This week, we’re acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Week. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, it is designed to raise awareness of mental health and encourage discussion in our communities, so that we can have a better understanding of the feelings and thought processes that we or our loved ones are experiencing.
It is thought that 1 in 4 people will experience problems with their mental health in the UK each year. Campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week are important to recognise the impact that mental health can have on those that are suffering and their friends and family, as well as to fight the stigma that is discouraging so many people from speaking out.
We understand that experiencing issues with mental health can be incredibly distressing, so we have put together a list of 30 tips that can help you to live better with your mental health. From this list, we hope that we can help in finding a light at the end of the tunnel and that we can help you realise that it really is okay not to be okay.
Whether you’re experiencing issues with anxiety, depression or even schizophrenia; you don’t need a reason to feel the way you do – and that’s okay. Regardless of the cause, mental health is beyond our control and it is important to know that if you are struggling, there is nothing to be ashamed of and there is help available to you at any time.
2. Be patient
Regardless of whether you are experiencing problems with your mental health or you are supporting a loved one, it is important to have patience. Mental health is not about choice, and sometimes it takes time to be able to establish why you are feeling this way and how you can regain control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen in a hurry, but showing patience to yourself or your loved one will take a lot of unnecessary pressure away, taking you one step closer to your goal.
3. Be kind
Kindness is a beautiful thing to have in this world and it is a powerful tool in combatting mental health. As we mentioned above, mental health is not a choice; if you are supporting a loved one, it is important to be kind. Your loved one will be fighting an unpleasant battle that only they can understand the full depths of and your kindness will be an ally to them.
4. Talk it out
We understand that sometimes it can be difficult to talk about your feelings, especially if you don’t really understand them yourself. But even explaining this to a friend, family member or GP can be enough for them to understand that you need support. Nobody should be left to suffer in silence and if you’re not comfortable to discuss your mental health with a loved one, there is a plethora of advice available from your GP surgery or mental health charities such as the Samaritans, Mind and Heads Together.
Physical activity releases endorphins, which has a significant impact on our well-being, mood and self-esteem. We understand that when you are experiencing problems with your mental health, going to the gym sounds like the worst idea in the world – but the gym isn’t the only option. Whether you go for a short jog around your block, a walk around a nearby field or a 15-minute yoga workout – physical activity can act as a huge enhancement to our mental wellbeing.
6. Interact with animals
A pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation for anybody experiencing problems with their mental health. With their calm and non-judgmental natures, pets can be really beneficial for those suffering with anxiety, depression and loneliness, as well as learning difficulties such as ADHD and autism. If you don’t have a pet, you can visit a friend or family member with a pet, or even volunteer at an animal shelter.
Sleep is as important to our health as breathing. It allows our bodies to repair and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. On average, adults should get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re struggling to sleep at night, try staying away from your phone in the hour before you go to sleep, use a lavender pillow spray and take three deep breaths in when you get into bed. The lavender and deep breathing combined will help your body to relax, ready for a good night’s rest.
8. Write a letter
If you want to talk to your loved one but you don’t know how to approach the discussion, you can write them a letter. Writing is an exceptionally powerful therapy method and it is the perfect way to unload your thoughts with no interruption. In your letter, you can explain as much or as little as you like, but it will be enough for your loved one to understand that you need support and allow you to talk through your feelings, sentence by sentence.
9. Write a journal
Sometimes, the best way to help us understand our feelings is to write them down. With a journal, you are creating a portal for yourself, allowing you to go back in time and remind yourself of the really good days, and to reflect on the not-so-good days and how you moved past them.
10. Create a ‘Happy Moments’ jar
We understand that mental health comes with its good days and bad days, and on the bad days you may need an extra boost to help you. You can create a ‘Happy Moments’ jar, where you write down one thing a day that has made you smile and keep it in this jar. Then, when you need an extra pick-me-up, you can look back at the better days and look forward to your next one.
11. Listen to music
When you listen to music, your brain releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine. By listening to music that you enjoy, this chemical enhances your mood that can help to stimulate a positive state of mind and reduce stress levels. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, playing your favourite artist in a peaceful environment can make quite a big difference on your mental wellbeing.
12. Learn a new hobby
Hobbies are a great way for you to break out of your daily routine and to make the most of your spare time. Whether you join a book club, learn to knit or start a new fitness class, hobbies that get you out and about can have an immensely positive impact on your wellbeing. Not only this, but it’s also a great opportunity for you to meet new people and build new relationships.
13. Eat well
It can be difficult to know all the things that we should and shouldn’t be eating, but managing your diet can have a big influence on your mental health. Eating more slow-release energy foods such as pasta, nuts and seeds helps to manage your blood sugar levels which can greatly impact your mood. Eating enough protein, such as fish, eggs and soya products, ensures that you get plenty of amino acids, which make up the chemicals in your brain to regulate your thoughts and feelings.
14. Change of scenery
If you’re stuck in a bit of a routine, it can be difficult to find the motivation to break out of that routine and go to new places, especially when you’re not in the best frame of mind. However, taking some time away from your day-to-day life and experiencing some of the beauty in our world can give your mind a distraction.
15. Alternative therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a method of managing the psychology behind the way you think, feel and behave. In CBT, you work with a therapist to identify and challenge any negative thinking patterns in your behaviour, and in turn enable you to manage the way that you think in the future. CBT can be arranged privately or with the NHS.
16. Create a therapeutic space
When the world feels too loud and you need some time out, create a space for yourself where you can block out the noise and be at one with yourself. This space can be your bedroom, your living room or the corner table in your local café. If you have somewhere that you feel safe and at peace then you have a safety blanket for the times that you need one. Just having the knowledge that this space is there for you when you need it can bring you peace of mind and help to put a lot of your worries at bay.
