Okay so, a disclaimer here: I originally wrote these tips for two Discord servers I’m in, but I figured that they could be useful to put in other places – and what better place than the MHG blog!
Taking care of your mental health sometimes seems like an impossible task. For one, our mental health is so incredibly complex, so knowing where to start is difficult in itself. Not to mention, not everything will work for everyone – just as our bodies are all different from person to person, so are our brains, our minds, and our circumstances.
With this in mind, here are just a few tips and hints that might help you to figure things out. But first and foremost, possibly the best tip of them all: be kind to yourself whenever you can!
1. Talk to someone
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: talking to someone is a lil bit terrifying. You might be worried the person you speak to won’t get it, or won’t have the time to help you, or might think you’re just whining about your life. But taking the plunge can be so helpful. It can help you to feel seen, to not feel so alone, and talking about your feelings is a really great way to understand them better.
You don’t have to talk to someone you know well – everyone is different. Some people prefer to talk to somebody objective, others prefer to talk to close ones. It all depends on what is comfortable for you.
How do you approach someone? Well, first know that not everyone is going to be understanding, so try to choose someone you know you can trust. As hard as it is, try to just be honest about your feelings, and tell them you’re approaching them because you trust them and value their time. You’d be surprised at how many people will be willing to take time out to help you out. If you don’t want to talk to a friend or family member, there are lots of charities and organisations that will be willing to chat. Samaritans has an email service which was really useful for me, someone who wasn’t keen on ringing up and talking on the phone. Other services, like the UK’s SHOUT, has a dedicated text line where they’ll match you up with someone to chat to, who will also give you advice on what to do next.
2. Do some exercise
Yeah I get it – I’m not motivated to exercise most of the time anyway. I can be found most of the time snuggled up in my onesie, playing on my Switch. But doing exercise is a sure way to know you’ve done something positive today, and the release of chemicals and energy can be really good for your mood. It doesn’t have to be too intense – a quick walk, getting some fresh air, is a good option – or gamifying your workout can be really fun too. There are so many options nowadays – you can dig out your old Wii Fit, or play Just Dance on a number of different platforms. VR is a really good and fun way to get exercise if that’s an option for you. Alternatively, consider getting your hands on Ring Fit Adventure if you have a Switch. Whatever works for you! Don’t pressure yourself to do it for a certain amount of time, reps, or whatever. Just do what feels good for your body and feel proud.
3. Take a break
This is an important one. If your mental health is suffering, and you’re stressed, ploughing on through your work will not do you any favours. If you can, absolutely consider taking some time off or slowing down a bit. Nobody works well when their head is in a bad space. It doesn’t have to be a long break, but make sure you take it, because it’ll help your mind to feel fresher.
Now of course not everyone – if anyone, really? – is in a position to take a break when they want. In this case, having a chat with those who are expecting things of you might help to relieve some pressure. Explain your situation, be honest, and you might be surprised by the kindness you might receive in return.
4. Make small, measurable goals
Small goals are a life saver for the stressed and overworked mind. Creating smaller goals, no matter how small, can help you to feel more productive and keep your motivation up. Feeling like you’re ploughing on through an endless task is good for no-one’s mood. Break it up into smaller chunks so you can be aware of just how far you’ve come since you started. It can also help you to feel a lot more organised.
Small goals can work for so many things – it doesn’t strictly have to be work! Lots of depressed people struggle to even do things they enjoy. In this case, setting small goals can help you get back into the things you enjoy slowly and gently.
Making measurable goals is really important to this, too. A broad goal like ‘read more’ is really difficult to track! So consider setting a goal like – read 1 chapter a day. Then you can far be surer of your progress.
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. Rest is so important for our wellbeing. No-one is at their best when they’re groggy and tired. So, if you can – I know it’s difficult – try to get some sleep, and you might find yourself waking up refreshed. Sleep will help your whole body to function better, your mind included.
Of course, this can backfire. I’m really bad for sleeping when I don’t want to deal with the world – and that can be okay, if you don’t abuse it and avoid trying to solve the core issue.
Sleeping is also difficult for many people. If you’re a bit of an insomniac, take the time to just sit and rest, breathe deeply, shut your eyes and simply be for a little while. Just because you can’t sleep, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your body time to just exist and rest.
Alternatively, there are different options available to help your stressed mind into a relaxing sleep. Lavender oil on your pillow, blocking out light, restricting screen time, a hot pre-bed bath or hot (non-caffeinated) drink, listening to guided meditations, relaxing music or rain sounds…there are lots of options that are worth a try.
6. Approach medical professionals
Probably the most difficult one on the list. Approaching mental health services and medical professionals is daunting. The first thing to know is that they’ve heard it before, so don’t be embarrassed to be honest. If it’ll help, take a good friend with you, or plan something nice to do after your meeting if you’re nervous about it – it’ll help to make sure you actually go through with it, which is vitally important, and it’s beneficial to reward yourself for making these steps to take care of yourself. It’ll make the whole process feel so much more welcoming.
Also know that not every professional is going to understand – mental health awareness is still a relatively recent thing, and whilst a professional might be reluctant to diagnose you, know that this doesn’t make your problems any less valid and worthy of help. In that case, keep trying, get a second opinion, speak to friends about their experiences. And most importantly, always know that you are worthy of help!
If you see a therapist, don’t hold back about things that are bothering you. I did that once, and I only ended up back in the same place I had been in previously – an extra two times, no less. I basically just put back my whole healing process on a major scale. Be completely honest and know that they’re there to help you. They will not judge you. (Of course, this is idealistic – but if they do judge you, they’re in the wrong profession…and that, my friends, is the tea.)
7. Keep a diary
This isn’t for everyone, but keeping a log of your feelings and activities can really help to establish what factors are playing into your low mood, and what things help the most. Don’t track absolutely everything, or you’ll start to become bored and tired of tracking it – just track the things that are the most important to you. If a professional asks about how your mental health fluctuates, you’ll also have something concrete to show them, which can be easier than having to talk about it extensively.
…and last but not least!
8. Take a shower / eat a meal / get dressed
Achieving seemingly normal tasks like showering, eating a meal or getting dressed when you’re depressed can really help you to feel a sense of achievement, and it helps to make sure you’re practising some level of self-care. It’s so easy to let these things slide when you’re in a bad place, but they can be important to helping you establish some level of self-worth and a sense of routine in difficult times. These can help to keep your mind more stable in tricky circumstances.
Equally, these are things that can easily slide for a depressed person. You might not realise how little you’re eating, and achieving small tasks like these may well be an effective way to stop your physical health from deteriorating too – particularly if you have other conditions that may be affected.
I hope these tips have helped you somewhat. Remember, folks, to always be kind to yourself, and to absolutely take one small baby step at a time. Know that you are not alone, and you are loved and worthy of help!