It's fair to say the pandemic took its toll on the world's mental health. The UK already had rising rates of anxiety and depression, and covid only added to this pressure we were all feeling, which is still lingering.
In a world like ours, with the media, social channels, work, technology, and life in general, we are faced with regular mental health challenges. Here's a few we need to be aware of:
Anxiety remains the number one mental health challenge in the UK, and in 2022, people are more anxious than ever before. Anxiety is a mental state of apprehension. What might or might not happen? What lies ahead? How will we deal with it? What will it mean? Anxiety reflects our thoughts and fears about the uncertainty of our future circumstances, whether that's regarding our health, our job, our relationships, or a potential change in work circumstances due to a downturn in the economy.
It can cause a pounding heart, rapid breathing, butterflies in our stomach and sometimes even a burst of energy. Mental responses such as excessive fears, worries or obsessive thinking are part of the mix too. Start writing down your thoughts, put pen to paper and track your moods. Look out for the things that instigate your anxiety and work out how to tame them.
Depression is a common mental health condition, a mood disorder that affects millions of people daily. Depression will affect how you feel, how you think and how you behave. Symptoms of depression may result from something happening in your life, something that makes you feel a sadness that persists throughout the day for a long time, and your sleep and your appetite may change. Your life may have been turned upside down, relationships may have been stressed, and you may have lost your job, leading to depression, which can cause day-to-day activities to strain you with a complete loss of interest in life. For many years in the UK, suicide has been at an all-time high, with depression the number one culprit. So be yourself, slow down, take your time and think about your next moves that will make you feel content.
Rule 101: Loneliness is not the same as being alone. We can be alone without feeling lonely, we can actually feel quite content in our own company. On the other hand, we can be surrounded by hundreds of people and still feel very lonely. Not having close personal relationships that make you feel safe, secure, comforted, and loved makes us lonely, physically and mentally. People truly are social creatures at heart, and loneliness can be very hard on our mental and emotional health. Reach out to your people and connect today.
Financial and mental health are intrinsically linked, yet talking about money is taboo; it's not allowed, making it even more difficult to share what you're going through. Financial stress can affect your health and lead to bad relationships because of arguing with those closest to you about money. It can make sleeping difficult, make you angry, give you mood swings, make you tired, cause you to lose appetite, lower your sex drive and make you lonely if you withdraw from others. Draw up a budget, plan it out and get your finances and wellbeing in order.
>Grief and Loss
We've all lost loved ones, it's tough, very tough, and the effects of grieving are profound and hard to predict. Grief and loss can affect our thoughts, behaviours, daily feelings, and relationships. It can affect our physical and mental health and wellbeing, although no medication can help. The effects of grief can often resemble depression, which is influenced by the strength of our attachment to the person we lost. Grief can take multiple forms at different times in life, and it's hard to prepare ourselves. Talking is the best thing you can do when grief knocks on the door. Spend time with people you have and remember the good times.
When a person faces some of the challenges mentioned above, they often turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope with the stress. It may feel good at the time; however, using substance abuse as a coping mechanism can lead to a substance disorder, only compounding your mental health struggles. Talk to your GP or a health professional if you have struggled with substance abuse. Take advantage of the help that's there for you.
How to Protect Mental Health in 2022 and beyond.
With all the strife of life, there are things we can do everyday to protect our physical and mental health. Some simple lifestyle tweaks can protect us against many of the negative effects we sometimes feel and can bolster our wellbeing.
If there is one thing you can add to your daily routine to improve your mental health and overall wellness, it's exercise, which can be tailored to your interests and strengths. Cycling, gym, rock climbing, dance, hiking, swimming, cardio, running, or brisk daily walking in the fresh air. Anything that gets your heart pumping for 20-30 minutes 3 times a week is good for your mental health and will make your body look good too!
One thing most of us are guilty of is eating all the things we shouldn't, but our diet can and will influence our mental health. So it's always best to aim for a diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and lots of water.
Limit sweets and processed foods for optimal health.
The relationship between sleep and mental health is complex, and getting a good night's sleep is crucial for your psychological and physical wellbeing. Start a bedtime routine. Try to hit the pillow simultaneously each night to reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle. Try to keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. Exposure to light in the evenings will 100% make it more challenging to fall asleep. Get some exercise during the day, so your body is tired, and if you have any worries, write them down in a journal before bed and leave them there to deal with tomorrow.
>Learn to Relax
We all need to learn better ways to relax. High-stress levels can cause heart issues, can sleep disruption and weight gain. Adding some form of stress-reduction action to your daily routine will help you unwind. Do yoga, meditate, listen to soothing music, and practice deep breathing. Start a new habit, get creative and find new ways to reduce stress in your life.
When to Seek Treatment
If the lifestyle changes noted above don't seem to improve your mental health over a period, maybe it's time to see a mental health provider. These experts can provide support and therapy, and sometimes medications as well.
Taking care of your mental health needs to be your top priority. Get the help you need as early as possible for the best recovery outcomes and talk to someone. A problem shared is a problem halved.