The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘kindness’, and although it’s super important to show kindness to others, particularly in the current climate, it’s equally as important to show a little kindness to yourself.
We can often be far more understanding and sympathetic when someone else is going through a hard time, and not extend the same level of compassion when we’re the ones struggling. Read on for our top tips for taking care of YOU this mental health awareness week…
1. STEP AWAY FROM THE NEWS
It’s important to stay up to date with the latest government guidelines on how to stay safe, but apart from that, you don’t need to know the ins and outs of every tiny detail about this challenging time. Spending hours scrolling on social media can be damaging to mental health for a variety of reasons, whether that be feeling overwhelmed by the negative news, or comparing yourself to how others are coping. You are doing the best you can, and that’s enough.
Set yourself half an hour each day to catch up on essentials and then put your phone down. Instead, spend time reading, doing some exercise or catching up with friends and family. These activities will help to build up your energy rather than drain it.
2. LET GO OF PERFECTION
As Tania Ahsan says, ‘The best thing that ever happened to improve my mental health was to accept that things would never be perfect. I came to this realisation the hard way. I strove for perfection in everything I did, from writing to cleaning, and often found myself in the pit of despair when I couldn’t meet the high standards I’d set myself. I eventually came to realise that a beautiful bed has to be slept in and remade the next day…Everything is cyclical and ever-changing and the only way to be in the world is to learn to flow with it’.
Many of you will be overwhelmed with keeping on top of work, homeschooling and staying well both physically and mentally so why not let some things slide? Make a list of everything you feel you should be doing, and them mark down what is a priority, and let the rest of it go. Will the world really end if you don’t clean the bathroom this week?
3. TAKE A BREAK
If you are working from home (see point 4 if you’re not!) , you may find that hour working hours are creeping longer and longer, and you are forgetting to take vital breaks in the working day. Many companies are struggling and have furloughed staff meaning that those left working may have an increased workload and added stress.
Try to schedule in breaks every couple of hours, and instead of scrolling through social media, get up and away from your screens. Make a cup of tea, stretch your legs, get some fresh air or read a few pages of your book. You will come back to work feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle your next task.
Also, make your working hours clear to your colleagues, switch your computer off and store it away when the working day is done. Without the change of scenery from work to home, it can be hard to switch off, so clearing away your work station will make sure work is out of sight, and hopefully out of mind.
These steps will mean you are able to be more productive when you are working, and reduce risk of burnout, so don’t feel like you are slacking.
4. SET YOURSELF A GOAL
For those of you who may have been furloughed, or are not currently working, days in lockdown can seem very long and it can feel unsettling not to have a purpose. This can increase feelings of despair and restlessness. It’s easy to fall into a trap of not having a routine which might be fun to start with, but can easily start to disrupt sleep patterns, and ultimately impact on your mental health.
To tackle this, write down 3 goals every day. They can be a small as tidying your room, reading a number of chapters of your book or finding a workout online to try out. Then, once you have achieved one of these goals, give yourself a tick or cross to indicate what you have achieved. You could even write your list the night before, so that you wake up with a sense of purpose.
It may also help to set yourself a bedtime and a wake-up time and try to stick to them. By regulating your sleep pattern, your body will find it easier to sleep, and you will feel more energised during the day.
5. BE KINDER TO YOUR WEAKNESSES
As Gael Lindenfield states, ‘When you are feeling low and anxious, your weaknesses tend to leap to the forefront of your mind, and, as a result, you may frequently find yourself blaming them for the mess and stress in your life.’
With the disruption of so many areas of life at the moment, it can be hard not to focus on everything that is wrong or that you are not doing. But remember, we are all coping under extremely challenging circumstances, this is not business as usual.
Write down the things that you are perceiving as weaknesses and try to think of how they might actually be a benefit. For example, if you are struggling to exercise as you normally would, see this as giving your body a well needed rest that means you have enough energy to deal with the other demands on your time!