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Our guide to improving your mental health

Healthy Minds

According to the mental health charity, MIND, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. Read on to learn how to manage mental health problems such as stress, loneliness, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and low mood.


Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. This can be as a result of pressure at work, going through the menopause or many other triggers. When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It is your body’s reaction to help you deal with pressure or threats. This is sometimes called a "fight or flight" response. Your stress hormone levels usually return to normal once the pressure or threat has passed.

A small amount of stress can be useful. It can motivate you to act and get tasks completed. It can also make you feel alive and excited. But too much stress can cause negative effects such as a change in your mood, your body and relationship issues.

Symptoms of stress

These can include feelings of constant worry, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, irritability, depression, change in eating habits, muscle tension, diarrhoea and constipation and feelings of nausea or dizziness.

How to reduce stress levels

If you’re stressed due to work, your environment, an issue in your personal life or something else, the first step you need to take is to identify the cause of your stress. If you understand what is causing your stress, making a small change may be quick and easy to do.

You can all take small steps to reduce your stress:

  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Create boundaries and learn how to say no
  • Get more physical activity in such as walking, running, or just getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and nature around you
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Reduce phone use and screen time
  • Reduce your caffeine intake


Loneliness is often described as the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not being met. Sadly, loneliness is affecting more and more people in the UK and this has a huge impact on both our physical and mental health.

Our connection to other people, this may be our family or friends or people within the community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and wellbeing.

There’s no magic cure to combat loneliness, but if you’re struggling and feeling alone, it’s important to work out why you feel this way and then take steps to change your life for the better.

How to feel less alone

Here are some of our tips to help you tackle loneliness, reconnect with yourself and others:

Keep a journal – get your thoughts down to try to understand why you’re feeling this way. What is missing from your relationships and friendships? Are you happy spending time by yourself? Do you feel lonely in a crowded room or when you’re alone?

Reconnect with yourself first – loving yourself and enjoying your own company will make you feel better equipped to love others and open yourself up to feeling stronger connections with others too

Focus on quality not quantity – you could have fifty friends and still feel disconnected from the group. Having friends that enrich your life and understand and accept you will mean it won’t matter if you only have two!

Get into nature – reconnecting with nature can really help your mind to refocus on what is most important to you in life

Take exercise –moving everyday and creating more dopamine ‘the happy chemical’ could help you to reconnect with your body

Stay connected – regularly scheduling in meet ups with friends or family members can help you to feel less lonely – especially if you live alone and this is the cause of your loneliness

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD or often called the ‘winter blues’, usually affects people in the autumn and winter when the days are shorter and darker. SAD refers to experiencing feelings of depression during winter, with symptoms recurring at the same time every year.

Symptoms of SAD

According to Mayo Clinic, women have been found to suffer disproportionately more from symptoms and are more likely to experience seasonal affective disorder:

  • Low mood
  • Feeling less sociable
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Sleeping more
  • Increased appetite and weight gain

It’s normal for everyone to have a higher percentage of bad days during the winter months compared to summer, but if you feel overly depressed or anxious during autumn and winter, there are treatments that your GP can recommend.

How to reduce symptoms of SAD

The cause of SAD is the darker, drearier weather. The best way to combat this is to try to get as much natural light as possible. Getting out on a brisk lunchtime walk, making your work and home environments light and airy, sitting near windows when you’re indoors, getting the right nutrients, managing your stress levels and moving your body (in the daylight if you can) are just some ways to bring light into those darker days.

For further support for your mental health

If you need to talk to someone about your own mental health or that of someone close to you there are services available for you to find help and advice such as NHS Every mind matters, Mind Charity, Samaritans.

You can also speak to a GP - either your own or one of our private GPs. Book a private GP appointment today or contact our Private Patient team via Livechat or on 01580 363158.

Published on 21 November 2022