Support & Advice
5 ways to better your mental health
BY: Charlotte Marks and Lizzie Speller
Charlotte: I'm Charlotte and I am a final year psychology student. Mental health and well-being is something that has been important to me for many years, experiencing anxiety myself and having family members having mental health problems. But, became very close to my heart last year when I lost a friend of mine to suicide. I think it is crucial that we break down barriers and any stigma surrounding talking about and looking after our mental health.
Looking after our own and one another’s mental health and well-being is something that I hope will gain more awareness within the University of Chichester. This is why we decided to write this blog to teach people about some simple techniques and resources that they can complete on a daily basis to help their well-being. We wanted to show how improving your well-being is something that can be completed in a few minutes a day, it isn't something that needs to take hours of your time and especially can then be accessed easily during times of stress. We also wanted to provide some tips on how to get talking with others about how they are doing, with the conversation starters and #AskTwice campaigns, so we can support one another with any mental health problems or just everyday stressors.
Lizzie: My name is Lizzie Speller and I am currently a second year student studying Psychology. Talking about mental health is important to me because prior to my eating disorder diagnosis in 2012, I didn’t have much awareness of the subject and never spoke about it with my friends, family or partner. Through my recovery with Anorexia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) over the years, I have realised just how important mental health is and how raising awareness, communicating with others and creating an environment where people can share their experiences, without fear or judgement, is integral to support wellbeing.
I decided to write this blog to give suggestions of techniques which could help people maintain their mental health and use as a “helping hand” when they are struggling. In addition, the blog highlights tips for people who have a course-mate, friend or family member who needs support. You don’t have to be an expert in order to help someone with mental health but listening, offering practical help and being a friendly face can be a real benefit to individuals at university, home or in paid employment.
- LIST THINGS YOU'RE GRATEFUL FOR
Being grateful for what you have improves mood substantially. Psychologists recommend keeping a Gratitude Journal but if you don’t have time, you can simply practice the ten-finger gratitude exercise!
Once a day bring to mind 10 things which you are grateful for, counting them on your fingers. It is important to get to 10 things, even if you have to think about it.
Lizzie: Research shows that we will struggle to find things we are grateful for after 3 or 4 and that's where I used to struggle, but once I persevered it really made me appreciate the small things. It's good to take notice of the new things that you are grateful for and the things that are constants in your life.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF ON WEEKENDS
We work hard on weekdays and worry about making the weekends productive. The weekend wellbeing exercise can help in identifying what we really need. Spend a moment to ask yourself what do you really need this weekend?
Charlotte: We think we need to cram everything in when we get to the weekend as we haven't had time in the week to do what we want to do. It's important to think of the feeling you want to achieve and focus on that.
- IDENTIFY WHAT SUPPORTS YOUR WELLNESS
Creating your own wellness toolkit can help to identify reminders and resources that are beneficial for promoting wellness and keeping you well. This could be in relation to your personal life, university, work or anything else that may contribute!
The wellness toolkit can be split into 4 sections;
- What things support my wellness?
- What gives me meaning/is important to me?
- What would I like to try to see if it could help my wellness?
- What do I need to avoid to stay well?
- START THE CONVERSATION
Having conversations about mental health can help to reduce shame and stigma. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem in a year. Choosing to talk about mental health breaks down barriers and can change lives. It's important to check-in once in a while
Here are some of the conversation starters you could use:
- Tell someone you appreciate what they've done for you
- Ask someone "how are you?" (and mean it!)
- Arrange a meet up with someone you care about
- Call someone you've not spoken to for a while
- Go for a walk with someone and see how they're doing
- Check-in with someone over text
Charlotte: It's important to #AskTwice when asking someone how they are, people are more likely to open up when asking for the second time as they may feel like they can't offload the first time.
- HELP OTHERS
Taking care of our own mental health should be a priority but we also need to be aware of how we can help others. In order to help, you don't need to be an expert. There are different degrees of mental health, some people may need just someone to check in on them to see if they're okay and if they need urgent help then sign post then to professionals.
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