Mental Health Awareness Week

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus on kindness, our Chief Executive, Margaret Hanson, shares some tips and advice for self-care and good mental wellbeing.

With over 40% of the UK’s population at risk of experiencing mental health challenges in the current climate, it has never been more important to take steps to look after our own mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.

The country was headed towards a mental health crisis before the outbreak, and, after more than eight weeks in lockdown, the impact of isolation, health anxiety and other issues are already significantly adding to that challenge.

Here, Margaret Hanson, chief executive of Liverpool-based mental health charity Imagine Independence, shares some advice for how to boost mental wellbeing and think about your own self-care.

Keep in touch with the outside world

Despite widespread panic and general uncertainty seen on social media, remaining in touch with the outside world for your own self care is vital.

According to NHS guidance, good relationships build a sense of belonging and self-worth, let us share positive experiences, provide emotional support and allow you to support others.

With the technology available today, staying in touch with family, friends and colleagues has never been easier.

Much has been said about the potential negative impact of social media on mental health, but it can provide a valuable lifeline if you are self-isolating.

Tools such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Twitter are free to use and enable video conference calls for those times when you need to connect with friends and family.

Be kind to others

The physical and mental health benefits of being kind are becoming increasingly recognised.

Research suggests kindness can improve wellbeing by boosting a sense of reward, purpose and self-worth. It also helps to bring people together.

Pick up the phone to a colleague or family member who might be struggling at the moment or do what you can to support good causes in your area. Contribute to the many conversations about kindness on social media during Mental Health Awareness Week and look out for the acts of kindness that are being shared throughout the week from all over the country.

Keep learning

You’re never too old to try something new. Expanding your horizons can do wonders for your mind.

Learning helps to boost self-confidence and self-esteem, build a sense of purpose and help you connect with others.

According to a new report by UK charity Demos, supported by Google, more than three quarters of people who learn online (77%) said it was beneficial to their mental health and the time you dedicate to learning can be an important part of self-care.

Spend time in nature

Exercise is just as beneficial for your state of mind as it is for physical health. NHS advice says exercise raises self-esteem, increases motivation, determination and focus, and can improve mood due to chemical changes in the brain.

Getting outdoors, so long as you are well, not self-isolating and able to observe social distancing, can really help to boost both your mental and physical wellbeing.

Fresh air and time in nature can also have a significant impact. If you are not able to get outside, scenes of nature are also associated with a positive mood and can be just as uplifting.

Focus on positive news

Although there is a lot of scaremongering among the media at present, it’s vital to keep updated on the latest coronavirus advice from Public Health England and the government.

With all the benefits of connecting online, remember that there is a lot of fake news and opinion posing as fact out there. Listen to the experts and ignore the noise.

Instead of becoming swamped by the constant stream of 24-hour news, views and opinion, restrict your screen time to official advice.

Making a conscious effort to switch off from the negative news and looking for the positive stories out there can also make a big difference. There are extraordinary acts of kindness being undertaken throughout the UK every day as the pandemic continues, focussing on these for a few minutes a day can really boost mental wellbeing.

Finally, it’s important to find something that gives you ‘head space’ every day. Whether that’s a hobby or simply walking the dog, having some ‘me time’ is vital.

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