5 ways to manage your mental health without a therapist
We know that managing your mental well-being is just as important as managing your physical health for a balanced, healthy and happy life.
There are tonnes of information out there to help us take care of ourselves physically. But what about mentally? What are the day-to-day things we can do to take responsibility for our mental health and well-being?
In 2021, waiting lists for NHS mental health treatment were as high as 1.6 million people. While these tips can’t replace professional help, you can certainly use them to support and manage your symptoms while you wait for the appropriate clinical care from a professional.
Take care of your physical health
Improving your mental health with exercise
Studies suggest that even as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can drastically impact our mood. The powerful endorphins released when exercising can often act as a natural antidepressant. You might have heard of a ‘runner’s high’. This is often attributed to high levels of positive endorphins (serotonin and dopamine, for example).
Elevating these hormones will usually directly affect our sleep and motivation levels. This is why it’s important to start forming good habits and some kind of routine for both exercise and bedtime.
In addition to the scientific benefits, participating in team sports or training also provides you with opportunities to connect with others. You can form team bonds and start to build a network of people you can rely on, strengthening your support system when times get tough.
Improving your mental health through your diet
There’s still much research to be done on exactly how the food we eat affects our mental health.
But we do know that many of us will ‘eat our feelings’. This can also be known as ‘emotional eating’. If we’re feeling down or stressed, or maybe even want to reward ourselves, we’ll often turn to our most comforting (and often unhealthy foods).
As well as our brains, our stomachs are significant producers of vital serotonin. When our serotonin levels are out of balance, this can often increase our inclination to emotional eat. We get that ‘hit’ and feel better for a short time. But when our levels drop, we reach for our favourite comfort food once again. It’s easy to see how a cycle forms.
|Here are some tips for mindful eating that might help get you started in breaking the cycle: |
– Try to create your shopping list with specific meals in mind. This may help you to consider your choices and start to rely less on comfort snacking
– Reconnect with your hunger signals – try and plan regular meal/snack times so you can start to differentiate what is a real hunger cue or whether you’re leaning towards emotional eating
– Savour your food – bring all your senses to a meal. What does it taste like? What does it feel like? What’s the seasoning like? When you really focus on the meal, this can often stop us from eating without taking notice of what’s in front of us or what we’re putting in.
We know that dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, omega-3 rich foods like fish and pulses such as lentils and beans have good ‘brain food’ qualities.
What do we mean by brain food? Food provides your brain with the valuable nutrients and proteins to help you think clearly and responsively.
Evaluate your relationship with alcohol and other substances
Alcohol is a depressant. There’s no getting away from that. It disrupts our natural neurotransmitters – giving both a sense of stress relief and a lack of inhibition, but it can also increase feelings of depression and anxiety.
How many of us have experienced anxiety or dread after a big evening? What did I say? Did I upset someone?
The simple fix for this is to give up alcohol. But we know some of you may want to experiment with a more moderation led approach. Everyone’s relationships with alcohol and substances are different. It’s difficult to be prescriptive.
If you’re worried about your relationship with alcohol, support and advice are available.
Find your people
Humans are, by nature, a social species.
Similarly to our ape ancestors, we need social structures and support systems to truly thrive. A number of academics now believe that the ‘epidemic of loneliness’ is directly linked to our lack of connection and how this disrupts our natural human instincts.
It can often feel extremely isolating when going through a tough time mentally. In these instances, it’s important to have a support system. It may be your friends. It may be your family. It may be a community of online supporters. It may be your teammates from your favourite sport.
No one’s saying that the most introverted of us have to become social butterflies. Connection and support look different to everyone, but feeling like you have someone to call on when you need them can make a real difference.
‘The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.’
‘Mindfulness’ has been used a lot in the last few years. It can start to feel like a bit of a buzzword.
What do we mean by mindfulness? Well, it’s a way of perceiving the world around you. This can start with committing to giving yourself a few minutes a day to be truly aware of what’s going in the present.
There are many ways to introduce mindfulness into your life. You can explore your options and find what works for you. We’ll all have our own ‘thing’ that helps us to feel truly ‘in the moment’ and present, whether that’s meditation, breathing exercises, swimming, painting or walking.
Mental health apps
In addition to all of the above, there are also a number of mindfulness and meditation apps to support you in your mental health and wellbeing journey. If you’re looking for an alternative to therapy, you might be looking for something that will help you get to the root of how you’re feeling, and help you deal with it.
And that’s where Ed can Help. We know that speaking to a professional therapist comes with a high price tag and isn’t accessible to everyone who needs it. Not to mention, talking can be seriously tough. That’s why we’ve developed a sound-based therapy that doesn’t need a sound out of you to work. Then, we put it in a handy app, so you can use it any time, anywhere.
These are just some of the things we can all do to live a content and healthier life. However, we know things don’t always work out that way. If you feel as though you need urgent support, please speak to the emergency services as soon as possible.
And if you’re ready to take back control of your mental health and wellbeing, Ed can Help.