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‘Mental health has been stigmatised because we’ve failed to recognise that we ALL have mental health’: Poppy Jamie on the taboos of living with anxiety

Named as one of Forbes’s 30 under 30s and previously a TV host, Poppy Jamie is ever evolving. Now founder of the app, Happy Not Perfect, which helps people deal with their anxiety, Poppy is encouraging others as well as herself to take care of their mental health and deal with their anxiety in a way that works for them. To mark World Mental Health Week, we asked her to candidly share her experience of anxiety and the tools that have helped her manage hers.

When was your first experience of anxiety and how would you describe what happened?

I think I’ve always experienced anxiety but only relatively recently have we labelled it as “anxiety”. The feeling of fear, tight stomach, shortness of breath and heavy heart would arrive and I used to label it as “worry”.

What did you do about it?

My mother is a psychotherapist and so whilst growing up, she did a great job at educating us about how important it was to talk through our feelings. She made it easy for us to open up about what we were experiencing and what we might be worrying about. “Don’t bottle things up, it only makes them worse” was a regular saying she shared, especially before bed. This allowed us to sleep better as we’d processed our thoughts, anxieties, worries, stresses from the day.

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Did you feel like you had a lack of information and anyone to talk to?

When I hit 25 and I didn’t have the construct of home or regularly seeing my parents, my anxiety got a whole lot worse and began to really take over. This was really my reason for creating Happy Not Perfect. When you grow up, what can you do to help your anxiety and stress daily! There are many times you can’t call someone to talk you through it.

Did anyone else you know experience it?

I had seen anxiety and stress affect my father for our entire childhood and we saw how emotions not only effect a person but also everyone around them. We worried about our dad who worked most weekends and struggled to sleep with his anxiety.

What helped you deal with your anxiety?

Meditation. When I was about 12, my mother changed her profession to solely focus on the mind. She encouraged meditation and mindfulness. For the past 18 years, my father has meditated daily and it’s had the most transformational impact.

Are you on medication or have had treatment?

I am not. When I go through periods of feeling stressed or anxious, I double down on my mental health toolkit. Using my app throughout the day, ensuring I am exercising, cutting down on sugar and ensuring I commit to a nightly ritual to help my sleep. I try to see my mental health as a signal or a message to look after myself better.

Why did you decide to become an advocate for mental health?

I think mental health has been stigmatised because we’ve failed to recognise WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH. Every single person has mental health and I know my life changes depending on whether I’m looking after it or not. At the age of 5, we understand we need to brush our teeth and wash our hair, but why aren’t we taught how to look after our mind. I feel so passionate about us all becoming more aware of our feelings and how to manage them better. We all need to know what sort of exercise and care helps. For some people meditation might really work, for others it could be joining a sports team, or committing to a 30 minute walk everyday. Writing a gratitude diary and working on being more compassionate towards ourselves and others is something that helps all of us and that’s what my app really focuses on supporting.

My life mission is to free people from their mind, helping all of us to see, we have more control over it than we think but it takes work.

What have you done to destigmatise it?

I talk about it all the time, around the world. I host mental health workshops, Instagram about it and talk to everyone I can. The more we talk about mental health like we talk about the food we eat, how we like our coffee or what workout we’re going to, the more normal it will become!

What more do you think can be done by the NHS or government?

Education. Education. Education. Community. If all of us were taught about our emotions, how our brain works, how we can hack our brain and bodies to feel better, and why we should preventatively be committing to practices everyday, the world would change!! Anger and violence are just expressions of people who are hurting on the inside. Imagine if we taught people how to communicate their anger rather than expressing it in other ways? Emotional health is as important as Sex Ed, Physical Ed and the rest.

Community – the AA system is so fantastic but I wish there was something similar to attend for everyone who might not relate to AA. The idea you can turn up to a safe space, share anything without judgment, hear other people’s troubles and experiences, would be very healing. We spend more time on our own then ever before in the history of mankind so any community initiatives I think would be very helpful. It helps us see, we are not alone and going through the same things!

What are your plans going forward?

To continue to build out Happy Not Perfect and make sure everyone has the app on their phone! We all would benefit from a daily mental health happiness work out or as a quick drop in when you are having a “hot moment” and need some clarity.

We have been so conditioned to avoid mental health for so long, it’s going to take more work and even more advocacy to change habits and beliefs around the subject.

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