Looking After Your Mental Health
In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it. Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.
Charlie Waller is a trust that has been set up in the memory of Charlie Waller who end his life aged 28 in 1997. The trust’s mission was to open up the conversation around depression, to ensure that young people are able to understand and look after their own mental health and to spot the signs in others, and know how and where to access help. The trust has benefitted tens of thousands of young people, by improving their understanding of mental health and wellbeing, by giving people around them the knowledge and skills to support them, and by arming them with greater confidence in talking openly about the subject. Subjects cover depression, coronavirus & mental health, mental health difficulties mental wellbeing and sleep. There is also support aimed at 16+ students and university under graduates.
Mind: the Mental Health charity has produced information to help understand what mental health problems are. In addition, the school has gathered a number of resources to help parents and students understand the different mental health conditions, self-help strategies, social support activities and how to seek further professional care and advice.
5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing Worksheets: information and activities to help understand and practise the 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing.
Aware: although a Mental Health charity in Northern Ireland, the organisation has produced a variety of fact sheets about mental health problems, the causes, and what helps including self-help strategies. Subjects cover depression, anxiety, mental health, self-harm and suicide, mental health in young people and help with depression.
NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough: have produced a variety of educational booklets about mental health problems, the causes, a self-checklist and self-help strategies and activities. Subjects cover anger, depression, anxiety, panic, sleep difficulties and stress. Parents and students can work through the activities together as part of a social support activity. The booklet are also suitable as a self-help activity.
National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH): although a Mental Health organisation in Wales, they have produced a variety of information leaflets about mental health problems, the symptoms, where to get help and treatment. Subjects cover depression in young people, anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders, sleeping problems and self-harm.
CAMHS Resources is a useful website to make it easy for young people, parents, carers and professionals to access the wealth of helpful resources across the internet to support their mental health and emotional well-being needs
The Sleep Charity, provides advice and support to empower the nation to sleep better. They campaign to improve sleep support and access to high quality information, raise awareness of the value of a good night’s sleep and promote understanding around the complexities of sleep. Sleep is a vital component of health and wellbeing and that everyone living with sleep issues should have access to effective, consistent, evidence-based support. There's a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Getting good sleep, and enough of it, is really important for maintaining our mental wellbeing. It can help us have more energy, feel more positive, and feel less stressed. The Teen Sleep Hub was recently launched nationally as the one stop shop for all you need to know about sleep aimed at teenagers. If your child is looking for advice on how to sleep better, would like tips on tweaking your routine or help to understand the science behind your sleep patterns, they can find it all here.
How Mindfulness Makes You Calm, Clear and Focused
Mindfulness is another effective way of improving our wellbeing and paying attention to the present moment. Techniques such as meditation and breathing help us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that we are able to manage them. It is a form of therapy that is widely recognised and recommended by the Department of Health as it is an easy, effective and doable intervention for stressful lives.
Benefits of Practising Mindfulness
People who regularly implement mindfulness strategies may find lasting physical and psychological benefits such as:
Increased experience of calm and relaxation;
Higher levels of energy and enthusiasm for living;
Increased self-confidence and self-acceptance;
Less danger of experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain or low immune efficiency;
More self-compassion and compassion for others.
5 Steps to Mindfulness
- Tune in to the breath
It may sound like an irritating cliché, but there is scientific rationale for this advice. The breath is not only a powerful indicator of one’s state of mind but also a helpful modulator. During a busy day, take a few moments to consciously tune in to the breath. Feel three breaths move in and out of the body. Then slow down the exhalation to help trigger the relaxation response. Extending the breath in this way sends a message to the parasympathetic nervous system (the system that opposes the stress response) to calm down the body, which helps you think more clearly and feel more relaxed.
- Use your surroundings as a circuit breaker
Take moments in the day to disconnect from the flurry of to do lists and direct your attention externally by tuning in to your senses. Listen to the sounds in the room. Feel your body in space. See the space you are in. Notice the temperature and smells. By tuning in to your senses, just for a few moments, you give your mind a micro break from the stress of thinking.
- Use technology with awareness
Sitting at a computer all day? Bring awareness to your posture and breath. It has been noted that email apnea, the temporary suspension of breathing while dealing with emails, means we are inadvertently creating stress in the body. When we breathe irregularly, the body becomes acidic through retention of excess carbon dioxide. This acidity may contribute to stress related diseases. Check in with your body and breath whilst working at the computer to ensure you are getting sufficient oxygen.
- Simplify your to do list
Bring attention to the top three priorities of your day. Break your work time into smaller blocks for higher levels of efficiency, and take short breaks between blocks. (Look up the pomodoro technique for a helpful way of doing this.)
- Use your lunch as a mindful practice
Rather than eating whilst working on the computer, or missing out on lunch altogether, use your lunch as a way of practicing mindfulness. This means noticing you are eating as you are eating, intentionally tasting your food, and bringing awareness to the act of chewing. This will give your mind an opportunity to rest from the whirlwind of the day, allowing space for mind and body rejuvenation.