It’s natural to have ups and downs in life. We have a great day and we feel great! We have a less than great day and it leaves us feeling, well, less than great! These are more often than not typical reactions and emotions linked to what is going on day to day in our lives. Good things happen making us feel good and bad things happen causing us to feel sad, angry or low. Life throws all sorts of experiences at us and having such a colourful range of experiences helps us appreciate the good and find the strength to get through the bad.
However, wellbeing and mental health is slightly different to reacting to day to day life in that there isn’t necessarily a direct link. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on anything that is particularly wrong, you just don’t feel good. It might not matter what has happened in your day or how things are going in life-you still find yourself feeling low, anxious or sometimes numb. For some of us, at our lowest point we can even feel that life isn’t worth living. That can be a really scary place to be.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this? You’ve been at a party or you’ve done well at an exam, got a new job, you’re on holiday or you’ve spent a fun day with friends or family….and still you come away feeling awful. Not only do you feel awful but it can make it feel worse that you ‘should’ have had a great time, only you didn’t.
Our mental health can take a tumble for many reasons. Sometimes events can be a trigger, for example loosing a loved one or having a tough time at work or school. Sometimes it’s more physical and our body could be reacting to a change in sleep, nutrition or illness. And sometimes we can’t put our finger on one thing that has caused us to feel bad. You don’t need a reason to be struggling with your mental health, anyone of us can struggle at any time.
There are some things we can do to help us build our mental strength and to keep ourselves as healthy as possible both in body and mind. Some of these can help us keep feeling healthy and others can help us to cope when we are not in a good place. Here are a few of our favourite ideas for self-care and looking after our wellbeing.
Some of these might not be new to you and you might have heard of them before however it can be quite a different thing knowing how to take care of yourself to actually actioning it! So ask yourself if you’ve considered all of these and whether there is something from this list you could do right now to support yourself.
Look at what you’re putting into your body!
It might sound simple but what we eat, drink and even inhale can have a huge impact on our bodies and minds. The right nutrition can make a huge difference to how your mind is feeling. Try to give yourself a balanced diet eating fruit and vegetables and drinking lots of water! It’ s easy to turn to alcohol or junk food when we are feeling low but it you can try and limit these you should see a difference.
Make a plan
Write an action plan that you can follow when you’re not feeling great. Writing a letter to yourself can be really helpful. Treat yourself kindly, give yourself some words of encouragement, remind yourself of times when you have felt better and talk yourself through some things that you know can help. If you know you find it hard to get through the day when things are tough make yourself a schedule for ‘bad days’ even if it just dictates the different tv shows you should watch, films to put on or a predefined playlist.
It can be the last thing you feel like doing but getting yourself up and about is one of the best things you can do if you’re struggling. Have you had some fresh air today? Been outside? Had some natural sunlight? All of these things can help your mood. You don’t need to be doing high level exercise to feel these benefits, a short walk or just spending some time sitting on a park bench and having a change of scenery might help reset your mind a little.
When you are struggling with your mental health it’s easy for your mind to run away with itself and to fill your head with anxiety, unhelpful thinking and general busyness that can get overwhelming. Meditating or taking a few mindful moments is a great way of focusing on the hear and now and helping your mind to gradually slow down. Even if you just take a few moments to notice your body, the environment around you and to notice your thought patterns it can be a helpful way of breaking some of the unhelpful thinking.
Talk to someone.
When struggling with your mental health it is very tempting to hide away and isolate. We often cut ourselves off from the world and find it easier to look inwards rather than connect. But talking to people whether online or offline can help, if only to help you see that you’re not alone. When we feel low it’s easy to think that everyone else is having an amazing time and compare ourselves to unrealistic ideals. This simply isn’t true however, everyone goes through ups and downs and more people than you realise will be battling right now. Sharing how you feel can help lift the burden, help build your resilience and can help you to feel better.
As simple as these tips are we have such busy day to day lives and more often than not self care can fall to the bottom of the pile of activities. We find ourselves sitting for hours in front of the tv, scrolling our phones, mindlessly eating or sitting still for long periods of time sometimes forgetting to get fresh air and sunlight.
And remember, life is hard, sometimes impossibly so. But you have the capacity to build your strength even if you do it with tiny baby steps and you are able to build your capacity to cope with everything that life throws at you. Make a little time to invest in you, connect with the world and people around you and know that you are not alone.