Today is World Mental Health Day, and here at IMAGE, we wanted to mark it in a practical way.
While mental health is complicated and differs massively from person to person, there are a few things you can do to de-stress and look after your mental health in the short term.
However, if you regularly and continuously feel low, tired, depressed, anxious or fearful, then it’s important to reach out to services and healthcare professionals to get the help you need. These are just some of the charitable services available to those suffering with their mental health, but be sure to talk to your GP about the options that are best suited to you.
Samaritans is a free-phone service available to people who need to talk. You do not have to be suicidal or have mental health issues to talk to Samaritans – if you feel like you need a chat or some social connection, Samaritans is available 24/7. You can call them at 116 123, or drop in to any of their 20 branches nationwide.
Pieta House is a charity that deals with self-harm and suicide. If you’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts or with hurting yourself, you can contact them to arrange a meeting to assess your needs and how they can help. After this, Pieta House will match you with a therapist who suits your needs, and you can meet with them twice a week, if you feel up to it. You can call them at (01) 601 0000 or drop into one of their eight branches (three in Dublin, and five others nationwide) to talk things through.
Aware is a charity that works with people with depression. It doesn’t provide diagnosis or treatment, but it does provide plenty of information and educational material on mental health, so that you can begin to recognise the signs of depression and take the steps to work through them. They also provide a helpline for people who need to talk, available 10am to 10pm, seven days a week, at 1800 80 48 48.
SpunOut is a youth information website that features pieces specific to mental health issues that young people might be dealing with, such as exam stress, employment and peer pressure. Since the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’, SpunOut is a great resource if you need some information.
Looking after yourself and reminding yourself that you’re worth caring for is a very important part of maintaining good mental health. Carve out a few hours to look after yourself at least one evening a week – have an indulgent shower or bath, do a full skincare routine, put on new pyjamas and bedsheets and watch or read something comforting. Taking time for yourself and having something to look forward to will make a big difference.
Talk it out
If you’re feeling down or worrying about something, talking about it to someone you trust is the first priority. Bottling up emotions and suppressing how you feel is not healthy, and can be damaging in the long term. Go for a walk or have a cup of tea with a friend or family member and let them know that you haven’t been feeling the best. Having the support from people you care about will help you to work through any issues you’re dealing with.
Do something you’re good at
When we’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s easy to turn inwards and start blaming ourselves for feeling bad. Remind yourself that you’re a talented and valuable person by doing something you’re skilled at. It could be cooking, painting, even playing a video game you have a knack for; anything that you’ve worked hard at and that shows your talents will be a comfort.
Reach out to loved ones
Sometimes it helps to look outwards instead of inwards. Contact a family member or friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up with what’s going on in their lives. Maybe you can be the support system that they need too, but either way, spending time with those that love and care about you is always important.
Get some exercise
Exercise has so many benefits for your body and mind and it’s a great way to unwind and release some tension. Exercise is a natural energy booster and releases endorphins, helping you to feel happier and less stressed after a workout. You don’t have to go for an 10k jog or pound weights at the gym for two hours to get an exercise fix; gentle exercises like walking or yoga – or just getting out of the house – will work wonders.
Looking after yourself physically will benefit how you look after yourself mentally too. After exercising, cook yourself a nutritious, tasty meal from scratch, taking the time to carefully prepare everything and clean up afterwards. When it’s ready, take the time to savour every bite and think about how positive it is nourishing your body.
If you feel like you may be on the verge of a panic attack, take five minutes to go outside and breathe deeply. Many people have reported success with the 4-7-8 technique: inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Do this as many times as you need, counting methodically each time, until you feel your chest start to release and your breathing slow.
It’s no secret that social media isn’t the best medicine for mental health, and scrolling through Instagram when you’re feeling low isn’t doing your mind any favours. Take an hour (at least) in the evenings to completely detach from the digital world, and don’t go on social media. Take that time to immerse yourself completely in something else – even if it’s just a TV show – the lack of distraction will help to clear your mind.
Even if you’re not a creative person, making something from scratch and having something new to show for your time can be a great exercise for mental health. You can draw, paint, write a story or poem, play some music, redecorate your space; let the creative juices flow, and it may help to distract from feeling low.
Lack of sleep and proper rest is an oft-cited reason for feeling depressed or low. Make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, and work out a routine that suits you and stick to it religiously. Bedtimes aren’t just for kids, they work wonders for adults too, and getting the rest you need can help your brain to recharge when it feels burnt out.