It’s my job to help people with their self-development, and this includes a lot of support when individuals are in difficulty with their mental health. I am privileged to be able to watch my clients get through these difficulties, and explore with them what works and doesn’t work. This is a small list of common solutions which, although they don’t remove problems overnight, do help in managing when we are struggling.
#1 – TALK
Humans have evolved to use words to express themselves. This means that, if we can find a sympathetic listener, our difficult thoughts need not fester inside us, but can see the light of day and be shared. This makes us feel less alone. Furthermore, we worry in parallel, but we speak in series. That is to say, our anxiety goes in lots of different directions at once; but the act of talking involves choosing a single sequence of meaningful words – the focus and prioritisation this requires is soothing in its own right.
#2 – EXERCISE
Always, those who take the chance to walk, run, go to the gym, swim, or do an exercise class, feel better for it. There are good scientific reasons for this: for instance, it helps mental functioning; it increases levels of pain-killing and positive inner chemicals; it gives us focus and flow; and it brings us into new and changing environments.
#3 – DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE
Life sometimes seems to involve an endless stream of chores. This can destroy the spirit, and doing something that you genuinely love to do, even for only a few minutes, can bring back motivation. It can be as basic as tidying up, or chatting with a friend, or a coffee at a favourite cafe. Just make sure it is authentic – something you honestly like doing, not something you think you should like!
#4 – REST
In busy times, we can feel guilty resting. Yes, we have tasks to perform. But yes, we do need to rest and recover. Our best route to happiness is not to feel guilty about resting, but to embrace it. Find some habitual resting time. Good times include directly after meals, in the hour before sleep, after finishing a key piece of work, or in between particular tasks. The resting habit, as any athlete will tell you, is just as important as the work habit.
#5 – DO SOMETHING HELPFUL, HOWEVER SMALL
Especially when we are mentally unwell, everything can seem too much, and we are discouraged from doing anything at all. It is important to begin, even if it is with a tiny task. Try writing a list of no more than three things, each of which will progress something you need to do. Make each thing very easy in itself. Work through them in order, and tick them off when done. This can bring a sense of progress and achievement.
When we are struggling, we need to be easy on ourselves, but also to ensure that we keep looking after our wellbeing. We can:
- Talk things through with a trusted person
- Take some exercise
- Do something we love today, however simple
- Build rest into our day, however busy we are
- Do something helpful, however small, to progress what we need to do