Looking after your own Mental Health
Improving mental health is often about spotting the warning signs that things feel like they are going downhill and trying out some things to balance life a little more.
The Anna Freud Centre asked more than 100 young people between the ages of 11-25 who have ever felt depressed or anxious, which approaches worked for them. Music, Home entertainment and personal hygiene scored high. However these may not be the ones that work for you, visit their webpage here for a full list of strategies (85 to be precise!) that you can try.
If you are being seen by CAMHS, the professional you are working with may have given you some coping skills, problem solving tools or worksheets. Don't forget to use these when you think they would be helpful. If they don't work for you, be honest and tell your clinician why they are not working. Try lots of different strategies and make a note somewhere of what ones make you feel better.
There are also some general tips below for keeping yourself mentally and emotionally healthy.
Changes in blood sugar levels are linked to changes in mood and energy. Eating regularly maintains blood sugar levels. Not eating regularly can cause poor concentration, fatigue, irritability and anxiety. Good tips include eating breakfast, eating something every 3-4 hours, not eating highly processed foods all the time, plenty of fruit and veg (of course!) and drinking lots of water.
Physical activity helps release endorphins which can improve your mood. When we feel low in mood we might stop doing the things that can improve our mood, almost without realising it. Making sure you do some physical exercise, even if you don't feel like it at first can give you quick results in improving your mood.
Making sure that you know your limits is really important. Not everyone has the same reaction to alcohol and it can cause depressive feelings, heightened anxiety, or feeling out of control in a way that feels unpleasant, after the initial short term relaxation benefits. It can also increase risk taking behaviours, so you need to know what your reactions might be. Remember to make your own decisions about what is right for you and not to bend to peer pressure around drinking.
Some people like to read to learn about the world, or escape into other worlds. Some people like to express their feelings through art, some like talking things through with others. Whatever your style , make sure you do express yourself - it will help you to stay connected, to discover more about you , your identity and the person that you want to become.
Distract yourself When you are feeling immersed in a problem , sometimes actively deciding to switch off from it, go and do something else instead, and return to it at a different time when it may seem more manageable, can help. Distracting yourself is not a cop-out, but can be a reliable way to stop overthinking a problem when you are feeling stuck.
How would you feel if a friend asked for help, advice or just wanted to talk things through? Many of us would be pleased to be chosen to confide in, it might make us feel valued. When we are feeling low in mood, or anxious, it is easy to think negatively about ourselves and be less likely to seek support from others. Try and beat this feeling and approach people that you trust to talk to. You may be surprised at how much better you might feel and how they have responded positively to you, as you would if the situation were reversed.
People have many varied ways of relaxing or having downtime from the stresses of life. Again these can be the things that easily fall away from routines when we start to feel low in mood, or stressed, as we forget to be kind to ourselves. A hot bath, listening to music, watching a film, keeping social arrangements and hobbies going, whatever it isthinkabout the things that help to keep you calm or more content, and make sure they are still in your routine.
We are all unique and enjoy different things. You may not have found the thing that you enjoy yet, so try some different things out. You may have lost touch with activities that have given you pleasure in the past. Doing things you enjoy can help you to stay connected with some of the more positive aspects of life.
We all have them, and none of us are perfect either. It can be easy to think that others are more talented, more successful, have more opportunity than us, when we are feeling low in mood. But it is impossible to know how someone else is feeling inside, whatever they seem like on the surface. Reminding ourselves about the things we do well, and looking for evidence of this can help to balance out our critical thoughts about ourselves, which tend to increase when we are stressed.
Use online resources and books that offer help and support, information and advice, or just give another perspective. Know your style. Some people like books with information, some people like reading about another's experience of difficulties. Some people like novels with a particular theme. Some people prefer films. There is no right or wrong here - it is whatever works best for you.