What Does It Mean To Be Mentally Healthy?
Everyone has mental health and just like physical health it can change throughout your life. Your body can get hurt or become ill- like catching a cold or breaking a leg - but over time it can heal and get better. The same can happen with your mind, and it's okay to get some help to get back on track if you need it.
There are lots of messages about how to look after your physical health, like eating your vegetables and wearing sun cream. Sometimes it's not so easy to know how to look after your mental health. It can be harder to talk about, but looking after your mind is as important as looking after your body.
Your brain is amazing, it's the control centre that manages things like feelings and emotions, survival (breathing, hunger etc) and taking risks. It produces chemicals and hormones that cause you to feel certain things. During puberty and adolescence the brain goes through huge changes, this can impact on your moods, behaviour, relationships and decision making. During this time, when there's more brain changes, pressure at home and school and different expectations it's really important that you know how to look after your mental health and what to do if this becomes difficult.
No-one can feel happy all of the time. Emotions can be pleasant or unpleasant - but they are all valid and you need them to help you survive. They help you to recognise danger, build relationships and communicate with other people. Even anger, sometimes considered a "bad" feeling, helps you to see that something's wrong and can motivate you to make changes. You can read more about handling anger if you CLICK HERE.
Experiencing a whole range of emotions, sometimes lots in a short space of time, is what makes you human.
Not Feeling Great
Rather than thinking of mental health as okay/not okay some people think it's helpful to see it as a line, or a continuum. At one end you might feel really good, things are going well and you feel able to get on in life. You feel supported and mentally healthy. At the other end you might be really struggling. You feel unable to cope or function and you will need professional support like help from a GP or a mental health team.
People can move up or down the line at any time. Most people don't reach the point where they receive a mental health diagnosis or need medical intervention but some do. Maybe school, family or friends are causing you stress. Maybe you're just feeling down or can't stop worrying and can't explain why. Things like drugs and alcohol can also cause a change. Recognising when there's a change, and taking steps to look after yourself, can stop you from moving too far up the line.
Looking After Yourself
You don't have to wait until you see a change in your mental health to take action. Getting into the habit of looking after yourself can actually help you to manage things like stress and tough situations. You could try:
- Getting enough sleep and rest - even if it takes you a while to wind down quiet time can help your brain to function
- Eating well - treats are okay but giving your body enough nutrients and water can also help your mind
- Exercising - find something you like. It could be dancing, trampolining, cycling, even just a walk. If you can get some fresh air at the same time this is a bonus
- Talk about how you feel - we can listen if you don't feel able to talk to anyone else
- Have fun with people you feel comfortable with - make plans so you have something to look forward to
- Get creative - some people like to keep a feelings diary or a feelings box, other like to draw or create music
- Set challenges - take up a new hobby or activity, this can be great for your self-esteem
- Have a tech break - we know it's hard! Sometimes the online world, social media, gaming, even just talking to pals, can be exhausting. It can also stop your brain from switching off if you're on screens too near bed time or checking stuff during the night.
- Be kind to yourself - perhaps the most important one of all. Allow yourself to make mistakes, don't compare yourself to others and give yourself credit
You may find something else that works well for you, the point is that everyone deserves self-care. There is only one you - take the time to look after yourself.
If It Gets Too Tough.......
Sometimes you might not be able to manage things on your own. It's okay not to be okay. You are never alone and there is always someone who can listen. You could talk to a friend, family member, youth worker or teacher. You can ask for an appointment with a GP.
As well as asking a question on Cool2Talk you can get support and information by clicking on the following links: