2020 has been testing at the best of times and as winter rolls in and the restrictions continue, you may feel as though your mental health isn’t feeling too great.
It’s time for some real talk: struggling with mental health is hard and finding ways to cope with it can sometimes feel overwhelming. This is where self-care comes in but this time, we mean real self-care. Self-care has become a term that can mean anything from having a bath with lots of candles to buying the latest skincare must-have to add to your ever-growing routine. When it comes down to it, minor acts of ‘self-care’ like this will only ever mask what’s going on deep down for a short amount of time and proper self-care is actually what you need to invest your time in.
We think it’s time to start talking about some ways of really looking after your mental health and focusing on true self-care. It’s important to remember that this isn’t an extensive list, what works for some people won’t work for others, and it’s always important to do whatever self-care feels right for you.
Don’t forget to catch up with your friends even if you can’t see them
You’ve probably heard it before but we’ll say it again – it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling with those that are closest to you. With the risk of sounding like a cliché, there really is some truth in saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking about things doesn’t just help to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, it can help to make you feel less alone, have some perspective on your feelings, and ultimately gain support if your nearest and dearest are aware of what’s going on. Talking about your mental health isn’t a sign of weakness, it shows that you’re willing to work towards improving it. And if your own mental health isn’t an issue, remember to check in on your friends that you think might need a helping hand.
Getting outside in the fresh air and surrounding yourself with nature has been proven as having a positive impact on some mental health conditions. Going for a walk in green space, spending time with animals, or even just sitting outside can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. It can be particularly effective for people who suffer with SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that can affect people at certain times of the year, especially during winter.
Tidy space, tidy mind
If, like me, this is something that your Mum recited to your over and over again to make you tidy your teenage bedroom, you might not be too keen in listening, but there is some sense in the saying. Looking at it objectively, making your surroundings the best that they can be for you personally can help to improve your overall mood. So, whilst cleaning might not be your favourite task, it will certainly pass the time and you’ll feel so much better for it. Or take it as an opportunity to sort out the wardrobe you’ve been meaning to tackle for a while – then you can help others too by donating to local charities.
When you’re feeling rubbish, exercise can be pretty far down on the list of things that you feel like doing but hear us out. Exercising is one of the main methods of self-help that medical professionals recommend to those of us who suffer with mental health issues. Moderate, regular exercise releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins, which in turn help to boost our moods and help us to have a greater sense of wellbeing. No one is saying that you have to go on a run every single day, but regular exercise in different forms can really help. Going for a walk or jog outdoors is a good option or if the typical English weather isn’t great, why no try out some yoga at home? Whatever you choose, make sure that you enjoy it so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Have a routine
Establishing a routine can help you to get through those days where you feel like you really can’t be bothered. Small, mundane acts such as getting showered and dressed (if you’re WFH why not try swapping out the sweatpants for the day?), and making sure that you’re having your breakfast can help add a degree of normality to the day. But if you’re feeling like you’re having an off day, don’t force it – there’s always tomorrow.
Listen to your body
Although some mental health issues can make doing even the smallest tasks feel like a massive mountain to climb, there is the other end of the spectrum too – burnout. Whatever mental health issues you’re experiencing, it’s important to listen to your body. If you’re tired, take some time out. If you don’t feel like socialising, don’t go out for those after-work drinks. Within reason, taking some time to yourself can be just as important as speaking with others. Sometimes there’s no better feeling than climbing under your duvet, watching Netflix, and getting an early in night.
Go to your GP
As useful as some of these steps may be for some people, for others these things alone may not be enough. Speaking to your GP about your mental health is a step in the right direction towards improving it. It’s not a sign of defeat, it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed off, and in the long run it can really help.
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/
Mental Health Matters – https://www.mhm.org.uk/
Nightline – https://www.nightline.ac.uk/