Mental Health Help and Coping Mechanisms
In recent years, the awareness of mental health has increased on a global scale. By only looking back a handful of years, our attitude towards our wellbeing has changed substantially. The phrase “You never know what someone is going through” has never been more prominent.
Anyone can suffer with mental health issues, and the majority of us will struggle mentally at some point or another in our lives. But if you’re struggling on a regular basis, there are lots of small ways to take better care your mental health and general wellbeing – our experts reveal all.
Did you know that one in four adults and one in ten children experience mental illness?
Despite the common idea that people in the present day live an easier, lazier lifestyle, modern life is an incredibly stressful time to be in. It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives, considering the strain of balancing work, family, and social commitments on a daily basis, as well as the the ongoing uncertainty around the world.
Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone. No one is immune to mental health problems, no matter how perfect things may seem at a glance, it’s part of what makes us human. But since the topic has come to light in recent years, we now know increasingly more methods to treat what may have seemed untreatable a decade ago.
Ways to improve mental health
No one said maintaining good mental health would be easy, in fact, it’s probably one of the toughest internal struggles you’ll have to deal with. Taking small steps is a cliché yet vital technique to making good progress. By making simple lifestyle changes, you can boost your mood and improve your overall wellbeing. Here are some reliable ways to improve your mental health:
1. Spend more time in nature
One bad habit most of us are guilty of is remaining cooped up inside more than what’s good for us. Yes, there is the comfort of being in a familiar environment, but the positive correlation between spending time in nature and improved mental health are widely known.
Spending time in the great outdoors can boost your mood, reduce stress, and has the added bonus of improving your physical health. It also helps you remain grounded and improve your self-esteem.
A study by the University of Exeter found that spending at least two hours in nature a week can significantly boost your psychological wellbeing and health. What's more, even spending just five minutes surrounded by greenery is enough to give you a motivating boost for the day, scientists found.
So, making sure you put some time aside to get outside is an essential to moving forward to a healthier mind. Whether it be a quick walk on your lunch break, a hike at the weekend, or simply enjoying the fresh morning breeze with a good cuppa. It’s simple, easy, and enjoyable!
2. Exercise regularly
One we’ve all heard before - but for good reason.
We all know how important staying active is on our physical wellbeing, but it is also vital for our mental wellbeing too. Our physical and mental health are linked more than many realise, so therefore exercise and mental health are intrinsically connected.
Regular exercise can decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, PTSD, and more. Whilst increasing a positive mind set, higher self-esteem, aids sleep and even improves memory and energy levels.
It is recommended that adults aim for between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week – this can tie in with our first point – anything from a brisk walk to a bike ride, a swim, or an exercise class (see point 6). Anything to get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
Getting into the correct mind frame to insert regular exercise into your lifestyle is easier said than done, especially with the heavy burden of struggling with mental health looming over you. So, start small, and schedule in time to exercise when your energy is highest, meet up with a friend and make it something that you enjoy so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Doing something small is better than doing nothing at all.
3. Find joy in the little things
When you’re feeling low, it can feel like the whole world is against you, and you can easily convince yourself the worst thoughts are real when they’re not.
A key mental health tip is to turn your attention to the little things that make you happy right now rather than worrying about the bigger picture. Whether it be the book that you’re currently reading, a video game you can escape to, or meeting up with a friend to talk absolute nonsense.
Living in the moment is incredibly important, yet incredibly difficult when you have a million different things to worry about, whether they be past, present or future worries. That’s why finding joy in the little things can be really useful. You may find it tricky at first, because as you try to distract yourself from worries and intrusive thought, you may find that you’re thinking about them more than ever. However, overtime you’ll find it easier to push them to one side whilst you focus on the positives.
Paying attention to the present moment helps us to become more mindful of our thoughts and feelings so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we are able to acknowledge, process, and manage them.
4. Start the day well
Another bit of mental health advice is to try a morning mantra. This can be something that makes you feel optimistic about the day to come, or a few words that allow you to pause for a moment to reflect. For example, ‘today I will ignore any negative moments and focus only on the positive’, or, ‘I am enough’.
As cheesy as it may seem, taking a moment to say positive things to yourself is a proven method to change your mind set about yourself. Affirmations and self-empowerment is the best way to counteract the negatives thoughts that you may believe to be true.
You may not be aware of this, but saying anything negative about yourself, no matter how light-hearted it may be, is subconsciously taken very seriously in your brain, and this constant negativity begins to change your mind set, you begin to convince yourself that small remarks such as “I’m such a fool” are truer and truer.
So, it stands to reason that repeatedly saying positives about yourself will alter your mind set to fight the negatives, and start thinking more positively about yourself!
TIP: Writing a journal can also help with this - every morning, scribble down some notes about what you’re grateful for, your emotions or an achievable ‘to do’ list to give your day a positive structure. Little things like washing your hair, going for a walk, doing some yoga or reading another chapter of your book can make the world of difference to your day.
By simply recognising the positives in your life and focusing on what you can do, you are practicing gratitude and training your brain to focus more on the good, which can be hugely beneficial when it comes to your outlook on daily life.
5. Get enough sleep
Another one that we’ve all heard before, but very few listen to this advice.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to your mental health and wellbeing! Lack of sleep can slow down your thinking, reduce energy levels, and lower your mood. None of which anyone wants on a Monday morning. But also, insufficient sleep can impair your memory, concentration, decision-making, and even your learning.
Adults should aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep a night – but the quality of sleep matters, too. A broken, restless night’s sleep means your body can’t do all the clever restorative housekeeping it needs to do, like consolidating memories, clearing toxins, and repairing cells.
So it’s important to eliminate anything that can disrupt sleep:
- Avoid using screens an hour before bed
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
- Make sure your room is dark
- Create a calm and tranquil atmosphere
6. Connect with others
Humans are social creatures, even the socially anxious amongst us need to socialise in order for our brains to functions properly. We crave a connection with others, and this is especially important if you are going through a rough patch with your mental health.
Joining a club sounds scary, especially as an adult, and meeting new people can be intimidating, particularly for those with difficulties in social environments. However, finding ‘your people’ is one of the best feelings out there. No matter who you are or what you’re into, finding people with common interests is just what you need to realise that you’re not alone in the universe.
And a club doesn’t have to be an in-person gathering, it could be a fan club online, or even just signing up to a newsletter that is of interest to you!
If meeting people in person is too scary then social media is a great way to get to know people all over the world who are just like you. However, as social media is often used a highlight reel of people’s lives, it can be easy assume that everyone has a better life than you and fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. If you unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and focus on the ones that spark joy and make you feel less alone, it can be a positive tool.
We recommend author Matt Haig, whose uplifting and inspirational posts about mental health are a great comfort to many. We also love artist Charlie Mackesy’s beautiful drawings celebrating the NHS, as well as those from his book, ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’.
Mental health hotlines
If you are really struggling with your mental health, don’t suffer in silence. Know that you’re not alone and that there are lots of mental health hotlines you can ring 24/7 for help, advice, and support, or just to talk to someone.
- Samaritans - 116 123 (free from any phone)
- Mind – 0300 123 3393
- Anxiety UK - 08444 775 774
- Nightline – for students
- BEAT Eating Disorders - 0808 801 0677 (adult helpline), 0808 801 0711 (youth line)
We hope these mental health tips and coping mechanisms can help you to manage how you’re feeling and support a more positive outlook. However, if you are worried about your mental health and don’t feel able to cope on your own, please speak to a medical professional immediately.