While mental health was previously something of a taboo subject, it is now firmly out in the open, with high profile public figures including sports stars, singers and even royalty, talking about their own challenges and encouraging others to seek help.
However, despite this welcome change in attitudes, it can still be hard to admit you may be experiencing mental health challenges and seek help. We decided to mark Mental Health Awareness Week with some tips on how to act on any concerns you might have and take action to help you stay mentally well.
Get out into nature
Try to spend time visiting natural places, such as parks, forests, beaches or rivers. This can help you reduce your risk of mental health problems, lift your mood and help you feel better about things.1 Even getting out in your garden can have a positive effect – research has found that cortisol levels (the stress hormones in our body) drop more after undertaking 30 minutes of gardening following a stressful task, compared to reading indoors.2
Talk about your feelings
Opening up about how you’re feeling can help you find ways to stay mentally healthy and take action. People are often worried that sharing concerns about their mental health will be seen as a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s an important way to take charge of your wellbeing. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and validate your feelings. Either open up to a friend or loved one or if this feels too difficult, seek specialist help from a support group or counsellor.
Exercise benefits both your physical and mental health, releasing chemicals in your brain that can boost self-esteem and relieve stress.3 Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better and boosts overall mood. Choose an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your routine – walking in the fresh air is a great start, or try heading out for a bike ride, run or swim.
Like your body, your brain needs the right mix of nutrients to function well.4 A healthy balanced diet will help provide these nutrients, including a variety of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, dairy products and oily fish. Drink plenty of water, choose slow-release energy foods such as wholemeal pasta, rice and oats, and avoid foods which make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly, such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks and alcohol. Check out our blog on fresh ideas for healthy eating.
Keeping in touch with friends and family who bring a positive influence to your life can help you deal with challenges and stresses, and stay mentally well. Close relationships provide an outlet, get you out of your home and make you feel cared for. They can also help you talk through problems and find solutions to things you may be dwelling on. If you can’t get together face to face, pick up the phone or talk online.
Take time out
Sometimes, when things seem overwhelming, a simple change of scene or pace can make a big difference. This might mean getting away from your desk for a walk outside, taking a lunch break in front of your favourite daytime TV show or sitting and reading a magazine for an hour. For something more focused, try yoga or meditation, both of which are proven to benefit mental health and wellbeing.5
Embrace who you are – and don’t be afraid to take small steps where needed!
We are often far too quick to criticise ourselves in a way that we would never speak about others. Instead, be kind to yourself, work to accept who you are and recognise what you’re great at. It might be your loyalty, your kindness or your ability to make people laugh. Or maybe you’re great at maths or cooking! Whatever it is, embracing what makes you different will help boost your confidence. And don’t be afraid to try new things to develop yourself and take small steps towards making changes if you feel they will help you.
We hope that these tips are helpful in looking after your mental wellbeing and taking any steps you may need to seek help. For more information and support, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/ and the NHS has some great help and guidance too.