With Christmas now out of the way, it’s time to look forward to the future. But for some, putting one foot in front of the other can be difficult which is why experts have shared their top tips for looking after mental health.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The start of the year is a good time to set goals; by taking steps to look after our mental health, we can prevent problems from building up into serious issues.”
The New Year is often associated with change, and change can be perceived negatively, Rowland said, which can release a person’s‘fight or flight’ response. The resulting stress hormones can cause an overwhelming feeling of not being able to cope.
“That is why we want people to know the practical ways they can manage change in 2019 as best they can,” he said. “By understanding how to look after our own mental health, we are in a better position to look out for others’ mental health too.” So how can you manage your mental health a little better this year?
1. Show Compassion
“Seeking to understand and accepting that it’s okay for others to have different views is an important first step in managing mental health problems,” Rowland said.
“Everyone has the right to respectfully express what they think and feel and to be respected in return. Sometimes it’s better to resist the urge to immediately respond in a state of agitation and wait a couple of hours to see whether we still think it is worth responding to.”
2. Spring Clean Your Apps
Turning off app notifications is a practical way of limiting the demands they place on our attention, according to Rowland. “News is now available 24 hours a day and so much exposure to uncertainty can be stressful. Though it’s important to stay informed, be aware of how it is making you feel and limit yourself to how many times you check you phone.”
Try analysing the people or accounts you are following on social media – are they causing you stress or negativity? Muting those accounts can help manage those stresses.
3. Stay Connected
Keeping in touch with people is really important. If you can’t catch up face-to-face, why not give them a call, text them or chat online?
“If you are part of a community, club or if you are religious or spiritual – these networks can give you a way of staying connected to something bigger and provide consolation in times of difficulty,” said Rowland.
4. Look Out For Others
It’s also important to keep an eye out for friends and family members who may be struggling. “Unpredictability and volatility are becoming the new normal. Now as much as at any time, we need to find ways of supporting each other and building our collective resilience,” Rowland said.
“Looking after someone else is good for your mental health as well.”
5. Make Time For Something You Enjoy
Find something that brings you joy and make time for it – whether that’s swimming, yoga or pottery. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem. All in all, it’s a good thing.
6. Be Proactive
Many of the things that support good physical health support good mental health too. Often the simplest things we can do, like exercise or spending time in nature, can give our mental health a big boost.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Get Help
It is better to act early if you feel rising levels of stress. There are a range of online resources and apps available plus effective psychological therapies. Go to your GP and get a referral to the most appropriate mental health provider for your condition.
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