Top tips for managing your mental health
In October, World Mental Health Day gives everyone the opportunity to think about mental health and how we can each improve and maintain mental health and wellbeing. Sinead Golledge, who leads a charity-funded staff support service shares some useful tips.
Defining mental health
If I asked you to imagine someone with a mental illness, what would that picture look like?
The images we consciously and subconsciously think of when thinking about mental illness usually stem from the media. But actually, someone with a mental illness looks like you and me. They are the person sitting next to you on the tube, they are your postman or colleague, they may even be a loved one.
You often cannot see a mental illness, which in some way hinders recovery. Whenever I try and explain mental health or illness, I always try and liken it to treating physical health. For example, if you turned up at work on Monday and your colleague was limping, you would check to see if they're okay and if there was anything you could do to help them.
World Mental Health Day
Earlier this week was World Mental Health Day, highlighting the importance of understanding what mental health is, and what you can do to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing.
My role at The Royal Marsden is to lead the service that offers support and care for the wonderful staff at our Chelsea and Sutton hospitals.
Much of what we recommend to our staff can be used by anyone, so here are some simple things you can do, and some useful online resources that can help with your mental health and wellbeing.
But if you’re finding that your worrying is taking over your life or interfering with your work or normal activities, please ask for help through your GP.
Managing your mental health
Talking about mental illness is awkward. But it doesn’t have to be. Try asking that friend who doesn’t seem themselves if they are ok. That simple question may change a person’s day completely. They might be thinking that no one cares about them until you ask them that simple question.
Set a 15-minute slot in the morning and one in the evening where you allow yourself to worry. If worries come into your head outside of these times, remind yourself that they are not welcome and that you have allocated some specific time for them. Distract yourself from the worries outside of these times by talking to someone or reading a book. This should help you feel you have more control. This technique isn’t about ignoring your worries, but it allows you to simply worry about them at a specific and safe time. Thought stopping is the same as asking someone to not think about something, because, like with children, if we're told not to do something, we’re more likely to do it! Don’t do your worry time when you are trying to get to sleep and make sure you are strict about stopping once your 15 minutes is over.
Writing a list
If you find your worries become louder when you are trying to fall asleep, and therefore can’t sleep, try writing a list before bed. Writing worries down can help remove them from your head and put them in a safe place. There isn’t a lot you can do about those worries at 11 o clock at night so thinking about them isn’t going to help! Writing them down on a bit of paper, putting them in a box or a drawer can actually help compartmentalise them and get rid of them from your head.
Breathe it through
If you find your worries are getting out of hand and your anxiety levels are increasing, try taking some deep, slow breaths. Listening to your breath and feeling the way your breath is going in and out can help calm you and reduce negative thoughts. It can also help slow down your heart rate and stop any racing thoughts. Open a window or get some fresh air and take a good, deep breath.
Count it down
If you find it hard to distract yourself from your worries when you are trying to sleep, try counting from 100 down to 1 in your head. If your mind keeps wandering back to your worries, imagine the numbers in your head as you’re counting down. Concentrating on the numbers will help clear your mind from your worries and will also help you drift off to sleep.
Online resources and apps
Apps are a way to reach out to those who may not know how to, or are not quite ready to, access support and help. Our phones and the internet are always accessible to us, and for some, this can be really helpful. Here are some free online resources and apps that you may find useful.
- Elefriends - supportive online community from the mental health charity, Mind
- Silvercloud - provides a wide range of supportive and interactive programmes, tools and tactics for mental and behavioural health issues
- Five Ways to Wellbeing - offers a practical way to help you feel good and function well in the world
- Happier - helps you stay more present and positive throughout the day. The Apple Watch app is like your personal mindfulness coach - you can use it to lift your mood, take a quick meditation pause, or capture and savour the small happy moments that you find in your day
- Stay Alive - a suicide prevention resource, packed full of useful information to help you stay safe. You can use it if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide.
- Wellmind - NHS mental health and wellbeing app designed to help you with stress, anxiety and depression. The app includes advice, tips and tools to improve your mental health and boost your wellbeing
- SAM: Self-help for Anxiety Management - helps you understand and manage anxiety
This service is funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity for staff at both of our hospitals, in Chelsea and Sutton, and works to give staff the tools they need to keep themselves emotionally and mentally well before they start the incredible work they do for our patients and their families.
Help us to continue providing vital services to support the amazing staff at The Royal Marsden.