1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year at some point in our lives. That could be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or it could be you.
More than ever we need to look after our mental health and the mental health of people around us. For some people their mental health has deteriorated during the last 18 months.
In the run up to World Mental Health Day have you thought about one thing to improve your mental health or the mental health of people around you?
Prioritise looking after yourself and create a new daily routine. Here are eight ways to help keep calm and carry on:
1. Keep a journal
Writing about feelings can help process them, we often have events that continually play in our minds, writing them down is a way of clearing our mind.
2. Get creative
Whether it’s making pottery or playing music, there is a wealth of evidence that creative activity is good for you. Creative activities encourage a sense of purpose, which helps build self-esteem.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions as they happen, so you recognise them and accept them rather than trying to control or suppress them. Becoming more aware of the present moment can help you enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. There are many free apps to get you started. For more information visit the NHS Mindfulness website.
4. Sleep enough
A bad night’s sleep can leave you exhausted – which often leads to snappiness and feeling less able to cope with stress. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that it all goes back to the amygdala – the part of the brain that deals in heightened emotion. If the brain isn’t well rested it loses control of the amygdala, which makes you more emotional. Study leader Professor Talma Hendler said “We lose our neutrality. It’s as if suddenly everything is important.”
5. Get into nature
In 1982, the Japanese government introduced ‘Shinrikyo’ (forest bathing) to improve health and wellbeing. Shinrikyo is about the pleasure of being among tress. Studies by Chiba University reported that 30 minutes in a forest environment can lower blood pressure, the pulse rate, and concentrations of cortisol – which is body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation and fear.
6. Take exercise
It can be easy to overlook how important exercise is to mental health. Exercise does not just produce dopamine, the “happy chemical”, it also boosts the brain’s ability to cope with stress by creating new neurons in the ventral region of the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to the regulation of anxiety.
7. Learn how to breathe
Taking a deep breath is an age-old technique to induce calm. Researchers at Stanford University found that our brains contain what they have termed a “pacemaker for breathing”. This links respiratory neurons with those that control emotions – slower breathing is linked to feelings of clam, while faster breathing induces feelings of tension.
Breathing techniques become most beneficial if you practice them regularly. For more information visit the NHS' Ways to relieve stress.
8. Stay connected
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Stay in touch with other people regularly on social media, email or on the phone as they are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you.
For some men, the idea of reaching out can be daunting. If you think a friend, husband or dad is struggling with depression or other mental health disorder, there are ways to help. Read our article on how men can improve their mental health.
And finally, look forward to the high points in your working week and focus on these. If there is a problem at work then take action to try to resolve it. We spend a large percentage of our time at work so it’s important to be happy.
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 or speak to a GP, this can be your own or using our Private GP Service.
Published on 09 October 2021