Mental Health Awareness Week: how to look after your mental wellbeing
Monday the 13th of May saw the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.
We often neglect our mental health and don't hold it to the same importance as physical health because we don't always tend to see mental health problems. However, this week is perfect for reminding you to look out for your own mental health as well as those around you.
Here are a few ways you can help yourself and others:
Take some time to yourself
This week is the perfect time to check in on your own mental health and look after yourself. Self-care is not all about having a bath and putting on a face mask, but it is a good start. Make sure to take care of your body as this helps improve your mood. You can also distance yourself from stressful situations with acts of mindfulness such as yoga, meditation or adult colouring. Write your feelings down and stay off your phone for a few hours. However, as I said, these aren't the only ways to care about yourself. Taking time to do all the little tasks you've been avoiding such as answering emails or replying to texts will help you to feel less stressed. Also, try to spend less money if that's something you struggle with; make more health-conscious choices when you eat, drink more water and take your vitamins.
Research into a mental health issue that a loved one has
If someone around you is suffering mentally, they may feel isolated and alone. It can be hard if the people around you don't understand how you're feeling or why you're acting a certain way. Mental illnesses do not define you or those around you. Research into loved one's mental health problems and see if there is anything you can do to help them and gain a better understanding of what they're going through. This can help your relationship as you learn how to help and you can be there for them in a more educated way if they come to you for support or if you need to recognise any symptoms.
Support your friends
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'I dreaded the thought of group therapy but the experience of hearing others talk about their problems really resonated with me. I learned through giving them advice how to be compassionate to myself and treat myself like a friend, and as the self-compassion increased, so did my weight. 'I challenged many thoughts with the support of my team and finally feel like I can be free from the hostility that lived in me for so long. I had a fantastic counsellor who refused to give up on me, and made me realise that life without this illness and with self-compassion can be so fun and enjoyable.' Nat was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 17. In eating disorders awareness week she blogs about how group therapy helped turn her life around. #mentalhealth #eatingdisorders #anorexianervosa #eatingdisordersawarnessweek #EDAW19 #grouptherapy #EDAW
There are plenty of other ways to support your friends and family going through these difficult times too. Offer to go with them to any appointments they have and encourage them to seek help. You could also offer to make them food or just offer them your company and try to make them feel happier to take the focus off what is going on inside their head. You can also direct them to online resources such as the Samaritans, Mind and the NHS Moodzone.
Recognise male mental health is important too
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Men are often overlooked when it comes to mental health issues and there is often more pressure on them to appear hyper-masculine and keep their emotions hidden. This is toxic and must change; in the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own lives compared to women, often between the ages of 45-49, although we must not ignore men of all ages. Make sure the men in your life know that they can talk to you and that they don't have to act strong, as there is also strength in showing your emotions and asking for help when you need it.
You can practice these things any day of the week, any week of the month and any month of the year. We don't have to wait for a Mental Health Awareness week to ask for help, but it's great to see a start on de-stigmatising these health issues.