17. Take time for yourself
Everybody needs some time to give their body and mind the rest that they need. Whether this time is at a sports game supporting your favourite team, sitting in a quiet corner of your living room or enjoying a candlelit bubble bath, it’s important to take the time to let yourself recover from your day-to-day life.
18. Give to others
Even a small act of kindness such as a smile or a “thank you” can be really rewarding for your own mental wellbeing. The simple knowledge of knowing that you have made a positive impact on someone’s day can bring comfort to you because you know that, for that particular moment, you were the reason for someone’s happiness.
19. Ask yourself questions – you may find an answer…
If you’re feeling like you’re having a difficult day and you can’t establish why, that’s okay – your mental health isn’t always the product of a particular trigger. However, if you feel that you need more understanding, don’t be afraid to ask yourself questions. Is there anything that I could be feeling stressed by? Am I anticipating a change in my life that I’m not entirely comfortable with? Is there a common denominator between now and the last time that I felt this way? By asking yourself these questions, you may not always find an answer, but by being aware of your mindset this may act as a sticking point for the next time you ask yourself these questions, and at some point, you may find an answer.
20. Recognise your triggers
If you’ve found an answer to your questions, you may well be able to recognise the triggers that lead you to ask yourself these questions in the first place. It could be somebody in your life that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, or a particular environment that doesn’t make you feel comfortable; whatever the reason, by recognising your triggers you are in a better position to manage your surroundings to reduce exposure to these triggers and maintain control over your wellbeing.
21. Live chat with a mental health charity
We’ve mentioned previously about reaching out to a specialist mental health charity, but we understand that it can be difficult to explain our thoughts and feelings through speaking alone. There are now a number of mental health charities that also provide live chat options, such as Anxiety UK and Mind.
22. Be mindful of the present
Life moves quickly. So quickly, in fact, that it’s not uncommon to feel as though your feet are rooted to the floor while the world rushes by you at 100 miles per hour. When this feeling takes over, it can be intimidating, but it is also an opportunity for you to be aware of your surroundings for that moment. If you’re in the middle of a busy day at work or stuck in rush hour traffic, take a moment to listen to that particular song on the radio, or take a few deep breaths between emails, or even step outside and allow your lungs the freedom of fresh air. It may only be a moment, but a moment worth taking to manage your wellbeing.
23. Manage your social media content
Social media doesn’t have to be a detriment to your mental wellbeing. You can manage what you see, who you follow and the information you read, so that you are only exposed to the parts of the internet that ignite some inspiration in you. You can find campaigners for causes that you are passionate about, charities that you can relate to and influencers that inspire you to make positive changes in your life; all of which is at your fingertips.
24. But it’s still important to limit your scroll time
During television adverts, lunch breaks or before we go to sleep, we are all capable of picking up our phone without thinking and scrolling through our social media feeds for minutes at a time. Of course, there are definite perks to social media, but it’s still important to balance your time between reality and virtual reality. We live in a beautiful world that is full of colour and culture, some of which is right on our doorstep. Try to limit your time on social media and allow yourself to live in the present with those around you.
25. When your friends and family tell you that they love you: listen to them
Mental health is a very powerful thing. It can create any number of causes to obstruct you from feeling positive emotions, and it can make it difficult to comprehend when we are told that we are loved if we’re not feeling it towards ourselves. When your family and friends tell you they love you, don’t disregard it; listen to them and process it. They love you for all the things that make you who you are. Even if you don’t see it in yourself, whether it’s your mum, dad, sibling, friend or partner; listen to them. It might help you to understand why, and subsequently learn to love yourself a little bit more.
26. Look back at your progress and see how far you’ve come
It’s easy to get lost when you’re working towards your goal and to pay more attention to how much further you still have to go instead of acknowledging how far you’ve already come. If you’re working on steps one to ten and you’re on step two, don’t think about steps three, four, five, six… You’ve already finished step one, and that’s amazing. Don’t persecute yourself for not being where you wanted to be in a particular amount of time. Look back at your achievements and the milestones you’ve already created for yourself.
27. Celebrate the small steps
And when you finish each step, celebrate it. You might not be at your end goal yet, but you’re one step closer to it. If you do one thing a day, week or month that you wouldn’t normally do, you’ve achieved an amazing thing. If you’ve completed that project at work, visited that place you’ve always wanted to go to, or even reached out to a loved one, you’ve taken that step forward and you deserve to celebrate it.
28. Have empathy
Whether you are an employer that is supporting your staff, a parent supporting your child or a partner supporting your loved one, empathy is key to understanding their mental health and what you can do to support them. Even if it’s entirely new territory for you, you can empathise simply by understanding that they need your support and by letting them know that you are there to give it to them.
29. Have love
Whether it’s your family, your best friend, your partner or your pet, love is an incredibly powerful emotion that can have an immense impact on your wellbeing. When your mental health becomes more of a struggle, remember the love that you have for those that are most important to you. It won’t be a permanent fix, but it is a step in the right direction.
30. Be yourself
Your mental health doesn’t define you. We all find faults in ourselves and we all have elements of our lives that we wish we could change, but these unique features are what make you who you are. It’s important to remember that no matter where you are in life or your wellbeing, you are an important contribution to this world.
If you need support…
Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be life-changing, but that doesn’t have to lead to a loss of independence. If you need support with your mental health, our dedicated team of carers are available to support you and your family with specialist mental health care in the comfort of your own home.