Mental Health Awareness Week: 5 ways to give your mental wellbeing some TLC
By Abi Jackson. Published 2020-05-18
Feeling a little run-down mentally? Abi Jackson shares 5 tips for under-the-weather minds.
What do you do when you’re physically run down? Not full-blown ill, but definitely a bit under the weather and, if you’re not careful, heading that way. You might make sure you’re getting enough sleep and nourishment, maybe have a bath and say no to those after-work drinks (well, you have a date with the sofa and a steaming bowl of chicken soup). You know; just giving yourself a bit of TLC.
We should take the same approach with our mental health – because that’s as much a part of our overall wellbeing as keeping things ticking over physically.
But how do you give your mental health a bit of TLC? Well, the basics are the same – decent sleep, nourishing meals, fresh air and exercise and good company. Those things are essential for your emotional wellbeing too, and it’s staggering how quickly you can feel the effects when any of these things are off balance.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, here are 5 other things you can do when you’re feeling mentally under the weather…
Watch a comedy
When things are feeling pretty low and hopeless, it can be hard to imagine that something as inane as a funny film or sitcom is going to make a difference. But there have actually been loads of studies into the effects of laughter – it’s been found to reduce physical pain, increase blood flow to the heart, reduce feelings of depression, stress and anxiety and relax the whole body, due to the activity it sparks in the brain. So give it a go (I recommend Miranda, and old favourites like Friends).
Drop a ball
For lots of people, stress and being overwhelmed are a key cause of feeling mentally run-down. There’s just so much to get done and so much pressure to be constantly ‘on’ and available and achieving and doing and buying and saving and progressing – and now there’s an overdue bill, you’re worried about a family member’s health (or your own) and you’re behind at work and ARRGHHHHHH!
Just stop. Slow right down. And breathe. It really is OK to drop a ball, so let’s take a moment to do that. What on that list really isn’t worth the palpitations it’s causing right now, and what steps do you need to take to safely offload it? Dropping a ball is not failure; sometimes it’s the best and most sensible solution all round. You can always pick it back up later (unless, by then, you realise you’re actually a lot happier and healthier with a more manageable load).
Spend time with animals
If you have pets, this one’s a little easier. There’s something instantly soothing about being in the company of animals (that’s why ‘pet therapy’ and ‘animal therapy’ is a real thing – research has proved that pets can reduce stress, and we’ve all read those incredible stories of how dogs and horses have been transformative for people living with conditions like PTSD, dementia and autism). They’re very good listeners, too. Your garden can be a real haven for birds, butterflies and other insects, all of which can help.
Email yourself all your thoughts
Huge strides are taking place right now to tackle mental health stigma, and make it easier for people to talk about and access appropriate support. But it can still be so hard to know where to turn and to find the words – and sometimes you might not feel able, or willing, or ready, to talk about it. There is still something massively cathartic about off-loading however, even if those words aren’t going to be heard or seen by anybody else.
The act of expressing your feelings is a release, physically and mentally, so let it all out in an email. It can sit in your drafts folder forever, if you want, or you can refer back to it later and use it to help decide which bits you might feel comfortable talking to somebody else about.
Make a virtual tea date
When it comes to socialising and mental health, there are no ‘rules’. On the one hand, meaningful social interaction – so just getting on-line and connecting with friends and family – is vital for health and happiness, but on the other hand, sometimes it’s downtime and a bit of space and quiet that you really need. That said, avoiding social interaction can be a sign of depression or that you’re struggling to cope, and a good natter with a trusted friend might just work wonders. No, friends aren’t trained counsellors and neither will they be able to ‘fix’ all your problems – but that’s really not the intention. This is just about a little bit of feel-good factor and reassurance and a reminder you’re not alone.