The past week has been Mental Health Awareness week, and now more than ever this issue is so important. With the circumstances of the last year leading to isolation, loneliness and stress for so many it is no surprise that the number of people struggling with mental health issues is on the rise. There is a lot of ongoing research going into studying the effects of the pandemic on our mental health, however even pre-pandemic the statistics were still very shocking. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem yearly, and 1 in 6 experience a common mental health problem in any week in England. It is worth having a think about those around you. How many people are in your close family? How many in your team at work? How many in your close group of friends? It is highly likely that you know someone who is struggling right now. Or perhaps you are struggling yourself. It is important to acknowledge that there are a variety of mental health issues and intensities and often people will hide how they are feeling from those around them and sometimes even themselves.
There are a variety of ways to check in and be sure you are looking after yourself. It is important that you take time to reflect and rest. Sometimes the to-do list is as long as your arm and the pressure to get things done can be overwhelming, but human beings need downtime. This can be done in a variety of ways. Whether it is a whole weekend away, an hour in the bath listening to your favourite podcast, or even 5 minutes to just breathe in and out. Taking time to just be present and in the moment is crucial for our mental wellbeing.
One thing that can also really affect our mental health is our sleep. When we have issues with sleep this can often become a vicious cycle, you can’t sleep so your mental health is affected, then causing stress and worry, which then leads to not being able to sleep, and then your mental health is impacted even more.
There is no sure-fire way to get better sleep, however there are a few things you can try if you are struggling:
- Try and establish a routine. If you struggle with going to bed at a particular time it still might be worth trying to wake up at the same time every day, this can often help you get to sleep at a better time the next day.
- Relax before sleeping. This may be having a bath or not using your phone and reading instead. There has been lots of research to suggest that staying away from screens before bed can help with sleep. The issue is that the blue light emitted can reduce or slow down the natural production of melatonin which is the chemical that helps us to feel sleepy, therefore we don’t feel sleepy, even though we are tired and need to sleep.
- Make sure you are comfortable. There is nothing worse than a lumpy mattress or a duvet that is too thin to keep you warm. Our ultimate night-time comfort is some of our dreamy pyjama sets (however we may be a little biased). Our pyjamas and loungewear are made of super soft modal which is sustainably sourced from Beechwood and is proven to be more than twice as soft as cotton. This natural fibre breathes with the skin making these the perfect choice to wear to bed.
- Have a pen and paper on your bedside table. Whether it is a sleep diary to record your dreams, or just something to write down the next day’s to-do list it can help to get the worries and stresses out of your head and onto the paper.
- Avoid too much caffeine or booze. Alcohol is a depressant and so it is always a good idea to reduce the consumption of it but even more so when experiencing mental health issues. The problem with alcohol and sleep is that although it can make you fall asleep quicker, the quality of the sleep can often be worse. Obviously, caffeine is known to keep you up at night, but it can also worsen the symptoms of anxiety generally as well.
If you are experiencing ongoing or severe sleep issues, it may be best to visit your GP as they can offer expert advice and treatment options.
Looking after yourself physically is a great way to help with your mental health. As well as sleep and rest, it is a good idea to eat healthy and get active. Now this doesn’t mean you need to start training for a marathon (although if that floats your boat then be our guest), but there are a few different ways to exercise that don’t need to be completely draining. Here are some of our favourite ways to get moving (even when we are lacking the motivation):
- Even if it’s just to the little coffee shop across the road, walking is a great way to move your body without even noticing, and you can treat yourself to something nice along the way. It’s a win-win.
- Now do not worry about flexibility or getting into funny poses, often yoga is about focus and breathing. Doing it from home in your comfy clothes is a great way to get started without the fear of judgement from the yogi pros. There are so many YouTube videos that can help you out, but our top channel for beginners is Yoga with Adriene.
- Try a new class. Now that indoor classes are opening back up again, it’s a great time to try something different. A lot of people are going to be in the same boat, so try not to worry too much about what everyone is thinking about, because we can guarantee no one is thinking about what you are doing, they are too concerned about what they are doing. Depending on where you live there are some really fun exercise classes around, from boxing, dance workouts, bounce (trampoline) and even bungee fitness. If you are not ready to brave the gym, then there are so many cool workouts online as well.
- Do something that you know you love. Whether it’s a sport you played in school or a hobby you just stopped doing, it may be the time to take it up again. There are a lot of adult teams for netball, hockey, football etc and maybe you could even get a friend involved. Alternatively, if you are not the sporty type, it may be worth trying a more crafty hobby such as, painting, macramé or pottery. Getting creative is a great way to occupy your mind and can give you an immense sense of achievement.
The most important thing, and often the hardest thing to do if you are struggling is to reach out. Sometimes it may just be an over the phone catch up with a friend or it may be seeking professional advice, talking about how you feel to someone can be a big step to helping you start to feel better. When we are struggling, we can often tell ourselves that we don’t want to burden others with our troubles or we don’t think our friends or family will have the time, but often that is not the case at all. Try to think of it if the roles were reversed, if your friend was experiencing difficulties, would you want to make time for them? Of course you would, and often you would feel happy to help them share the weight of their worries. That is how those around you will also feel when you confide in them.
It is important to remember though that if you are not sure that you can keep yourself and others safe, you should seek professional help.
For advice on urgent help, please click here. This will take you to the mind website help page and has a lot of information on what to do in a mental health crisis.
If you know someone who has a mental health issue or that may be struggling and you would like to help, please click here. This will take you to the ‘Helping someone else’ page on the mind website.