Keeping Mentally Healthy: Self-Care Tips
There are lots of things you can do to look after your mental health and strengthen your resilience. Try these tips:
Do things that are good for your body – it’s good for your mind too!
Look after your body. Physical exercise helps us feel good and get rid of stress in our bodies. When we are physically strong and fit it gives us the physical and mental energy to deal with difficult situations.
Stay active Aim to be active at least 60 minutes every day. You don’t have to be active all at once. You can break up the activity throughout your day to reach your goal. If you can go out, try walking, running, cycling or other sports. You do not have to exercise hard every day: being in nature is proven to be good for mental health.
- If you need to stay inside, try dancing, stretching, or even helping with the housework!
- Exercising with a friend will help you stay on track.
- Choose healthy foods when you can.
- Maintain a bed time every night. Aim for at least 8 hours – ideally 9!
- Even if you are having bad day and don’t feel like it, have a wash, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and get dressed.
- Learn and practice deep breathing - find out how
Learn to recognize how you are feeling
It's important to understand how you feel. During adolescence it's normal to feel a range of emotions. In a single day you can feel sad, frustrated, excited, in love. Try to get into the habit of recognizing and naming your feelings, especially if they start to feel overwhelming. Sometimes it may be helpful to write down your feelings. The more we become aware of our feelings, the more we can control them – and stop them from controlling us!
Positive thoughts, positive feelings
The way that we think about situations affects the way we feel. When we only focus on the negative, we feel bad. When we feel bad, we can only see the negative side of things. It's a terrible cycle!
You cannot always be positive, but looking for the good reduces negative feelings, and allows us to find solutions to our problems.
Activity: Positive thinking // People who think positively say they feel happier, less anxious and less sad. Spend 10 to 15 minutes before going to bed each day to think and write down reasons why things are going well. Try to identify at least 3. It may be as simple as: "This morning, my teacher praised me”, “my friend showed they care”, or an important event: "I passed the exam!" Try to dentify why those things went well – and recognise all the efforts you made!
Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel how you feel, to have good and bad days, to make mistakes and not be perfect. Don’t put pressure on yourself to always "be the best". When you experience difficult emotions, be kind to yourself, don’t use negative words to describe yourself. Use ‘positive self-talk’, such as:
"I am finding this difficult right now, and that’s OK because I am dealing within it and it will change,"
“It’s OK for me to feel sad when something bad happens, it’s a normal reaction."
Remember your strengths and previous successes to get through the difficult times (if you have done the positive thinking exercise this will be easier to do 😊).
Did you know that being kind to others, helps us be happy, too? Helping others, giving compliments or being generous boosts our mental health. Likewise, when we experience and practice ‘gratitude’ – recognizing the acts of kindness shown to us - it helps our mental and physical health!
Avoid unhealthy ways of coping
When you are having difficult feelings, it's important to find a healthy way to take care of yourself. Avoid the temptation to:
- drink alcohol,
- smoke tobacco or marijuana,
- eat too much,
- hide yourself away from friends and family, or
- get involved in dangerous relationships and activities.
These activities will add to your problems, not solve them.
Connect! connect! connect!
Keep in touch with family and friends as much as possible. When we feel bad, we often want to hide away from other people, but this is not a good idea. Instead try and make sure you spend time with the RIGHT people: those who support you and you trust. Make sure to check in with them often. Even if you don’t want to say much, being in the company of people we like and trust or doing an activity together helps our mental health. Use social media, email, phone, or write a letter. When you can't find a connection, think about the time you spent together.
Activity: Your Support Network// Think about five people in your life right now. How do they make you think about yourself? How do you feel about them? Think about who among them always makes you feel better when you see them or the ones you have most fun with. People play different roles in our lives, some we have fun or play sports with, others we want to confide in, others maybe the one who can help us with our schoolwork. Try and work out who you have in your support network.
Deal with the problem
Problems can grow bigger in our minds, especially when we ignore them. As they grow bigger, we begin to feel less able to cope with them and this then affects the way we feel. We must face our problems.
If you are facing a problem and don’t know how to solve it, try these simple steps:
- Write the problem down Be as specific and brief as possible.
- Brainstorm First, think of as many possible solutions to the problem as they can. Do not worry if the solutions are good or bad at this stage. Then, think of what you do by yourself and also people who can help you. tip: If you having difficulty coming up with solutions, consider what you would say to a friend if they asked you for advice
- Decide and choose helpful strategies From the list of potential solutions, choose those that are most helpful in dealing with the problem.tip: the best/most helpful strategies are usually the ones that you are able to do with the resources you have available and have very few disadvantages for you and others
- Action plan Develop a plan for how and when you will carry out the solution(s); pick the day and time when you can do this. Write the plan down. tip: telling a friend of family member about your plan will increase the chances of you carrying it out!
- Review Think about what did and what affect this had on the original problem, if it did not work not try to understand why. Go back to your original list of solutions and see if there is another thing you can try.
- CONGRATULATE yourself whether successful or not on positively attempting to solve the problem!
For specific support, learn more through the topics below:
Seek HELP and TALK
Coping with difficult feelings, stress, fear or sadness alone is not always easy. Sometimes despite following all this advice and self-care tips, our feelings can overwhelm us. We can end up feeling depressed or desperate. We may stop doing the things we usually enjoy and feel completely able to cope with everyday life and possibly have thoughts about hurting ourselves, or that life is no longer worth living. These thoughts are not uncommon, and you should not be ashamed of experiencing them but if you find yourself thinking this way, it's important that you seek help and talk to someone you can trust. If you do not have anyone to talk to then find services near you that can help.