What is Mental Health?
- Mental health is an umbrella term for everything that goes on in our head. It’s not a fixed state, everyone has good and bad days.
- It’s often said 1 in 4 people are struggling with their mental health at one time, but we all struggle with our mental health in some way during our lifetime.
- Mental health is affected by all of the things in our life – our relationships, job, money worries and even how much we sleep.
- There are loads of things that can help you feel better, from changing what you eat and how much you exercise, to seeking talking therapy or taking medication.
Mental Health. We hear it a lot nowadays, but what does it mean?
At its core, mental health is a term for the way we feel inside. It might help to imagine mental wellbeing as a spectrum, with feeling good, positive, confident on one side, and feeling low, or struggling on the other. The term mental health also covers mental health conditions diagnosed by a doctor, such as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). You can find out more about these here.
How you feel may change from day to day or month to month depending on a whole host of things. If you think you are struggling with your mental health, or things are getting too much, you should talk to someone about how you’re feeling.
Speaking about your problems often helps to lighten the load, and gives you a way to move forward. If you need to talk you can contact the CALM helpline here.
How does it feel to struggle with mental health?
Mental health worries feel different to everyone.
It’s important to look after our mental wellbeing and get help when we are struggling. If your mental distress is taking over your life or stopping you from carrying out your normal activities, talk to someone.
You might be struggling with your mental wellbeing if you feel some of the following:
- Feeling low often or for long periods of time
- Feeling intensely worried or nervous often or for long periods of time
- Compulsions to repeat certain actions or rituals
- Smoking, drinking or taking drugs more than usual
- Having problems focusing, or becoming forgetful
- Experiencing unusual aches and pains
- Having persistent unwelcome thoughts that you can’t shift
- Avoiding certain situations and people in everyday life
- Feeling angry for no apparent reason, or when small things don’t go the way you hoped
- Not seeing a way forward because of your situation – for example money or relationship worries
- Feeling helpless or worthless about yourself or your situation
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Delusions or distortions in how we perceive the world around us.
It can feel scary or overwhelming to experience mental health problems for the first time or at any time. It can also be difficult to talk about them with your friends and family because of the stigma – that’s shame or embarrassment – that can be attached to talking about how we feel.
It’s important to remember
you’re not alone and that there is a way to move forward, no matter what you’re going through. If you are struggling contact the CALM helpline where trained staff will talk to you about your worries and provide you with practical support.
You’re not alone and that there is a way to move forward, no matter what you’re going through
Why do people struggle with their mental health?
Although a lot of mental illness doesn’t have a clear cause, our mental wellbeing is affected by a bunch of different things –
a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.
Someone may struggle with their mental health as a result of chemicals in their brain, while another person can experience the same symptoms as a result of a one-off incident or on-going stressful circumstances. Our brains are also in constant dialogue with the rest of our body and vice versa, so if we are stressed, we may have repetitive thoughts, which makes us feel tense, which makes us have repetitive thoughts…
No matter the reason, there are things that can help you manage – from medicine to meditation, therapy to running marathons – find what works for you by talking to someone about how you’re feeling.
Where can I find help?
- Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight everyday. Our professional helpline workers are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.
- Outside of these hours, call the Samaritans on 116 123.
- Contact your GP for an appointment.
- Self-refer yourself to NHS Psychological Therapies here.
Looking after your mental health
Our mental wellbeing is affected by all of the things in our lives. Everyone is different and there is
no one size fits all way to care for your mental health – but here are some things to try if you are struggling. The important thing is to find what works for you.
- Physical exercise From running to yoga, rugby to taekwondo – fitting exercise into your routine can help you to feel more positive.
- Get some sleep Regular sleep helps us to repair and recharge our bodies and minds. Getting a good amount of sleep (docs recommend around 8 hours) can help you keep your mental wellbeing in check.
- Breathing and meditation Yeah, it might sound dumb, but simple breathing techniques can help you clear your mind, reconnect you to your body and calm you down.
- Nutrition Just like how what you eat can affect your physical performance, what we eat fuels our brains too. Trying to get a range of nutrients and vitamins can help you feel better. Food is also linked to our memories and our emotions, so you might find certain foods help you feel good.
- Fun stuff OK, we know we’re starting to sound really boring, so here’s the good news: stuff you enjoy is really important. Heading to a gig, meeting your mates, watching the footy with your dad, playing computer games – it’s really important to have things that you can immerse yourself in. And it’s even better if you can arrange it as something to look forward to, whether later on in the day or in a month’s time.
You’re not alone
"When I suffered with my mental health, I didn’t know who I could tell and I felt so trapped. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling because I felt too embarrassed. I just disappeared. And I think that that is what a lot of people tend to do when they’re in a time of crisis."Shareefa J
“Setting goals is important because it gives you purpose and focus, and something to work towards. I tend to start by writing them down, but I also tell other people, eg close friends and family as it gives me some sense of accountability”Poorna Bell
Header Illustration by Thomas Hedger
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