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Slowly but surely, we as a society are removing the unfair stigmatism that surrounds mental health issues and those who suffer from them. According to recent statistics from 2020, one in four people in the UK will experience some form of mental health issue over the course of a year, with one in six suffering from a common mental health problem weekly. So, what are these mental health problems? Some of the main contenders include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder to name but a few on a vast list of varying conditions. Today we want to shine the spotlight on the importance of mental health self-care, it is imperative that the conversation continues on this topic so that we might all live happier, healthier lives for body and mind.
So how can we try to combat these issues? There is no quick fix or answer as mental health requires ongoing maintenance rather than abiding by a rigid set of conditions, and mental health needs, of course, vary from person-to-person. We have addressed a number of areas in which you may wish to apply mental health self-care by embarking on a tailored . We must stress that all serious issues need professional consultation and help.
Now before diving into this one, it is important to bear in mind that ‘a good night’s sleep’ looks different to everyone and the goal is to attain the sleep hours your body and mind needs in order to function well the next day. Too much sleep can actually be a symptom of . Too little sleep can leave you feeling frazzled and anxious. We are advocating for a healthy deep sleep at a reasonable hour for a reasonable duration, leaving you refreshed, up and early, and ready to tackle the day. Sleep issues can lead to and impact a myriad of mental and physical health conditions, achieving restful sleep is dependent on several factors including diet, exercise, stress levels and practicing good sleep hygiene.
If you’re finding you’re spending too much time on your phone in the evenings, it may be time to address this via a digital detox. Blue-light emitted through our phones messes with our natural sleep-inducing hormones and thus make it harder for us to drift off to the land of nod. Have a cut-off point in an evening, where you switch your phone off as well as the TV or videogames, as they are major stimulants. Consider leaving your phone outside of the bedroom completely or farther away from you at least to resist the temptation of checking it ‘just 5 more minutes before bed’. Dedicate the hour before you go to sleep to actively winding-down. Reading and staying hydrated is a great way to help with dropping off. Relaxation techniques such as guided deep breathing, meditation and taking a warm shower or bath may also help.
If going to or staying asleep is an ongoing issue for you, there are dedicated that with the help of qualified experts can help you to combat issues such as insomnia.
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It’s well known that being active can be a tremendous help when combatting mental health issues. Now, we understand that it can be difficult to start, so pick an exercise that suits you! It doesn’t have to be running a marathon or swimming the channel, even walking around the block is a great place to start! Many people have felt the adverse mental health effects of gyms being closed during lockdowns, and we hear you! Whilst we continue to patiently await their reopening, there are lots of ways to remain active that don’t require specialist equipment. Make use of resources such as YouTube to find bodyweight workouts, joining a ZOOM group exercise class or going for a run are just a few of the options available! Daily physical activity releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, these include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, these are your happy chemicals that relax your body and bring about a more positive state of mind. If you want to take things further and have a healthy holiday to look forward to when restrictions lift, why not book a ?
Having a balanced and nutritious diet can has proven positive benefits on mental health too. Avoiding sugary foods that make the blood-sugar levels spike and drop rapidly is a great place to start. Eating a healthy breakfast and a lighter lunch, will set you up for the day and keep your energy at optimum levels. Try to start with foods like porridge, which you can customise to your tastes and releases energy slowly meaning you will have a steady blood-sugar level with clearer thought and feeling energised for longer. Lighter lunches will sate you but not leave you feeling sluggish, thus avoiding the demotivating afternoon slump. Try to keep to regular eating times and don’t leave your evening meal too late as this put your digestive system into overdrive at a time when you want to be winding down. If you’d like to completely readdress your diet and adopt a healthier attitude to food, a future will enable you to make positive changes for both your mental and physical health.
Setting achievable goals and hitting them can truly benefit your state of mind and help with mental health issues. Doing this puts you in control of your expectations, letting you narrow what is important to you with manageable steps to reach it. When it comes to self-improvement, many people set unattainable goals and end up feeling worse when they don’t meet them. For instance, if you want to approve your diet don’t go cold turkey but slowly ween yourself onto a healthier diet over time changing it up a week at a time, breaking down a big task into a group of smaller ones. Set clear goals, share them with your support network and celebrate when you hit them! You will get a similar kick of endorphins like you would after a good workout! However, if you need a bit more assistance or guidance on setting your goals, we recommend a
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There is also a distinct correlation between mindfulness and a positive state of mind. Studies have found that those that actively practise mindfulness have shown increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex – the section of the brain which is generally associated with our positive emotions... so how can you practise mindfulness? Meditation can be broken down into guided and unguided, depending on what suits you best. Guided (Pre-COVID) would often be led in person by a professional at a meditation retreat, but there are apps and YouTube videos specifically designed to offer a guided path to a calmer state in lieu of in-person sessions, these are often led and designed by said professionals. Meditation involves focusing silently on your body regulating your breathing, clearing the mind to be focused and serene. This calming practice can be difficult to master alone initially but with the help of experts on a , it will soon become second nature.
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Practising affirmations also falls under mindfulness and if done correctly with enough frequency, can be very beneficial for some. Telling yourself often, with belief, ‘I have the talent and the ability to do this’ as an example, your brain will begin to believe it, helping remove self-sabotaging thoughts, such as ‘I can’t do this, I’m not good enough’.
Loving your mind is all about taking care of it’s needs in multiple areas. Mental health self-care is an important everyday practice and there is lots of support out there to help you address your needs in the areas that matter most to you.
It’s important to recognise that no amount of ‘self-care’ can address particular mental health issues and that it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. If you or a loved one is struggling, please don’t hesitate to seek professional advice, here are some UK numbers to contact should you need them:
Samaritans: Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Mind: Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Rethink: Helpline: 0300 5000 927