Mental Health Awareness Week - Self Care Advice
Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK runs from 9th– 15th May 2022. Often when we hear the words “mental health”, we think about mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, or bipolar. In fact, mental health is a much broader concept. It is an integral part of who we are and how we function. Just like physical health, everybody has mental health.
Many of the activities we do to take care of our mental health, will also benefit our physical health and vice versa. There is a lot we can do to feel empowered with a practical toolkit for mental health self-care. Firstly, it’s important to tick the boxes for a generally healthy lifestyle.
Often people withdraw from family and friends when their mental health is struggling. Family and friends are essentially our scaffolding for emotional support, so by removing it, our ability to cope is dented. Having a trusted one or two people in our lives that we can talk to openly, is a hugely effective tool for helping us through life’s challenges.
Exercise is one of the healthiest and best coping mechanisms to support our mental health, and even a short walk can help. Exercise regulates stress hormones, boosts our mood with endorphins, and it builds mental resilience. Remember that there are plenty of workouts to choose from on the Digital Wellbeing Portal.
Emerging research on diet and mental health called the gut-brain axis, suggests that having healthy gut can be vital for our mental health. Aim for a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fibre, probiotics, and healthy fats.
Alcohol can make us feel good in the short-term, but it doesn’t last. Drinking or using drugs can also stop us from facing an issue we’re avoiding and getting appropriate help.
Sleep is vital for mental health; it regulates our stress hormones and is restorative for our body and mind. 7-9 hours is the recommended amount. If stressed or going through a tough time, sleep can be particularly elusive. Some tips include maintaining a bedtime routine, having a dark cool bedroom, and reducing screen time and caffeine before bed.
Low mental health can be very isolating because we “don’t want to burden anyone”. If we were physically sick with a flu or a sprained ankle, we’d go to see a doctor. The same applies for mental health. It’s so important to seek help when we need it.
Mental health self-care then, can be anything in addition to a healthy lifestyle that helps to boost our mood. It could be listening to our favourite music, being creative, laughing with friends, watching Netflix with a cup of tea, swimming in the sea, or relaxing in the garden.
This is highly individual, and what works for one person might not work for another. Similarly, self-care may change over time. Whatever the action, the main thing is that we check in with ourselves, to ensure our self-care routine is helping us to feel well.
If in a period of distress or going through a challenging time, support is available. Remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, be that via your workplace Employee Assistance Programme, a mental health coach, or external services