9 things we learnt from Dr Alex about mental health: yours, and your friend’s

What are the signs of burnout? What are the small lifestyle attributes conducive to better mental health? UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Dr Alex George joined YuLife Co-founder and COO Sam Fromson for an open and honest discussion on all things mental health.

Yugi the Giraffe - 21 October 2021

A government Ambassador for Youth Mental Health, Dr Alex has both personal and clinical insight into mental health matters. “[In A&E,] people think we see car crash accidents, heart attacks – but actually, around a third of our workload relates to mental health. That was surprising.”

With a 2m social following, he knows he has a role to play. “I lost my brother a year ago to mental health which has been very difficult, but I’ve really tried to use my platform to do something positive. That’s where the mental health platform came about.”

As the world’s first lifestyle insurance company that provides life insurance, wellbeing, and rewards in one simple app, YuLife Co-founder and COO Sam Fromson is a champion of wellbeing services and provisions that impact users’ day-to-day health.

Here are 9 things we learnt from their discussion

1) “Perfect mental health doesn’t exist.”

Dr Alex points out how mental health isn’t just the absence of illness, but a broad spectrum “everyone is on”. Just like with our physical health, we can all do things that make us mentally healthier – and no one should leave it until they are ill to start thinking about their mental health and wellbeing.

2) Improving your wellbeing doesn’t have to be complex

Your physical and mental health will greatly benefit from investing in simple things like sleep, exercise and taking time out. “In my fourth year of med school I became depressed. I had a big overhaul: I’d go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time and go for a morning walk. I started exercising regularly, cooking my own food. I’d plan to speak to friends. After a good few weeks, it did make a huge difference. That made me think, wow, I'm a fourth year med student and I didn't know how important this stuff was.”

It’s a view mirrored by YuLife – you don’t have to be professional athletes or health-fanatics to care for your wellbeing. For YuLife businesses, the YuLife app rewards walking and mindfulness – easy, accessible activities that anyone can do.

3) Motivation isn’t enough to maintain healthy behaviours

“Create structure – habit is your friend when it comes to doing these things. The motivation to get up and go to the gym wanes after a few weeks, for most people. You need to attach it to a routine so that you do it almost without thinking.”

Dr Alex recommends stacking habits by pairing something that you currently do with something that you would like to do. For example, after having a shower and your morning coffee, head straight out for a walk.

4) Create healthy boundaries

The pandemic has caused our days to revolve around digital devices like never before, but too much screen time can lead to a number of negative consequences for our health: anxiety, ​​sleep problems and chronic neck and back problems, among others.

“There's an opportunity to provide psychosocial support [online], and people's well being. But we do need to be careful because, ultimately, being on a computer isn't the best thing for our mental or physical health,” advises Alex. Create healthy boundaries, such as taking a lunch hour away from your desk.

Are you a YuLife app user? That break is a perfect opportunity to go for a walk or practise meditation, and earn YuCoin for doing it.

5) Curate your social media feed every two months

Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, and when it comes to using it, many people are "flying a plane without any lessons," says Dr Alex. But this doesn’t mean we can’t all learn how to create a safe online space that serves to improve our mental health.

Next time you find yourself scrolling through Instagram, stop and ask yourself, why? Does it represent your interests? “Make sure you curate your Instagram: look at who you're following, and whether they’re making you feel good, or bad,” says Dr Alex. By curating our social media feeds and unfollowing or muting any accounts that make us feel bad, we can better protect our wellbeing online.

6) “Symptoms of burnout are very similar to depression and anxiety.”

Dr Alex says the pre-burnout phase is a long one – and we should know how to spot the signs, such as a loss of interest in work, struggling to wake up in the morning and a reduced desire to participate in social activities.

It's important we recognise these early signs and address them quickly making lifestyle changes – don’t wait until it’s too late.

7) Don’t be afraid to really ask how someone is doing

“I think the most important thing is actually recognising a change in behaviour,” says Dr Alex, in friends, family members and colleagues. If they seem withdrawn or turn down things they normally attend, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

Asking someone if they are okay is really important if you’re concerned about their wellbeing. “Be direct,” advises Dr Alex, but think about the best time and place to approach the conversation, perhaps over a coffee, or a walk.

Misjudged it? This will only demonstrate to the person that you really care.

8) Know where to go for support

If you feel that your mental wellbeing is slipping, know that you aren’t alone. Whether you need help coping with stress, anxiety, emotional exhaustion depression, or you’re just not feeling yourself, it’s important that you seek the right help.

Dr Alex highlights a number of great support services including Hub of Hope and Shout mental health text support. If your employer offers some form of employee assistance programme (EAP), then take advantage of the support available.

If you’re a YuLifer, YuMatter provides 24/7 online access to clinically trained mental health experts who’ll work with you to recommend the right coping strategies.

9)“Your lifestyle is often your body's biggest support system and the more robust you can make that, the more you can rely on it to get you through. Think of it like your life insurance policy.”

This quote from Dr Alex's latest book, Live Well Every Day highlights the challenge of investing in your health. Health and happiness come from the cumulative effects of many small and positive daily changes to our lifestyle. By investing in our wellbeing and building sustainable habits, we’re taking steps towards achieving a healthier, happier future.

Watch the webinar recording to learn about Dr Alex's personal journey with mental health, his vision for mental health care policy, and his tips on small lifestyle changes we can make to improve our overall wellbeing.

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YuLife is a tech-Driven insurance company on a mission to inspire life and turn financial products into a force for good. By harnessing the power of gamification and the latest behavioural science, YuLife rewards healthy living and puts everyday wellness within reach of everyone.

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