We all know that to be healthy, you need to eat well and exercise, but looking after our mental health often falls by the wayside, especially when life gets busy. This Mental Health Awareness week we take a look at how to look after the people behind those pits.
What is mental health awareness week
Mental Health Awareness week runs from May 9th to May 15th in the UK and aims to raise awareness and understanding of different mental health conditions. There have been some real positive changes in recent years to the way mental health is talked about. Stigma around some mental health issues such as anxiety and depression has improved massively, which is a really positive step forwards.
However, there is still so much work to do be done. People suffering from mental health issues are often left behind and left out of conversations about health, and further to that, mental health affects all of us. For any severe changes, it’s essential you speak to professional help, but below we’ve put together some resources and ideas we can all use to look after ourselves day-to-day.
Things you can do to support your mental health
Talk to people
Connecting with people around us is one of the most important steps to mental wellbeing, giving you a sense of belonging and providing emotional support when you need it. Try taking time each day to speak to friends or family, even if that’s over the phone. Start open conversations with people you love about your feelings - sometimes just the act of being listened to can help you feel supported.
- Keep active
We’ve heard it before, but physically moving really does help us to feel better mentally, as well as helping with concentration, sleep and self-esteem. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be lifting weights in the gym five times a week if that’s not your thing. Something as simple as going on a lunchtime walk or dancing around your house to the latest Lizzo tune can do wonders for your mind! As the weather begins to heat up, try getting out into nature for your daily exercise - it may be cliché but breathing in some fresh air can really help you reset.
- Practise mindfulness
Sometimes, modern life can rush by us so fast, that we can feel like we’re living on auto-pilot. Mindfulness is the act of paying more attention to your present moment, including your thoughts, feelings and the world around you. Savouring a moment can help to reaffirm your life priorities and help you to concentrate more generally. We find that looking around you as you walk, trying a new shop or cafe for lunch and concentrating on how those around you are acting can really help
Learn new skills
We spend our first sixteen to twenty-two years learning almost every day, and it can be hard to see that come to an end as adult life and responsibilities take over. Continued learning through life has been proven to enhance self-esteem, encourage social interaction and help build a sense of purpose. Try doing a crossword or sudoku on your commute, or reading a book for fifteen minutes before bed. You could try learning to cook something new, or working on a DIY project in your home. There are also so many hobbies that you can try out as an adult - writing a blog, learning to sew or knit, joining a sports club or taking up painting. Remember you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it - the joy is in the doing!
Take a break
However well we look after our mental health, we all need and deserve a break from time to time. This can be anything from a five-minute pause during the workday, to a weekend away from home, exploring somewhere new. Remember that sometimes the world can wait, and taking a break might mean not doing very much at all - if you feel you need an evening to veg out in front of Netflix and let your brain turn off, then switch your phone notifications off and do just that. We’re not made to be productive all the time, and your brain needs a rest and recharge just like your laptop does!
So ... How are you?
Mental health awareness should never just be limited to one week. It’s a continuous practice and conversation that we all need to be more open about. Next time someone asks you how you are, think about the answer before you simply reply ‘I’m fine’. We all need to check in on ourselves and those around us to help make the world a kinder place.