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.
The teenage brain is unique CLICK HERE to read more.
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.
Everyone learns to cope with things differently based on what we have seen others do (this may be family members or what we have seen on TV) – everyone is different. Here are some things that can help you regulate difficult emotions include
- Find healthy ways to deal with stressful times – when things get too stressful, find something enjoyable to do instead like hanging out with your friends, engaging in a hobby or interest, doing some exercise or watching your favourite show or film. It’s important to take time out as well as find ways to resolve difficult situations
- Talking positively to yourself – encourage and reassure yourself that things will eventually be ok and this feeling/situation won’t last
- Accepting and being flexible to change – change is a part of life and that this is something everyone goes through. We understand teenagers go through lots of changes especially in their bodies and brains which can take time to adjust too. Sometimes we don’t choose for these changes to happen, but as we learn to accept change and make the best out of whatever is happening you will grow stronger and happier.
- Use your body to manage your emotions – doing breathing exercises can help you ease the physical tensions you feel in your body when you get stressed and can help you calm down.
- Remember to STOPP – this an acronym for helpful steps you can take when you become overwhelmed. Stop and Step back, take a breath, observe how you are feeling, pull back and put it into perspective, and practise what works. We would also recommend checking out the STOPP app to help you practise these steps.
We understand that life be can be hard and you can find yourself stuck in unhelpful situations or with difficult emotions. This may include feelings anxious, sad and low, or challenges with your mental health. We get lots of questions from young people who feel this way and are struggling to find a way to “bounce back” to their usual selves – this is what we call building resilience.
Resilience is being able to cope, recover and adapt when faced with difficult situations. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience any stress or difficult emotions but you are able to keep going forward whilst feeling this way. Resilience is an inner strength in being able to deal with and manage stressful situations. Being resilient doesn’t mean you push difficult feelings away, it’s recognising that you are having a difficult experience and want to manage it in a constructive way. You are allowed to acknowledge the different feelings you have. Being resilient can help you feel more confident and adaptable when faced with challenging situations.
Resilience is a skill – it takes time to practice but it’s something we are all capable of doing.
Here are some tips on how you can build your own resilience:
- Break the problem down – your problems may feel really big and out of your control. Breaking the problem down into smaller pieces can help you look at the situation differently and identify if there is anything you can control and change which can help you feel better.
- Build and use your support network – sharing your thoughts and feelings with others can help you gain different insights but most importantly have support in place when things get tough. It helps you feel less alone and can understand yourself better.
- Look after yourself – taking time out for yourself can help you refocus on your situation and feel more confident and in control.
- Know your limits – sometimes you can take on too much which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. Knowing what is manageable for you can help you live life within your limits and feel more comfortable.
Over time, by using these skills and techniques you will notice yourself becoming more resilient to problems and finding new ways to cope. It will eventually become a habit at how you look at your problems.
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: