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For almost two years, Covid-19 has introduced many changes to the way most of us used to live. With England going through three national lockdowns and several periods of restrictions, studies have found that reports of increased psychological distress levels coincided with periods of national lockdown and high cases of COVID-19.
As we approach the end of 2021, many of us will begin to reflect on the year we have had and begin to envision how the year ahead can be better. Although we cannot predict how Covid-19 may continue to affect our lives in 2022, we can certainly plan for how we will take care of our mental wellbeing in the coming year. In this blog we will be going through 12 mental health tips to improve your overall well being.
Once you have taken a look through our mental health tips, if you would like more information about our assessment and diagnosis processes or indeed professional support for your mental health, you are welcome to contact us with any questions and we will do our best to provide you with the guidance and support that you need. At Psymplicity, our experts have many years of experience helping people manage a variety of mental health difficulties including anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts and many more.
Here are the 12 mental health tips that we hope can provide you with the motivation you need to make some helpful adaptations that can have a positive impact on your lifestyle.
Planning something to look forward to is a great way to kickstart a more positive approach to life. A study from 2015 found that having plans to look forward to increases positive emotion and reduces our experience of stress. When you are making plans, they don’t have to be as extravagant as luxury holidays, parties or adventure experiences – plan something you enjoy, however big or small that might be. Whether you enjoy long hikes in the countryside, meeting up with old friends, joining a new club or simply taking time to read, pamper yourself or watch your favourite show. You don’t need to plan months in advance, but whatever you choose to look forward to, make sure to plan the time into your calendar beforehand so that you can enjoy the anticipation leading up to it.
One of the most widely known mental health tips is to exercise regularly. Exercising, particularly outdoors, can significantly improve mental health as it releases endorphins. Endorphins are powerful chemicals in the brain that make us feel energised, increase feelings of pleasure and reduce pain and discomfort.
Try to find a sport or exercise that you enjoy so that it is motivating to engage with and you have something to look forward to. Finding a sport or exercise regime you love can take time, which is why it can be helpful to go into the new year with a plan to look into multiple options. Whether you decide on a team sport, weekly yoga classes or short walks around your neighbourhood, enjoying your exercise will encourage you to do it more frequently and therefore gradually improve your mental health.
If you are struggling with your mental health, it can be difficult to strike a healthy balance when it comes to sleep. Many of those who deal with depression and anxiety can have difficulties sleeping, whether that is sleeping too much, not sleeping enough or struggling with good quality sleep. For those with depression, it can be the case that due to their limited activity during the day, sleeping well is difficult, while people with anxiety may force themselves to sleep more to avoid their anxiety, causing future sleep pattern problems.
Setting specific times for going to bed and waking up can, over time, help you to maintain a healthy routine and give you more structure to your day. As we are creatures of habit, our brains will eventually see the ‘bedtime routine’ tasks as a precursor to sleep, and eventually help you get better rest. A bedtime routine can also reduce stress as your brain will be focussed on these other, routine tasks before bed – helping you to avoid thinking about things that are worrying you.
You could also try keeping a sleep journal or monitoring your sleep through an app for more visibility of how much rest you are actually getting.
The new year is often a time when people decide they will make changes to their lives, and start the year ‘fresh’. However, while there are some benefits to setting goals and having long-term aspirations, setting unrelenting high standards for yourself can be counterproductive for your wellbeing. Putting pressure on yourself to stick to hard to attain resolutions can increase stress as what you are demanding from yourself might be unrealistic and unachievable. Setting such goals can take away from your sense of enjoyment and achievement.
If you are thinking about setting resolutions, set yourself smaller, SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) where you can measure your success at regular intervals and monitor your gradual improvement and movement towards a larger goal.
Looking after your body is about more than sleeping well and scheduling in regular exercise. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is also key. If you struggle with your body image, remember to be kind to yourself whilst you work on yourself. Your body doesn’t just need nourishment but needs compassion too. With social media becoming increasingly popular and editing and filtering tools increasingly realistic, our insecurities can become exacerbated. If you are particularly concerned about how your body looks or recognise that you are being unkind to yourself, speak to one of our specialists about your concerns. Our mental health experts specialise in many body and eating related difficulties that have an impact on mental health, such as body dysmorphia.
Try to maintain good communication between yourself and loved ones (or mental health specialists). It might feel safer for you to keep your concerns to yourself, but asking for help when you need it can not only provide you with necessary advice and support, but will also help to stop your condition manifesting into something more challenging. Other benefits of talking include being able to feel less isolated, opening up to different points of view and feeling validated.
Many people who have concerns about their mental health may struggle to stay in contact with friends and loved ones, and may try to avoid certain social situations when possible. This could be due to fear of being judged or feeling different, or worrying about being misunderstood. Try to avoid being socially isolated – this can compound our feelings of not fitting in and being judged can encourage us to keep our feelings to ourselves and may stop us from seeking the right support. If you feel you have nobody to talk to, try getting involved in your local community by volunteering, join a sports group or even an online community where there are people who share your interests. There are billions of people in the world, so you will be sure to find someone you feel comfortable talking to and spending time with, even if it seems daunting at first.
Technology can bring us together, but it can also isolate us from the real world. Particularly since the pandemic, we have been relying on technology more than ever, and a lot of us are now in the habit of having excessive screen time. While technology can provide us with opportunities for remote socialisation, entertainment and education, it can be addictive and may encourage us to stay indoors and experience less of the world around us. A 2017 study found that adults who spent more than 6 hours per day watching TV or using a computer were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression. Try to limit the time you spend online in 2022 and you could not only improve your mental health, but find more enjoyment in the little things.
Mindfulness and meditation, while not for everyone, is a brilliant way to look after both your body and mind. Practicing mindfulness regularly can help to naturally calm your anxiety and leave you feeling grounded and more at peace. The practice usually involves guided imagery, breathing techniques and other grounding exercises to help relax the body and mind to reduce stress. Refocusing your attention in these ways can help you feel more in control. Even a couple of minutes each day could have a significant impact over time, so why not give it a go in 2022 and see whether it’s for you?
Enjoying the small things, like a good book, a hearty meal, some birdsong or a small good deed can make a difference to your mental health. Rather than focussing on 2022 as a whole, or even a monthly challenge, try to take each day as it comes. Don’t look too far ahead in the future – ground yourself and connect with the present. Notice the day-to-day moments in your life that are important to you; make a mental note of them or even write them down. Having this kind of outlook is a positive and powerful way to live your life. As it gives us a more balanced view, reduces our anxieties and stops us from predicting catastrophes in the future
Trying to limit the consumption of alcohol is often recommended, but of course it is understandable that this is often easier said than done. Alcohol can unfortunately harm both our physical and mental health. Some alcoholic drinks can be high in calories, which overtime can affect our weight.
Alcohol is also a depressant, and consuming excessive amounts can impact us mentally. Once the initial stimulant effect wears off, alcohol begins to have a negative effect on our thoughts and behaviours, which can have a significant impact on our mental state in the long run. Try to limit your intake when possible and you will likely see the benefits.
You can opt to see a specialist at any point in your mental health journey, but we would always recommend seeking support sooner rather than later. A specialist can provide you with more clarity on what you are experiencing, explore your current and past experiences that may have led you to having mental health struggles and provide the tools you’ll need to help manage your condition better.
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