Celebs Go Dating star Anna Williamson's tips to open up and stop masking mental illness

MENTAL health has been a key focus during the coronavirus pandemic as more and more people struggle to adapt to the new normal that Covid-19 has created.

Celebs Go Dating star and mental health advocate Anna Williamson has now said that employers need to do more to ensure your well-being.

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The 38-year-old has opened up to The Sun about her own experiences with mental health and has revealed her top tips on what you can do if you’re struggling.

Speaking to The Sun Anna said she was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the mid 2000s and said her experience is likely similar to what a lot of other young people are going through.

“I didn’t know when to press stop”, Anna says looking back at her time as a children’s TV presenter on ITV.

“I was people pleasing, working hard and playing hard and at the same time I was in a bad relationship.

“I didn't place enough emphasis on care and well-being”.

Things like mindfulness and meditation are trotted around and people think it’s all a bit woo woo

The 38-year-old said she didn’t understand what she was feeling and didn’t feel as though she was able to deal with it.

This she said, led to her having a breakdown.

“You have to hit rock bottom. I’d been doing the classic ‘I’m fine’.

“I was like a duck furiously paddling underwater but looking serene at the top.

“Asking for help and then actually taking it was game changing”.

Asking for help can be one of the biggest hurdles and this is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign, to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there's nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.

Anna, who is a best selling author, now says more needs to be done to de-stigmatise mental health.

Anna has recently debated topics such as "does mindfulness really work" and "mental health in a knowledge economy" as part of the Brain Forum.

She says resources such as this will help people who are interested in learning more about their mental health in an accessible way.

Anna said this needs to be done now more than ever as more and more people will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with mental health issues.

“While many people would have already struggled through the pandemic, there will be a whole host of others who will be experiencing mental health issues for the very first time”

Anna said her work both professionally and personally has shown her that people in office work are experiencing more and more stress.

She said there needs to be more provisions from employers and leadership at the top to make sure everyone has the help they need.

“Flexible working needs to be looked at more. The pandemic has shown that many jobs can be done from home.

“We need to open up flexible working to people. The 9-5 was set up for factory workers and that hasn’t changed.”

Anna said her work with mindful experts and neuroscientists has helped her uncover a deeper understanding of mental health.

She said tried and tested experiments have shown that mindfulness does work.

“Things like mindfulness and meditation are trotted around and people think it’s all a bit woo woo.

“It’s actually proven to significantly reduce anxiety and depression. It also helps with stress and that’s an exciting prospect.

“People will get a lot from the Brain Forum. A lot of people think neuroscience is unattainable but it’s not. It’s about coming up with solutions for normal people.”

Anna said taking in information from experts across different fields has really helped her to understand more about her own well-being.

She also revealed her top tips on how to deal with mental health issues and how to get the help you need.

1. Don’t self diagnose

Anna says if you’re starting to feel uncomfortable then you shouldn’t “self diagnose in five minutes".

“We all have ups and down and it’s important that we feel sad, we need different emotions.

“But if these don’t go away and you start to feel like your life is being altered then you need to reach out.

2. Prevention rather than cure

Anna says that part of the issue with most mental health problems is that we wait until it’s too late.

“Choose someone you trust to talk to, your family or your friends. If you feel you can’t talk to them then go to a charity like Mind or the Samaritans.

“Tell them how you are feeling. It’s ok for you to not have all of the answers to their questions.

"Tell them how you’re feeling and let them know that you don’t know what to do.”

Anna says that opening up can be hard for some people and she said writing a note or text can help open up those channels and can help you express yourself clearly.

3. Let your boss know

Anna said mental health issues in the workplace need to become more accepted and she said some people feel as though they can’t open up to their bosses.

“Unfortunately it’s about employers being educated enough and they really should be the ones opening up that channel of communication.

“Not everyone is lucky enough to have a nice boss.”

She said in these situations it’s important to utilise your HR department.

“It’s your right, if you’re not feeling well mentally you shouldn’t feel like you have to adopt a physical illness.

“We shouldn’t have to mask mental illness, explain your feelings and you can always ask a GP to back you up with a letter”.

4. Feel no shame

Anna says it’s important to not feel any guilt or shame about your illness.

“No one asks to feel the way they do.

“View yourself from a distance, what advice would you give yourself?”

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