This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (10th- 16th May). It goes without saying good mental health should always be a priority, but this week is an ideal time to focus on setting out our intentions to care for our own mental health and possibly taking time to check in with others if you are able to.
There are lots of things we can do to look after our mental health and wellbeing every day – make a start with these 6 top tips…
The way we think, feel and behave are linked and have an effect on one another. Sometimes we develop a series of behaviours where unhelpful thoughts lead to unhelpful feelings and actions, which can turn into a vicious cycle. But we can influence this process and improve our mental wellbeing. By recognising and challenging these thoughts, we can try to replace them, and see perceived problems from a different perspective. Rather than immediately accepting negative thoughts and feeling even worse, take a moment to check these thoughts and ask yourself whether there is good evidence for them, try thinking about what you would say to a friend who is thinking this way, and see if you can change the thought for a more positive one.
Don’t worry if you can not always alter your negative thoughts, we all have them and it’s totally normal to feel this way, but this tip is about being more flexible and learning to be in control of your emotions before they spiral into a negative pattern of behaviours.
2. Be in the present
If we take time to be aware of ourselves and be in the present moment, noticing our own thoughts and feelings, and the world around us, we can gain a better perspective. How you do this is up to you and totally dependent on what other commitments you have.
However, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus word is ‘Nature’, and getting out into nature is a great way to appreciate the moment and feel present. Whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on your way to work, try to take some time to reflect in natural surroundings using all your senses. You could listen out for birdsong, look for bees and butterflies, or notice the movement of the clouds, all of these good things in nature can help you to find a sense of calm and joy.
Sometimes it’s hard to access natural places because of where you live, how busy you are, how safe you feel or your health. Why not try bringing nature into your home? Having plants in the house is a great way to have something natural to see, touch and smell – pots of herbs from the supermarket are a good start. If planting isn’t your thing, you can also connect to nature through stories, art and sound recordings. Watching films or TV programmes about nature are also a great way to reflect on nature and feel connected to the outside world.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Managing our sleep can help us improve our mood, make us more productive and improve our concentration during the day.
It’s important to get a good nighttime routine in place. If you are able to, try to go to sleep at a similar time each night, which will regulate your body clock and make falling asleep that bit easier. Before going to bed, taking time to relax will help you to wind down, you could try reading a book or listening to calming music but if possible screentime is best kept to a minimum during this time- as well as caffeinated or sugary drinks!
It’s much easier to nod off in a dark room, ensure curtains are drawn tight, or wear an eye mask to ensure complete darkness. If you are struggling to get to sleep for twenty minutes or more, it can actually help to get up and do something else for a while, instead of lying in bed counting down the minutes till morning. Perhaps get a drink and read, or do some gentle yoga to unwind, before going back to bed again.
4. Connect with others
It can be hard to take time to connect with others, especially when we are busy, stressed, or feeling low. However, there is lots of evidence to show that keeping in touch can help us to feel happier and healthier, whether that’s with friends, family, neighbors, or people at work.
Make time to talk or set plans with others and stick to them and try to connect or chat with someone you trust each day as it’s a great way to check up on one another and share how you are feeling. You could have a look at events taking place in your local area, many clubs and activities have adapted to a digital way of doing things, and take a simple click of a button to get connected to other like-minded people.
Sharing your thoughts can really help, whether this is a friend or professional, having someone there that you know you can always speak with when you are feeling low is reassuring.
5. Live a healthy life
In our hectic lives, we can forget that our physical and mental health are connected and have a direct effect on one another. The way we treat our bodies can have a huge impact on how we feel, physical activity, diet, alcohol, smoking, and drugs can all have an influence on our mental health and wellbeing.
Physical activity releases endorphins which help us sleep and feel better, as well as improving our physical fitness which can make us feel better in general. Doing small amounts of regular physical activity can improve your mental well-being, especially if it is doing something you enjoy. You can get active at your own pace and in your own way, simple small changes in our day to day can make all the difference, perhaps going for a walk in your lunch break, walking instead of using public transport for short journeys, or getting busy in the garden can all help – don’t feel pressured to spend money or get the latest equipment, you just have to find a type of physical activity that works for you.
Eating better can also have an impact on our positive mental well-being. Ideally, we should aim to eat a healthy balanced diet, of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, but being mindful about what you are fuelling your body with can alter how you perceive yourself.
6. Take time for you
When was the last time you did something for yourself? Or did something just for enjoyment? Sometimes when we are rushing to work, taking care of others, checking and re-checking social media, we can forget about taking time for ourselves and doing something that we find enjoyable. Learning and developing new skills and doing things that give us a sense of achievement can affect our mental health, especially if we are feeling low. Learning can help us connect with others and build relationships with new people, giving our well-being even more of a boost. There are plenty of ways to bring learning into your life such as learning to play a musical instrument, taking on new responsibilities at work or even reading a chapter of a new book. Perhaps there is an old hobby you loved when you were younger, why not revisit it and brush up on your skills? Or you could even push yourself and try something new?
You don’t always have to fill your time with activity or challenges for yourself though. Taking time for you can also look like watching TV, taking a bath, cooking yourself a meal from scratch and so on. It is important to give yourself breaks, time spent doing nothing can help us to think clearly and recalibrate and is good for our wellbeing.
Looking after your mental health is not something we should just do if we are struggling, or feeling low, anxious, or stressed. It’s actually something we should think about all the time and really invest in, just like with our physical health. Of course, at times it is not enough to follow a few tips to feel better, if you are feeling low, need to reach out to somebody, or just want a friendly chat, you can always speak with the NPUK team via phone: 0191 415 0693 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org