Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (10–16 May 2021) and with a global focus on health like never before, we’ve teamed up with the University’s Wellbeing team to bring you some of their top tips to support your emotional wellbeing and mental health.
Mental health refers to your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Your mental health can impact your thoughts, feelings, relationships, physical health and ability to enjoy life and cope with stress. Your wellbeing impacts how you feel day to day, how you make decisions and how you respond to situations.
Most people experience mental health issues at some point in their lives. Mental health problems can affect anyone at any age and from any background, and are common in times of stress or change.
Here are some tips on managing your mental health and wellbeing:
Create time and space for your mental wellbeing
We all lead busy, fast-paced lives and have lots of commitments – so it's easy to let our mental health slip down our priorities.
Schedule time each day to focus on your mental wellbeing. This could mean 10 minutes of stretching before breakfast, some time reading in the afternoon, a midday walk, or something else. Consider keeping a journal and writing down what you've done each day to look after yourself so you can see what works well for you.
Activities you can do to support your wellbeing
- Take a break – relax at home, visit the park, walk along the beach. Take some time for yourself when it works best for you.
- Do an activity you enjoy – listen to music, read a book, bake, get creative...
- Do some exercise – go for a run, take up a sport or try swimming
- Speak to a friend or family member – discuss a new TV show you've found, an upcoming event or something funny you've read
- Meditate – sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you empty your mind or think through a problem
- Keep a journal or diary – track your mood, activities and thoughts by writing them down
- Spend some time alone – take some time to recharge and take a break from other people
Look after your physical health
Your physical health affects your mental wellbeing. Learning to take care of your body as well as your mind is important.
Staying active and exercising regularly helps boost your mental health, mood and concentration.
Tips for looking after your physical health
- Healthy eating – enjoy fruit snacks and home cooked meals in place of takeaways and sugary snacks. Plan to invite friends over and cook a meal together when it’s appropriate to do so. Choosing the right foods will help boost your mood and energy, and even help you sleep. Start the day with a good breakfast and eat regularly throughout the day.
- Drink plenty of water – water will help refresh and hydrate you throughout the day while drinks high in caffeine or alcohol won't. Monitor your drinks on a night out to make sure you stick to your limits, and drink water before you go to sleep.
- Sleep well – try to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. This could mean going to bed earlier, turning off your phone overnight or developing an evening routine. Try not to eat right before you go to bed as this could wake your body up rather than relaxing.
- Exercise and stay active – exercise is good for short term stress relief as well as your long term wellbeing. Even going for a short, brisk walk can make a difference. Do whatever you’re able to do physically.
- Get outside – get some fresh air, reconnect with nature and take a break from your home.
Connect with others
Speaking to friends and family you trust – and sharing with them how you feel – can help reduce anxiety and stress.
You might feel pressure to take care of your mental health alone, but you don't have to. Support from friends and family can help. Make time to spend with friends, family and loved ones – this could be a visit or trip away, a text message or a phone call.
If you're struggling, reach out to someone you're close to and speak to them about how you're feeling. Tell them about what helps when you're having a bad day, if you can.
Consider mapping out your support network so you always know who you can reach out to. Your map can include close friends, family and support services. Build relationships by connecting with others.
Looking out for others
Positive relationships can help people through hard times and support their mental health, but you might not know how to help at first. If you think someone you know is struggling, create an environment where they can speak to you about it.
Maybe they've already reached out to you about some issues, or maybe you want to open the channel and let them know you're here for them. Invite them to talk to you one-on-one, somewhere you won't be interrupted. Give yourselves plenty of time to talk and let the other person lead. They'll tell you as much or as little as they want to.
You might feel like you need to support someone alone but this isn't the case. Medical professionals, wellbeing services and organisations like Mind are trained to help people who are experiencing mental health problems. They can provide targeted support in ways that are often difficult for you as an individual. Encourage your friend to reach out to professional services if they need it. You can offer to go with them to initial appointments to help them get started.
Remember to take care of yourself too while you're looking out for your friends and family. Learn to recognise your limits – you won't be able to help if you're burnt out to begin with.