daughter who is doing her GCSE’s. A daughter who is not sporty in any way, massively stressed with school and doesn’t see her herself as beautiful

My daughter is struggling, like many others her age to juggle school, revision, looking after herself and of course keeping up with snapchat streaks! Number one for me is helping her look after herself and not become so stressed about the looming exams that she stops functioning and ends up in a state of such anxiety that she falls to pieces. I’ve noticed more recently, that as her anxiety levels rise, so do the conversations about her body image and the little doubts that enter her mind about whether she’s put on weight or whether she’s more spotty than normal. I know that this is an indication of her coping/not coping and the self doubt that creeps in when we’re more stressed.

So, what am I doing about it? I’m trying to very gently build up the amount of exercise and daylight she gets. Being stuck in a classroom all day doesn’t help either of those things, but we know that exercise and daylight massively help sleep. They also help of course, body image because the fitter you feel, generally the more confident you feel. We spend at least 30 minutes in the woods after work, walking our dogs (anyone that knows me, will know that I have too many dogs to walk by myself so getting some help is priceless!). This time outside, walking up hills is great for us both, but importantly it’s time for her to offload about her day and get pleasure in the sense that the giant hill we walk each day is getting easier! This means she’s getting fitter, which makes her feel better about herself. The other things we’re doing are trying to cram in as much fruit and veg as possible without needing to take out shares in Over farm market; Structuring time for revision and down time; trying to boost her and compliment her at every opportunity and generally just trying to create a nice calm environment at home.

With so many challenges facing us all day to day it’s hard to support our children and help them to be healthy, active, and feel good about themselves – Blimey I have a hard-enough time doing this myself let alone a 16-year-old with all the pressures of teenage-hood! But what I’ve learned recently is that even the smallest change in routine, or the smallest compliment can make the world of difference to how someone sees themselves.

For more information or advise about body image and mental health visit:

youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/body-image/

themix.org.uk › Mental Health

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