If you didn't already know, it's Mental Health Awareness Week so we've teamed up with Mind to answer your questions on all things mental health.
1. How does exercising effect mental health?
We all have mental health just as we have physical health and both are closely linked. Exercise is very beneficial and releases ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins. It can also reduce levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, which has been linked to a range of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
While all forms of exercise can bring benefits for mental wellbeing the most important thing is to find a type of activity you enjoy. A team sport might be best for you if you value a strong social element. If you want time to yourself an activity like running might work better. Don't feel that you have to stick at something that's not working for you.
2. How can you improve your mental health?
If you are facing a difficult time, talking about the way you feel with someone you know and trust can help. You don’t have to deal with your problems on your own, there are lots of people you can speak to – friends, family, your GP, even your tutor or supervisor.
- Get enough sleep: If you're tired, your worries can get blown out of proportion. Give yourself plenty of time to unwind before bed and if you’re finding it hard to get to sleep it’s worth trying to cut down on stimulants like tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Make use of the support available on campus: Most universities will have a wellbeing service which can provide free therapy and a drop-in service. Many also have a nightline to provide support throughout the night.
- Physical activity: Even just 10 or 20 minutes a day spent doing moderate physical activity can really boost your mood, especially if it’s outdoors.
- Eat healthy: The right foods can help your concentration for studying and help you feel well generally. Try to get a good mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as slow-release energy foods like protein foods, nuts and seeds, oats and wholegrains.
3. What do I do if I know someone who is having a difficult time with their depression?
Many people experiencing a mental health problem will speak to friends and family before they speak to a health professional, so the support you offer can be really valuable. If someone lets you know that they are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, it's common to feel like you don’t know what to do or say – but you don't need any special training to show someone you care about them.
Listen to what they have to say. Simply giving someone space to talk, and listening to how they’re feeling can be really helpful in itself. If they're finding it difficult, let them know that you're there when they are ready.
Offer reassurance. Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. You can reassure someone by letting them know that they are not alone, and that you will be there to help.
Stay calm. Even though it might be upsetting to hear that someone you care about is distressed, try to stay calm. This will help your friend or family member feel calmer too, and show them that they can talk to you openly without upsetting you.
Be patient. You might want to know more details about their thoughts and feelings, or want them to get help immediately. But it’s important to let them set the pace for seeking support.
Try not to make assumptions. Your perspective might be useful but try not to assume that you already know what may have caused their feelings, or what will help.
Keep social contact. Part of the emotional support you offer could be to keep things as normal as possible. This could include involving your friend or family member in social events, or chatting about other parts of your lives.
You can also offer practical support by attending appointments with them, looking for information that might be helpful and learning more about the problem they experience.
4. How do you get your life back on track when you are depressed?
It is possible to recover from mental health problems, and many people do – especially after accessing support. However, it's important to remember that recovery is a journey and it won't always be straightforward. You might find it helpful to focus on learning more about yourself and developing ways to cope, rather than trying to get rid of every symptom of your mental health problem. What recovery means to you will be personal, but for most people, the most important thing is to find ways to live the kind of life you want.
For more information, visit www.mind.org.uk.
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