Mind your Mental Health

Freshers week is over. Maybe you’ve had a great time, or perhaps it wasn’t quite what you expected? There may be times over the coming weeks when you feel a bit low, stressed or overwhelmed, which is why we’re encouraging you to mind your mental health.

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by the Mental Wellbeing Service, with thanks to Mental Health Foundation

You may have worries about your studies, financial concerns, problems with relationships or the difficulties of living away from family and friends. Most students face concerns of these sorts at some time in their student careers.

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, so now seemed like a good time to put together some tips for you to look after yourself and get support if you need it. There are a variety of World Mental Health Day events in Cardiff

Top 10 Tips for Positive Mental Health

1. Talk about your feelings

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.

Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone – and others might be able to offer fresh perspectives and useful suggestions. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same. The very act of trying to put how we feel into words makes us think more clearly about a situation and can help cut the problem down to size.

If there’s nobody you feel you can turn to, look at the Mental Wellbeing pages for support available at the University.

2. Keep active

Physical activity is a proven way to keep mentally well. Exercise makes us feel better immediately through the release of uplifting chemicals into our bodies.

Even just half an hour’s brisk walk every other day can make all the difference. Joining a gym or taking up a sport are also great ways to meet new people and to see new places and things.

For more information on exercise and mental health, visit the website of the Mental Health Foundation.

3. Eat well

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A balanced diet is essential to maintaining good mental health. A growing body of research shows direct links between what we eat and how we feel.

Mind, the mental health charity, has produced a useful guide to mood and food. For more information, visit Mind’s website.

4. Write it down

Putting whatever is troubling us into words can help us to think more clearly and cut problems down to size. Some organisations (e.g. Samaritans) run email helplines – great for those of us who find talking difficult.

Lots of people find that keeping a record of thoughts and feelings is useful in helping to understand how their mental wellbeing changes over time.

5. Drink sensibly

Even though it might make us feel good in the short term, alcohol is a depressant drug. Even a small amount of alcohol before bed stops us getting enough deep sleep to feel properly refreshed – and the world never looks good through a hangover.

Avoiding too much alcohol is crucial for both our mental and physical health, but particularly when we’re feeling low or anxious.

6. Keep in touch

Close relationships have a huge impact on how we feel on a daily basis. A phone call, a couple of emails or a few texts, can help us feel connected to those we love. Or why not meet up for a quick tea or coffee?

For people who are depressed or feeling low, regular social contact can make all the difference – but don’t wait for them to get in touch with you.

Even just lifting the phone can be incredibly hard for someone in a low mood. However, the support that person will feel following that phone call, email or text are well worth the effort.

7. Take a break

A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a 10-minute break from writing that assignment or a weekend away doing something new.

A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. Take a deep breath… and relax. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting your feet up. There are some excellent podcasts you can listen to or download on the Mental Health Foundation website.

Listen to your body. If you’re really tired, give yourself time to sleep. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill. Sometimes the world can wait.

8. Do something you’re good at

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What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.

Concentrating on a hobby like drawing or playing music can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood.

9. Improve your coping skills

If we rely too heavily on one or two methods of coping in difficult times, we can find ourselves in trouble if we suddenly can’t use them (e.g. an injury might stop us from taking exercise).

Some common coping strategies – like drinking, abusing drugs or harming ourselves – may bring moments of relief, but are not consistent or healthy ways to cope in the long-term.

Learn to relax, control breathing, combat negative thoughts, change your diet, meditate, exercise, do yoga, think through problems, talk and share worries – the list is endless. The more different ways of coping we’re able to turn to, the better.

10. Ask for help

Everyone can feel low, anxious or unable to cope from time to time. They’re all normal responses to life’s challenges. However, if these feelings go on for more than a couple of weeks, we should seek professional support.

See your GP or Contact the Counselling or Mental Wellbeing Service in Student Services. Asking for help is a sign of strength and can be the first step to solving a problem.