What are you doing for your mental health? 

Making sure that good mental health is a priority wasn’t something that I thought about as a child or young adult.  I have relaxing and stimulating hobbies and interests such as reading, music and my beloved garden.  Surely this is enough to keep me on even keel.  No, it isn’t enough, we have to make time to nurture our mind and allow our mind to heal.

Just like the body, the mind needs rest and recuperation.

* On 10th March 2022 NHS Digital reported that the NHS had 4.3 million referrals, for conditions such as anxiety and depression, in 2021.  Just under a quarter - 1.025 million - were for children or adolescents.  In 2019 the figure was 2.8 million referrals - 763,888 were for children or adolescents.  That is a staggering number of adults and young people who are or have been struggling with their mental health.  The pandemic and the resulting restrictions, not to mention lockdown, made life very hard for people already having challenges with their mental health.  The figures above show just how many more of us also found lockdown mentally damaging.

There are many websites and helpline numbers offering support and help to people suffering with mental health issues.  Unfortunately, there can often be a wait for treatment such as counselling.  Your GP can and will issue medication to help with the symptoms but this isn’t always enough and more specialist assistance may be required.  I would say to anyone reading this who is currently experiencing challenges with their mental health to get in contact with your GP as soon as possible.  They can start the ball rolling and get you the help you need.

What can we all do to make sure we maintain good mental health?

Relationships – Make friends - building positive relationships is an excellent way to improve your wellbeing.  Have someone to talk to, someone who really listens to you, someone to hang out with or just go for a walk with.

Exercise – Try and make time for a little exercise every day.  It could be just a walk around the block.  I like to walk on my own listening to music but it may be beneficial to you to walk with someone.  If you are not physically able to go out walking, get up off the settee every hour and do a few stretches; every little helps.  During lockdown my garden was an absolute life saver.  I was out there nearly every day when it was dry, doing something or other or just having a tidy up.  I realise not everyone is blessed to have a garden, and the local parks or recreation areas are a great way to get some exercise.

Being Mindful – I use an app called Headspace to meditate, exercise or just listen to mindful music.  Sometimes I do this for no more than 3 minutes at a time but I do it every single day.  Take a few minutes a day to just stop and take slow deep breaths, 3 or 4.  Block out all the noise and hustle and bustle for a few minutes and when you get back to whatever it is you were doing I promise after a few days of doing this you will feel the benefits.

Learning new things – It really doesn’t matter how you do this.  For me, I like to watch documentaries and listen to podcasts; they teach me new things all the time - I’m a whizz at quizzes because of it!  Think of something manageable.  There is no point setting yourself huge goals and then feeling awful because you haven’t achieved them.  I read somewhere that a great grandfather lost his wife during lockdown.  She always baked cakes for the family especially on their birthday.  After her death, he taught himself how to bake and decorate cakes and now does this for the family.

Helping Others – Do something for someone else; research shows doing positive things help us to feel good.  There are many ways we can help others, from donating to charity shops and fundraisers, to just taking the time to ask someone how they are doing.  Small acts of kindness go a long way.

The reality of life means that curve balls every now and then will come your way.  The way you deal with everything else as the curve ball come at you is what will make all the difference.  In the words of one of my favourite authors : “It is not the load that weighs you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – C. S. Lewis.

* NHS Digital - https://digital.nhs.uk/data
                                        Safeguarding blog May 22

Photo by Emily Underworld on Unsplash

Pauline Jackson
District Safeguarding Officer
Bedfordshire, Essex & Hertfordshire District