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World Mental Health Day

Things are looking very different from where we left them last year. And the year before that? Who can even remember. It’s a strange time, no matter who you are. And it’s an even stranger time for our mental health. Many things weren’t quite what we expected as life started to open up again, and it can be hard to tell which way is up. You’re not on your own if you’ve been feeling burnt out lately. So how did we get here? 

Pandemic fatigue

Let’s face it: we’re all tired. Like really tired. After 18 months and counting of scary headlines, changing restrictions and general confusion, everybody’s pretty worn out. Science says our brains aren’t wired to handle stress for extended periods of time. Being on edge might help when there’s a singular event to manage, but it’s not doing any favours when it’s dragging on long afterwards too. Holding onto anxiety can actually feed into a cycle of greater succeptibility to future stress. Easing out of this pattern is an important step to getting your mind and body back on track.  

by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Seasonal depression

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, there’s even less light this time of year.  This one’s an unavoidable fact of life but it doesn’t make the gloomy mornings any easier. Especially not if you’re one of the estimated 1 in 3 people in the UK affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD symptoms include feelings of depression, loss of motivation and appetite, difficulty concentrating, struggling to sleep and low energy levels. The good news is that it can be alleviated with a variety of treatments, from simple lifestyle tweaks to therapy. 

But what can else can you do to keep your mental health… healthy? Well, lots actually. First, let’s take a quick look at some day-to-day sciencey stuff.

Your brain on exercise

We’re here to tell you that doing that thing you’ve been avoiding – it actually would help, sorry. Getting your blood pumping is a fantastic way to release feel good endorphins into your system. 30-60 minutes [3-5x a week] is currently the sweet spot but if you fancy upping the game, go right ahead! Increased movement in your routine can boost self esteem, combat depression and anxiety, and even improve the quality of your sleep. Which is more important than you might think… 

Sleep science

Netflix will still be there in the morning, you’re much better off getting an early night. And did you know there are different types of sleep? Your brain goes through 4 different stages of NREM and REM sleep once you drift off, all of them important. Getting 8 hours of uninterrupted shut eye allows your mind and body to complete these phases, repairing and resetting for the next day. 

by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Diet

Switching up your diet and hitting the gym isn’t going to turn you into a Glowing Ball Of Positive Energy overnight, but it’s the best possible place to start. It’s all too easy to slip into the habit of snacking on junk and settling for takeout. And while that cheeseburger is great for morale, it’s a bad idea for lunch every day. But where to start? Do you need to know the vitamin content of everything in Tesco? Nope, nobody’s got time for that. Just aim to get your 5 [or more] a day and make sure there’s a range of colour on your plate. ‘Rainbow eating’ ensures you get a broader range of nutrients. 

Mental health habits

It takes around 1-2 months to form a habit you’re likely to stick to. But when it’s something that will benefit your mental health in the long term, that’s a very small hurdle. Whether it’s starting yoga, cooking healthier meals or perhaps beginning therapy, there are things we can all do to take better care of our minds. Here’s a few you could get started on this week. 

Journaling

If writing down your feelings sounds absolutely cringe, you may well be EXACTLY who needs this one. Rest assured, the pay off is worth it. This simple practice helps you prioritize any problems or concerns you’re facing, and it’s a fantastic emotional outlet. What goes in the journal, stays in the journal. Getting your thoughts down on paper can significantly free up valuable headspace if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can also help identify any negative feelings you might be hanging onto, and helps to track your progress. 

Welcome to the jungle

If your room looks suspiciously more like a garden centre now than it did pre-pandemic, you can probably skip this one. But if you’ve yet to discover the magic of houseplantsthis one might be for you. They clean up the air, they’re proven mood boosters, and they’re basically low-maintenance pets. What’s not to love? Bring some outside in for greater peace of mind. 

Fewer screens, more time

Think back to all the times social networks have crashed, and you’ve found yourself… doing just fine, actually. Maybe got some extra chores out the way, or started a new book? What if we told you that you didn’t have to wait for power outages to get that time back? Even if it’s just for 1 hour an evening, put your phone down and enjoy some real-world time. Bonus points if you spend it doing something you love. Bonus-bonus points if it gets you outdoors.

[we wrote a whole thing about this]

by Nick Fewings on Unsplashs

Catching up

Could be a coffee, could be a phone call, could even be sending a meme to that friend you’ve not spoken to in a while. But get in touch! Humans are social animals and spending time together is one of the quickest ways to bring on a good mood. Studies have found that socializing has added bonuses of aiding memory and overall cognitive function. In person is best but facetimes and DMs will still do you a world of good. 

Mindful mental health

If you’ve been holding on stress and it’s started to get heavy, now’s the time to put it down. Even basic meditation practices have been shown to improve concentration and decision-making. Practicing gratitude can enhance your everyday life in small but significant ways. Mindfulness may be having a ‘moment’ in popular culture right now, but it’s for good reason. It’s important to be able to take a breather and calm your nerves when life gets hectic.  

Need some more support?  

Not a problem! The NHS have a great list of apps for all manner of mental health troubles, from day to day worries to bigger concerns. 

 

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