May 10th-16th is Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, more than ever, it's important we know how to look after our mental health and to make use of the resources available to us.
We understand that this a particularly stressful time for all of you. After the decision was made by Welsh Government to cancel exams, Qualifications Wales made changes that meant that this years’ exam season is very different to usual.
We spoke with Dr Rachel Dodge, Qualifications Development Officer (with a PhD in Psychology – focused on student wellbeing), about protecting your mental health and how you can support friends and family during this time.
Spend time outside
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is Connect with Nature. Over half of UK adults say being close to nature improved their mental health and 4 in 10 said it made them feel less worried or anxious. Spending time in nature can be as easy as a walk in the park. Spending time outside is a good way to unwind after a full day of learning.
Take a break
We’ve all spent more time in front of a screen over the last year or so. While there are restrictions still in place and fewer things to do, it’s easy to spend time on your phone mindlessly scrolling. Take a break and try other activities that will distract you, this could range from reading a book, going for a walk, or how about trying mindfulness?
As some restrictions are still in place, it is extremely important that we all adhere to the rules of social distancing and follow the guidelines. However, social media and various other forms of digital communication can ensure that we remain in contact with our friends and family, regardless of location.
Maintain your routine
It’s always good to maintain a good routine. Get up at the same time every day and do something that makes you feel good as soon as you wake up. A good routine helps us to feel grounded and gives us a sense of normality.
Maintain a healthy body
We are all guilty of turning to unhealthy snacks during stressful times, however, it's best to limit these snacks and try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Get outside for a walk or run, or alternatively, there are a number of apps and Youtube videos online for you to complete exercise at home. You could also use this time as an opportunity to try new types of exercise, such as Yoga, which doesn't require any specialist equipment.
Don't neglect your sleep
Sleep is important and it is recommended that we have at least 7 hours a night - this will support your cognitive functioning; you’ll have more energy and you’ll be able to stay focused for longer throughout the day. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will set you up for a good routine.
Focus on control
Given the rate of change happening at the moment, we may feel that we have no control. In this case, it's best to focus on what we can control, from our routine to our choice of reading materials, keep in mind that you still have control.
Take time to unwind
Always make time to relax with activities you enjoy, this could be reading a book, watching a boxset or playing a video game. Or, try something with those you live with e.g. baking together; it will provide you with a healthy distraction.
It’s good to talk
It is important that you connect with others, either in your household, or with others virtually - never feel like you are alone. Let people know how you feel, it's best to share, as you will feel better sharing your concerns. It may sound like a cliche, but a problem shared, is a problem halved.
Despite the current restrictions, we can still think of ways to help others, this could be something as small as a phone call to making a playlist for your friends - there are always ways to help.
Do you have any ideas on how you are maintaining your mental health during this time? Feel free to share this with us via our social media channels.
In addition to the advice by Rachel, here is a list of useful website that you may find useful:
- Mental Health Foundation
- Mind - Coronavirus and your wellbeing
- Young Minds - What to do if you're anxious about coronavirus
- Unicef - How teenager can protect their mental health during coronavirus
- Help Guide - Coronavirus anxiety
- Meic Cymru
- Teen Vogue - Coronavirus anxiety
- Drug Watch - Student Health Guide
- Drug Watch - How to deal with anxiety
- UWS - complete guide to stress management and time management for students