Looking After Your Mental Health

Aware NI

Our mental health affects how we think and feel and how we cope with life’s ups and downs. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.

When our mental health is good we have a positive view of ourselves, have healthy relationships and are hopeful about the future. However, just like our physical health we need to look after it in order to maintain it. Our mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as we move through different stages of our life. Periods of change and difficult experiences can put it at risk depending on how we think about them and what support we have around us.

Mental Health Problems

We all have mental health problems from time to time e.g. when we are under pressure at work, are coping with a loss, have relationship problems or a physical illness. We may feel down, stressed or worried, but we normally recover after a relatively short period of time. However, if these difficulties persist or we don’t have good support, we may be at risk of developing a mental illness.

Mental Illness

A mental illness is a diagnosable condition that causes major changes in our thinking, behaviour and physical and emotional feelings. It affects our ability to work and have healthy relationships. The most common mental illnesses are depression and anxiety affecting one in four of us in a lifetime. The more severe illnesses bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are less common, affecting around one in ten of us.

If you are worried about your mental health or concerned that you may have a mental illness, talk to your GP as soon as possible. He will advise on suitable help or treatment if required.

Using self-help strategies will help all of us to maintain good mental health or improve it when we have a mental health problem or illness.

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health

Be active: This helps lift our mood, reduces stress and anxiety, improves physical health, and gives us more energy. It doesn’t have to cost money by for example joining a gym. We just need to find an activity we enjoy such as walking, cycling or swimming and do it regularly. Even doing daily tasks faster so that we get slightly out of breath will help send ‘happy’ chemicals to our brain. When out shopping or at work take the stairs rather than the lift or escalator.

Stay connected: Keeping in contact with trusted and supportive family and friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. They can make you feel included and cared for and can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head.

Make time for relaxation: Different things work for different people. Try reading, yoga or meditation, or just put your feet up and then make time for it on a regular basis.

Eat a good, balanced diet: This is just as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Eat regularly, eat
breakfast, eat
healthily, eat fruit and vegetables and drink water. Food and drinks that contain caffeine, sugar and additives may give us a short term ‘boost’ but this is usually short-lived and may result in increased anxiety and low mood.

Balance sleep: Keep to a healthy sleep routine – including going to bed and getting up at more or less the same time each day. The more we sleep the more tired we seem to feel. If you have disturbed sleep patterns try not to ‘nap’ during the day to make up as this will just make the problem worse.

Talk about feelings or problems: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. This is a wise saying if we choose people we trust and who won’t judge us to confide in - just being listened to can help us feel supported and less alone. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while.

Have some fun or be creative: This helps us feel better and increases our confidence. Doing something we enjoy probably means we’re good at it and achieving something boosts our self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or listening to music can help us forget our worries for a while and change our mood.

Be kind to yourself: Encourage rather than criticise yourself. We are all unique with different strengths and weaknesses. If we were all the same the world would be a very boring place. Yet we may find it difficult to accept compliments, never mind praise ourselves. We often focus too much on our faults. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend.

Help others: Just doing another person a kindness can help us feel good. Helping out can make us feel needed and valued and that boosts our self-esteem. Try looking for volunteering opportunities in your area.

Beware of alcohol and other drugs: Drinking too much has a negative impact on our mental health. Whatever the short-term effects, alcohol is a depressant and there are healthier ways of coping with tough times. Drug misuse (whether these are illegal drugs, prescribed or over the counter medications) can lead to mental health problems or even serious mental illness.

Useful resources

These five directories list the names, numbers and web addresses (where applicable) of...
The EA currently have 162 staff on our Mental Health First Aider network. The Mental...
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AMH New Life Counselling provides high quality counselling services and is part of Action...
AMH Promote provides opportunities for adults with a learning disability to be socially...
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This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
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Back to Life, Back to Normality is a free 12-week mental health programme delivered by...
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Belfast Resource Centre offers many opportunities including social and leisure activities...
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Free access to eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines - available to download on your device...
Supporting veterans at risk of suicide across Northern Ireland. Exposure to line of duty...
MindWise is delighted to offer employers an opportunity to train their staff as Mental...
Since 2010 Action Mental Health has been successfully delivering Chronic Pain/Conditions...
Libraries NI can provide a free Homecall service to your home if you have significant...
Link & Learns are bite size, topical learning sessions for your employees, delivered...
CBT involves examining your thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns, and working out...
Be Mindful is an online course that uses mindfulness techniques like meditation,...
The OUR Generation project is a Peace IV funded project that provides a unique...
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Advanced Diploma in Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching This virtual training programme...
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Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a...
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AMH Works provide specialised mental wellbeing training and consultancy to tackle...
Mood Matters Young People programme is aimed at 14-18 year olds and gives them knowledge...
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Positive Minds for Premature Parents supports families of premature babies to develop and...
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AWARE also offers an online support group service. The groups provide an opportunity to...
The British Red Cross is helping people connect with their local communities, meet new...
MindWise are proud to be the only membership-led mental health organisation in Northern...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
AMH New Horizons provides a comprehensive programme of specialist training in: Personal...
We have a wealth of experience in delivering training and consultancy services to a wide...
WiseTalking is a pilot Talking Therapies service for children and young people who are...
A project for men aged 50+ to share skills, socialise and connect with their wider...
The Community Care and Support Service is open to individuals over the age of 18 years...
Our Talking Therapies Practice offers individuals a range of psychological interventions...
Helping employees become more resilient, by giving them the skills to reframe negative...
Counselling is a form of talking therapy that allows you to speak openly about your...
From books and magazines to local history resources, Libraries NI has a host of fabulous...
A partnership, led by AMH, who worked with 8 leading charities to improve mental health...
Bloom is a UK-wide programme which supports young people’s mental health resilience,...
You must download the Libby app to continue to access the eMagazine and eNewspaper...
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It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Moodpath: Depression and Anxiety is a written mood journal that uses progress reports and...
Personalised Exercise Plans
MoodMission helps you learn new and better ways of coping with low moods and anxiety...
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
MindShift CBT is a free self-help anxiety relief app, that helps you reduce worry, stress...
Guided meditations
Here2Help has been developed by a local initiative from people who want to make the range...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers to help you build resilience and get...
Fabulous! Is a motivational app that uses challenges to help build physically and...
What's Up? can help you cope with anxiety, stress and feelings of depression. It has...
Guided meditations
Clear Fear is an app developed for teenage mental health charity Stem4 which uses the...
Support to resist self-harm
Boost your happiness and create a kinder world while doing it with the Action for...
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) offers a range of self-help methods to help you...
Your Mind Plan offers practical ideas and advice to help you boost and maintain your mental wellbeing. Answer the quick 5-question quiz and the Every Mind Matters widget will give you 5 tailored actions to help you feel more in control, improve your sleep, deal with stress and anxiety, and boost your mood – as well as the option to easily swap any actions and to save the whole plan via email.

Helplines & Web Chats

Samaritans
Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community