The past two or three years have been astonishing, looking back. And many people have felt their mental health suffer as a result.
It’s easy for mental health checks to become lost or forgotten about in the fast pace of daily life. Now, more than ever, it’s important to prioritise your mental health. Not just for your own sake, but to stay strong for others too.
Without maintaining your own mental wellbeing, it’s harder to provide the help and support to the ones we love, when they need it.
It’s about more than a self-care evening here and there. Sometimes we need to implement new habits into our routine to keep our mental health in check. Like what?
Let’s delve into a few common causes of mental distress and what can be done to reduce some of it.
1. Money concerns
With the cost of living on the rise, and what feels like a rocky winter ahead of us, maintaining financial stability will be at the front of many people’s minds.
There are many financial support systems available to look into, and plenty of helpful articles online. Organisations to help provide advice and guidance on getting your finances under control and understanding them better.
If you’re worried about the future, Pension Buddy has lots of resources on how to help make sure you’re financially fit for retirement.
2. Build-up of tasks
When you’re anxious or stressed, it’s easy for tasks to build up and contribute to even more distress. These tasks can soon start to feel like a mountain, and it becomes easier to hide away from them than tackle them.
Getting on top of the task list will help ease the worry. Create a list of tasks and break them down to be more manageable. And remember, they don’t need to get done all at once. Think of it a bit like unpacking after moving house. Unpack a couple of boxes a day and it soon pays dividends. Try to unpack everything at once and you end up with clutter and exhaustion!
Being able to actually see your tasks on a list can take away some of the fear and stop the feeling that they’re looming over you. And when you physically check a task off, you’ll gain a sense of achievement and reassurance visually seeing your task mountain get smaller. Just take it one step at a time. Rome was not built in a day, and you’re allowed to spread jobs out.
3. Worries about children and families
Parents may find that as children get older and take on more of their own responsibilities, worry sets in. Maybe they’ve recently moved away for the first time, to university of with friends.
Whatever it is, their new responsibilities can sometimes become your own worries, even though they aren’t!
Remind yourself of the likelihood of these worries coming true. Perhaps you’re jumping to conclusions or focusing on the worst possible outcomes for them, and actually these aren’t realistically going to happen.
Talk to your children, chatting to them about what’s going on in their life can ease your worries and reduce any overthinking. You’ll probably realise they’re more confident and capable than you think.
It’s natural to see your kids as your little baby, even when they’re well into adulthood. But trusting them and learning to let go will give your worry levels a bit of a rest.
Unfortunately, as we get older, bereavements can become more common. Whether it’s family or a friend, it takes a massive toll on anyone’s mental wellbeing.
Coping with a shift in your support network after a loss of someone close is hard. Building on your existing support network can be beneficial. Meeting up with friends you don’t see often, or calling a sibling who lives far away can be a helpful reminder than you you’re not alone.
Everyone’s journey with grief is different, and it might be that you could consider bereavement counselling. Organisations such as Cruse Bereavement can provide these services and point you in the right direction.
However you tackle this, the most important thing is to talk to someone. Don’t bottle this up.
5. Your own health
Worries about your own health can be all-consuming, especially as we age. With the recent pandemic, and entering winter again, health concerns are likely to be on the rise for everyone.
Do what you can to protect yourself. Get some daily vitamins to have each morning, and eat well. Remember that as well as Covid, there are colds and ‘flu round the wintry corner, and practice things like washing your hands frequently. Book your booster vaccines when they’re offered to you, and make appointments for health worries, before they become urgent or acute.
Protecting yourself physically can help your mental worries around health, and what you put into your body is important. Not only is it good for your physical health, but taking daily vitamins and eating healthily will boost your motivation. This can improve mental health as we enter the darker months.
Ageing is another concern we think about more frequently as we get older. Whether it’s more grey hairs, crunching sore knees, or backache in the mornings, we’re reminded that our bodies are no longer quite as bouncy and youthful!
We don’t want to be ‘old people’ who can’t walk to the shops or keep up the pace of life. This anxiety can be unpleasant because it often feels like there’s nothing that can be done about ageing. Whilst this is somewhat true, there are things you can do to strengthen your body.
Increasing protein intake as we get older and remaining active will keep your muscles strong, as muscle mass reduces as you age. Maintaining some weekly exercises is also beneficial for your mental health, as it releases endorphins. Plus, noticing a positive difference in your body from exercise will keep you strong and less immobile as you become older.
As life changes, and we go through social and economic events, it might have left you feeling more lonely and isolated than before. Maybe you’ve even lost a friend or two during recent years, or you’re struggling since your children have moved away. Even if as a teenager they always spent time in their room!
Loneliness can happen throughout our lives, for various reasons. The best way to help address it is to contact people. Which can sometimes be the hardest step. Suggest to a friend if you can meet up regularly, once a week. This way, you don’t have the fear of having to pluck up the courage to reach out to someone, as you’ve already set the expectation for a weekly meet-up.
If you feel you’re truly alone, don’t let it take hold. The Campaign to End Loneliness has some helpful links. Reach out.
8. Work stress
These days, switching off from work can seem impossible. With smart phones and laptops, it’s like you can never get away from emails and messages.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries between you and your work life. Mute notifications, and log out of your emails when not at work. It takes practice, but we promise – you will feel better for it!
Humans are notorious for disliking change. Children getting older, losing loved ones, ageing, moving house, giving up work, economic shifts – however change comes, it is always unsettling.
Incorporating more mindfulness into your life is a useful way to tackle the negative feelings around change. Focus on what it is about the change that unsettles you, and try to unpick it a bit.
Engage in creative crafts like painting or drawing, knitting, crochet, even tinkering with your car or bike if that’s what you enjoy. Activities like this help you switch off from the constant whirring in your head.
When you do feel anxiety welling up, change your focus, and breathe through it. Instead of being swallowed up by intrusive thoughts and getting lost in the negative emotions them, turn to a mindful activity. Or even do some of the housework tasks you’ve been putting off. Call a friend, meet up with them if they’re available. Just change the scene.
If you need it, here are some useful links you can call on for help: