The past few years have been astonishing, looking back. And many people have felt their mental health decline as a result.
It’s easy for mental health checks to become lost or forgotten about in the fast pace of daily life. Now, more than ever, it’s important to prioritise your mental health. Not just for your own sake, but to stay strong so you can support others too.
It’s harder to help and support to the ones we love, when they need it, without maintaining your own mental wellbeing
This is more than a self-care evening every few weeks. Sometimes new habits need to be implemented into our routine to keep our mental health in check.
Let’s delve into a few common causes of mental distress and what can be done to reduce some of it.
When you’re already anxious and stressed, the last thing you want to do is think about the massive task list you know is waiting for your attention. This can easily build up, and soon starts to feel like a mountain. It becomes easier to hide away from the tasks than tackle them.
when you physically check a task off, you’ll gain a sense of achievement and reassurance
Getting on top of the task list is the only way to help ease this stress. Create a list of tasks and break them down to be more manageable. And remember, they don’t need to get done all at once.
Being able to actually see your tasks on a list can take away some of the fear and stop the feeling that they’re looming over you. And when you physically check a task off, you’ll gain a sense of achievement and reassurance visually seeing your task mountain get smaller. Just take it one step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s okay to spread jobs out.
Switching off from work can feel impossible these days. Having 24/7 access to emails and messages on your phone or laptop makes it difficult to walk away.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries between you and your work life. Mute notifications, and log out of your emails when not at work. If you have a dedicated work phone, turn it off! It might feel hard at first, and it takes practice, but we promise – you will feel better for it!
With the cost of living on the rise, and what feels like a rocky winter ahead of us, maintaining financial stability will be at the front of many people’s minds.
There are many financial support systems available to look into, and plenty of helpful articles online. Organisations to help provide advice and guidance on getting your finances under control and understanding them better.
Worrying about children and family
Parents may find that as children get older and take on more of their own responsibilities, worry sets in. Maybe they’ve recently moved away for the first time and are navigating a new place.
Whatever it is, their new responsibilities can sometimes feel like your own worries, even though they aren’t!
It’s natural to see your kids as your little baby, even when they’re well into adulthood
Remind yourself of the likelihood of these worries coming true. Perhaps you’re jumping to conclusions or focusing on the worst possible outcomes for them, and actually these aren’t realistically going to happen.
Talk to your children, chatting to them about what’s going on in their life can ease your worries and reduce any overthinking. You’ll probably realise they’re more confident and capable than you think.
It’s natural to see your kids as your little baby, even when they’re well into adulthood. But trusting them and learning to let go will give your worry levels a bit of a rest.
Unfortunately, as we get older, bereavements can become more common. Whether it’s family or a friend, it takes a massive toll on anyone’s mental wellbeing.
Coping with a shift in your support network after a loss of someone close is hard. Building on your existing support network can help when experiencing such an unsettled time. Meeting up with friends you don’t see often, or calling a sibling who lives far away can be a reminder that you are not alone.
Everyone’s journey with grief is different, and it might be that you could consider bereavement counselling. Organisations such as Cruse Bereavement can provide these services and point you in the right direction.
However you tackle this, the most important thing is to talk to someone – friend, partner, counsellor, or grief group. Don’t keep it bottled up.
Worries about your own health can be all-consuming, especially as we age. With the recent pandemic, and entering winter again, health concerns are likely to be on the rise for everyone.
Do what you can to protect yourself. Get some daily vitamins to have each morning, and eat well. Remember that as well as Covid, there are colds and ‘flu around the corner of winter, and practice washing your hands frequently. Book your booster vaccines when they’re offered to you, and make appointments for health worries, before they become urgent.
Physically protecting yourself can help your mental worries around health, and what you put into your body is important. Not only is it good for your physical health, but taking daily vitamins and eating healthily will boost your motivation, which can improve mental health during the darker months.
As life changes, and we go through social and economic events, it might have left you feeling more lonely and isolated than before. Maybe you’ve even lost a friend or two during recent years, or you’re struggling since your children have moved away. Even if as a teenager they always spent time in their room!
The best way to address loneliness is to contact people. People experience loneliness for all kinds of reasons, and it’s not something to be ashamed about.
It’s often the hardest step to reach out to someone for the first time. Once you have, suggest to a friend to make it a regular meet-up. Either every week, or bi-weekly. Setting this expectation can take away the fear of having to take the jump in reaching out.
If you feel that you’re truly alone, don’t let it take hold. The Campaign to Help Loneliness has some helpful links. Reach out.
As we get older, it’s expected to worry about ageing and the “symptoms” that can come along with it. Whether it’s grey hairs, crunching sore knees, or backache in the mornings, we worry about losing our bodies bounce and youth!
No one wants to be an ‘old person’ who can’t walk to the shops or keep up with others. This anxiety can be unpleasant because it often feels like there’s nothing that can be done. Whilst there is some truth to this, there are also things you can do to strengthen your body.
Muscle mass reduces as you age, which is why it’s important to focus on strengthening muscles to maintain mobility in older life
Increasing the protein in our diet as we get older, and staying active regularly, will keep muscles strong. Muscle mass reduces as you age, which is why it’s important to focus on strengthening muscles to maintain mobility in older life.
Maintaining weekly exercises – be it walking, swimming, or cycling – is also beneficial for your mental health, as it releases endorphins, raising your mood.
Adapting to change
Humans are notorious for disliking change. Children getting older, losing loved ones, ageing, moving house, giving up work, economic shifts – however change comes, it is always unsettling.
Incorporating more mindfulness habits in life can help cope with these changes. Meditating allows to accept these negative thoughts without being weighed down by them.
However, meditation isn’t the only mindful activity you can pick up. Engaging in creative crafts like painting, or knitting, even tinkering with a car or bike if that’s what you enjoy, are all mindful activities. These help you switch off from the constant whirring in your head, and focus on something else.
When you do feel anxiety welling up, change your focus, and breathe through it. Instead of being swallowed up by intrusive thoughts and getting lost in the negative emotions them, turn to a mindful activity. Or even do some of the housework tasks you’ve been putting off. Call a friend, meet up with them if they’re available. Just change the scene.
If you need it, here are some useful links you can call on for help: