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Healthy Mind

Having good mental health helps us to relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. Looking after our mental health is not something reserved for when we are struggling, or feeling low, anxious or stressed. It's something we should think about all the time and really invest in, just like physical health.

There are simple things we can all do to look after our mental health and wellbeing.

Reframe unhelpful thoughts - The way we think, feel and behave are linked. Sometimes we develop patterns of thoughts or behaviours that are unhelpful, so recognising them and taking steps to think about things differently can improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Be in the present - If we take time to be aware of ourselves and be in the present moment, noticing our own thoughts and feelings, and the world around us, we can gain a better perspective. Sometimes this is known as being more mindful.

Get good sleep - Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it's important to get enough.

Connect with others - Spending quality time with friends or family, talking to someone about how we are feeling, or finding ways to help other people can all help stop you from feeling lonely, help give you a sense of purpose and improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Live a healthy life - Being active, enjoying the outdoors and having a healthy, balanced diet all impact on how we feel and our self-esteem. Also, binning bad habits like smoking, and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can have a positive effect on our mood.

Do something for yourself - From enjoying your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax, it's important to do things that make you happy.

ANXIETY

Anxiety is something everyone experiences at times and feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situations. But sometimes feelings of anxiety can be constant, overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation and this can affect your daily life. To cope with anxiety, try the following:

  • Understand your anxiety - Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times to help identify what's affecting you and what you need to act on.
  • Challenge your anxious thoughts - Tackling unhelpful thoughts is one of the best things we can do to feel less anxious.
  • Make time for worries - If your worry feels overwhelming and takes over your day, setting specific "worry time" to go through your concerns each day can help you to focus on other things.
  • Shift your focus - Some people find relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises helpful. They reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment.
  • Face the things you want to avoid - It's easy to avoid situations, or rely on habits that make us feel safer, but these can keep anxiety going. By slowly building up time in worrying situations, anxious feelings will gradually reduce, and you will see these situations are OK.
  • Get to grips with the problem - When you're feeling stressed or anxious, it can help to use a problem-solving technique to identify some solutions. This can make the challenges you're facing feel more manageable.

SLEEP

Sleep problems usually sort themselves out within about a month but longer stretches of bad sleep can start to affect our lives. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – it's now clear that a solid night's sleep is essential for a long and healthy life.

To get to sleep and sleep better try the following:

  • Keep regular sleep hours - Going to bed when you feel tired and getting up at roughly the same time helps teach your body to sleep better. Try to avoid napping where possible.
  • Confront sleeplessness - If you are lying awake unable to sleep, do not force it. Get up and do something relaxing for a bit and return to bed when you feel sleepier.
  • Create a restful environment - Dark, quiet and cool environments generally make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Write down your worries - If you often lie awake worrying about tomorrow, set aside time before bed to make a list for the next day. This can help put your mind at rest.
  • Move more, sleep better - Being active can help you sleep better. A walk or yoga can help but avoid vigorous activity like running near bedtime if it affects your sleep.
  • Put down the pick-me-ups - Caffeine and alcohol can stop you falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Try to cut down on alcohol and avoid caffeine close to bedtime.

STRESS

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common and can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable and affect our self-esteem. Top tips to deal with stress include:

  • Split up big tasks - If a task seems overwhelming and difficult to start, try breaking it down into easier chunks, and give yourself credit for completing them.
  • Allow yourself some positivity - Take time to think about the good things in your life. Each day consider what went well and try to list 3 things you're thankful for.
  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts - The way we think affects the way we feel.
  • Be more active - Being active can help you to burn off nervous energy. It will not make your stress disappear, but it can make it less intense and help you sleep.
  • Talk to someone - Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling.
  • Plan ahead - Planning out any upcoming stressful days or events – a to-do list, the journey you need to do, things you need to take – can really help.
  • Try not to use alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or other things that can be unhealthy to relieve your stress – these things can contribute to poor mental health.

LOW MOOD

Everyone feels low or down from time to time. It does not always mean something is wrong. Feeling low is common after distressing events or major life changes, but sometimes periods of low mood happen for no obvious reason. You may feel tired, lacking confidence, frustrated, angry and worried. But a low mood will often pass after a couple of days or weeks – and there are some easy things you can try and small changes you can make that will usually help improve your mood.

  • Increase helpful activity - Low mood can stop us doing important or enjoyable activities. Try listing these things and doing some each day. Start with easier ones and, as you progress, your mood should improve.
  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts - The way we think affects the way we feel.
  • Talk to someone - Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling.
  • Get better sleep - Low moods can make us feel tired. Tiredness can also have a bad impact on our mood.
  • Be kind to yourself - Try to break big tasks down into manageable chunks, and do not try to do everything at once. Give yourself credit when you complete each bit
  • Healthy living - Being active, cutting back on alcohol and making sure you have a healthy balanced diet can help boost your mood.

If you're still feeling down or no longer find pleasure from things for most of each day and this lasts for several weeks, you may be experiencing depression. It's important to seek help from a GP if you think you may be depressed. Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression but it's best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery.

Page last updated – May 2021

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