Cheryl Lythgoe, Head Matron at Benenden Health, shares five tips for promoting positive mental wellbeing.
Every year one in four of us will have a mental health problem, according to mental health charity Mind, with the current pandemic having a massive impact on the nation’s mental wellbeing.
Our own research has shown 35 per cent of people feel their mental health has been impacted negatively due to Covid-19, including more than one in ten (12%) who have never experienced mental health issues before.
With the country currently facing unique challenges during what is an extremely isolating time for many, it is vital to prioritise our mental health, from effectively managing workplace stress to coping with anxiety brought about by the pandemic.
Mental health is a serious concern; however, it remains a taboo subject for many, with people often reluctant to openly talk about it. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to promote positive wellbeing and stay on top of your overall mental health in the current climate.
Five tips for improving your mental health:
Pick up the phone
It often seems easier to send a text or an email instead of actually speaking to someone – whether it be in your work life or personal life – however, building and maintaining social relationships is a fundamental human need and it has been proven to help maintain emotional wellbeing.
So instead of sending an email to your Aunt in Australia, pick up the phone and speak to her – or, even better, get on a video call. Feeling down about missing those catch ups with your friends? Set up a weekly quiz or virtual afternoon tea to stay connected to your friendship group and help make life seem a little more ‘normal’ during what is an isolating period. As much as its important to do fun things with the people close to you, its also important to share any concerns or worries with the people you trust and keep those communication channels open on both sides and being there for one another.
One of the foundations of good mental health is good physical health. Keeping active can help reduce the likelihood of depression and anxiety, and even helps slow age-related cognitive decline.
Government guidance suggests individuals may leave the house for one form of exercise per day during the current situation. If you can, then do – whether it’s to walk, run or cycle – and enjoy the fresh air and some vitamin d.
Though we should try to limit the amount of time we spend on social media, it has some real benefits, particularly in the current climate. One positive thing is that a number of fitness bloggers and personal trainers are hosting free live workouts and posting home workout ideas on their social channels to help people keep fit and healthy. These can be great for providing that extra support and motivation to stay active while the current guidance is to stay home.
Mindfulness is a way of being fully present and ‘in-the-moment’. It might seem to be the buzzword doing the rounds on internet forums and self-help YouTube channels, but it really does work. Taking time out to ‘live in the moment’ and appreciate your surroundings can help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. Some simple tips include smiling (even if you don’t feel like it) and remembering the things you’re grateful for, as well as meditation. All these things have been shown to be uplifting and have a positive impact on our overall mental wellness.
Yoga is another great way of getting away from the stresses of everyday life. As well as being a great way to start the day relaxed and stress free, yoga helps build strength and flexibility and improves our posture. There are several studios and yoga instructors providing online classes – as well as free sessions on Instagram and YouTube – so now is the perfect time to take up yoga as a new hobby and improve your mental and physical health simultaneously.
Some people drink alcohol to help deal with negative feelings including fear and loneliness, however it is important to recognise that any change in mood is only temporary. Recent advice suggests there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, so it’s important to choose a healthier way to cope with stress and other mental health issues, such as trying a new hobby or confiding in loved ones.
Give your brain a workout
Word games and puzzles not only provide a good form of distraction when life may feel like it is getting too much, they also help boost brain power, which in turn helps reduce the impact of age-related cognitive decline. Everything from Sudoku and word searches to computer-based puzzle games can help, and they are also great fun and a good alternative to watching TV on an evening. Why not set up a family word game or puzzle night? You could even do this virtually or by posting puzzles to each other if you can’t be together in person.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and, under the current circumstances, it’s crucial that we take the time to check in with ourselves and with our loved ones to stay on top of our mental wellbeing. It is important to recognise that focusing on good mental wellbeing is something to put into practice rather than aiming for perfection and – although these tips are a good place to start – everybody is different and what works for someone else might not work for you. So be kind to yourself and do something that makes you feel good each day.
Benenden Health has more than 800,000 members – including 30,000 who have a membership as part of an employee benefits package – and provides a range of discretionary healthcare services open to all. Benenden Health has also produced a Covid-19 hub on its website with tips and information about how to support your mental health during the pandemic.