HOW ARE YOU DOING?
For many of us, being young is all about opportunity and change. But for some it’s a time of anxiety, loneliness and anger.
We also face the pressure of 24/7 social media, lockdowns and isolation, war and fear of war, economic unpredictability, and climate anxiety. Today, our mental health and well-being matter more than ever.
The sooner we look after our well-being, the better we can help ourselves and others. We need to leave the stigma behind, and confront the issue before it is too late.
Let's change our world before it changes us.
If you suffer from stress, you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization, depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders are among the leading causes of health problems among young people.
Scroll down for some tips to help you deal with stress.
1. MAKE A PLAN
Plan your day: set out what you need to achieve and how long it should take. Set out work, personal (“me time”), and social time. Keeping a list can help you work out what matters most and timings.
Prioritise: tasks can be grouped into four categories - urgent and important; not urgent but important; urgent but not important; neither urgent nor important.
Focus and block distractions: avoid distractions like notifications, pop-up messages, e-mails and calls. Put your phone away, turn off social media notifications or block distracting websites. Stop trying to multi-task.
Take breaks: go for a walk, have lunch, chat with friends, read a book, play with your dog. We need regular breaks to refresh our brain and feel better.
Say no: you can’t, and you shouldn’t do everything. Whether in a work or social context, there is nothing wrong with refusing to do things you’re not able to do. Know – and set – your limits.
2. SLEEP MATTERS
Sleep is vital for our minds and bodies – while we sleep, our brains process memories and our bodies heal and grow. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours.
Lack of sleep can affect your mental health, but mental health can also affect how well you sleep – so it’s important to address both issues.
3. GET PHYSICAL
Take care of your body: sports and exercise have a wide range of physical, mental and social benefits. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones that reduce feelings of stress and anger. It helps us feel better about our bodies and can improve our sleep.
Feel good: when your body is active, your brain produces endorphins. They lift your mood and relieve stress.
Connect: exercise is meditation in motion. As you concentrate on your body, you forget about your problems. Team sports help you connect with other people.
Self-esteem: exercise can help you to set goals or challenges and achieve them.
Do something you enjoy: any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.
Any exercise is better than none: even a brisk 10-minute walk can clear your mind and help you relax.
Nature: being in nature can have a really calming effect on us. Tune your senses to everything around you – the trees, birds and animals, the sound of wind and water. Take a deep breath and see how you feel.
We often know when we’re upset but block out what we’re feeling – whether through fear or stigma. It’s important to give our feelings our attention without judging them, without telling ourselves we’re stupid or weak to feel the way we do.
1. CONTROL YOUR BREATHING
Breathing is key to controlling this sense of panic. Slow down your breathing. Gently breathe out and empty your lungs completely. Breathe in as slowly as possible. Don't take deep breaths or refill your your lungs completely.
Repeat the steady breathing for a few minutes.
2. CONNECT TO YOURSELF
Identify your emotion: is it sadness, fear, shame, loneliness, anger or something else? Name your feeling: “I’m feeling really irritable today but also sad”.
Ask why: working out why you feel that way is the first step to overcoming your emotion – “My belly hurts when I think of my exam tomorrow”, “I’m sad and angry after reading comments on Instagram”.
Be kind to yourself: stop telling yourself you’re weak or stupid, but reassure yourself, like you would talk to a small child.
3. REFOCUS ON THE WORLD
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
Notice the everyday: as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk.
Keep it regular: it can be helpful to pick a regular time, such as a morning journey to work or an evening walk, to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Ask for help: it’s ok not to be ok. You may follow these tips and still need help from a professional. If you think you can't cope: ask for help.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders are among the leading causes of illness among young people.
1. DON'T ISOLATE
When we feel down, most of us disconnect from our friends and stay alone with our thoughts. This makes things worse.
Get in touch with your friends and let them distract and support and help to relieve stress. Good relationships can help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth.
Don’t be afraid to talk: that’s what friends are for. Talking things through with a friend can help you find solutions to your problems.
Help each other: by opening out to others, you will realise that you are not alone. Others too have been or are still going through hard times. Support each other.
Share positive experiences by doing things together.
2. LEARN NEW SKILLS
Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental well-being by boosting self-confidence and helping you to develop a sense of purpose. If you look, there are plenty of opportunities around.
Try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, taking up a new sport or learning to paint.
Sign up for a course: you could try learning a new language or a practical skill that will help you in your personal development and your career.
Take on new responsibilities at work or at college.
Work on a project: fix a broken bike, learn how to cook, plant a vegetable garden. There are lots of free video tutorials online.
Try new experiences: this can go from changing what you have for breakfast to planning an adventure hike with friends. We might find a new place we love, or discover an unsuspected talent or passion.
3. HELP OTHERS
Be kind: exchanging a smile or friendly words can be comforting and lift our own mood. Ask and listen: ask your friends, family or colleagues how they are and really listen to their answer.
Start small: call your grandmother, pick up some rubbish on the street or help someone with food shopping.
Volunteer: if you have time, get involved in your community by volunteering. Helping others will help you to connect with other people, put your own problems in perspective, give you a sense of satisfaction and self-worth, and collaborate with others in a team.
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE
We all go through tough times, and people help us through them. Other times we have been worried about other people’s mental health. Whether they are a friend, family member or colleague, there are many ways to support somebody you care about.
Learn and understand more about mental health and well-being. You may not know if someone has a mental health problem, but sometimes you don’t need to know. Respond sensitively and listen. Set time aside with no distractions.
Don’t wait. It can be hard if you are worried about someone, but if you know there is an issue, take the initiative. Let them share as much or as little as they want. Sharing can take a lot of trust and courage. You might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.
Keep questions open ended: give the person time to answer and try not to grill with too many questions. Keep communication open even if it’s difficult.
Talk about self-care. Exercising, having a healthy diet and getting a good night’s sleep can help protect mental health and sustain well-being.
Offer help in seeking professional support and provide information on ways to do this.
Know your limits. Give yourself time to rest and process what you have heard. Help them create a support network of friends, relatives and mental health professionals who can help.