“There is no health without mental health.” – Dr. David Satcher
This week it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. ‘Mental health’, is a term often confused with ‘mental illness’, but simply put it’s our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Everybody has mental health, but one in four of us will struggle with mental health issues at some point in our lives.
One of the biggest challenges with mental health is that we don’t talk about it enough. If you sprain your ankle at the it’s pretty likely that you will tell people about it. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress or suffering with anxiety, many of us don’t feel comfortable opening up.
With the current pandemic, it’s even more important to look after our mental health as we're in a very uncertain and distressing situation that’s difficult to process. Our sense of normality has basically been thrown into chaos.
If you are looking for ways to look after your own mental wellbeing, research by the New Economics Foundation for Mind recommends these 5 steps:
Social relationships are very important, and a fundamental human need is to feel connected, valued and understood. In this current situation it’s easy to feel isolated and detached from the world, so make sure you are staying in regular contact with your family and friends, video chat with them and join in the weekly Zoom quizzes. Spending time with people, even if it’s virtually is great for your mental health. It not only gives you a sense of normality and it reminds you of the support system that you have too.
Exercise and physical activity are known to help depression and anxiety, so try a lunchtime walk to clear your head and create distance from your workload for a while. It’s a great time to try new virtual exercise classes in the comfort of your home, you have access to a lot more classes that you normally wouldn’t. You could also try a couch to 5k or dust off your bike and get out and enjoy the great outdoors in your area. Even though your motivation might be low at the moment, make the effort and you will feel the benefits.
Be present in the moment and appreciate what is around you! Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivation.
You could make your workspace a more enjoyable environment by putting up photos or some nice plants, or have a declutter to help give your mind some thinking space! For more advice on how to be positive and productive while working from home click here.
You could go on a new walking route or explore your area in a new way and appreciate your surroundings more.
You should also be present and take notice of how your family/friends might be feeling, it’s a tough situation for all of us, so check in regularly with them and make sure they're OK.
Setting challenges and learning new skills can make you more confident and keep you focused on something positive. You could learn a new language, improve your coding skills or join a new fitness class. Even though we might be isolated, you and group of your friends could learn something new together and update each other (virtually) to make it even more fun! This will also help you to engage and connect with your friends and give you more shared interests to chat about!
People who have a greater interest in helping and making others happy, are more likely to be happy themselves. So, why not do something to raise money for charity, or drop off some homemade cakes on your Grandma’s doorstep. You could check in with your vulnerable neighbours (socially distanced) and ask if they need any shopping. As the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, you could do some other random act of kindness in your area. Support your community and they will support you too.
Looking after our own mental health is so important, we all need to prioritise looking after our minds in the same way we do our bodies, but also don’t be afraid ask for help and utilise the support structures around you.
For ideas and advice on what you can do for Mental Health Awareness Week, you can check out the Mental Health Foundation HERE