HomeHealthMental health experts share the one thing they wish everyone knew

Mental health experts share the one thing they wish everyone knew

Taking care of your wellbeing is a lifelong endeavour – for both your body and your mind – and it doesn’t look the same for everyone.

But if mental health professionals could share just one nugget of wisdom with us all, what would it be?

Saying no does not make you selfish

“For some of us, saying no can be really hard. It might fill us with feelings of guilt, or even thoughts about being selfish. But the reality is, there’s nothing selfish about saying no,” says Gemma Campbell, counsellor and clinical content specialist at Kooth (work.kooth.com).

“Someone who is able to say no perhaps has healthier boundaries than someone who agrees to things they don’t want to do. Having healthier boundaries isn’t about refusing to help out, it’s about working out our personal limits, and figuring out what we’re okay with.

“Over time, this means we’re able to think about our own needs, as well as the needs of others.”

Read: Are hobbies the mental health saviour you need?

Men do seek help

“The one thing I wish everyone knew is that men do seek help. By perpetuating the stereotype that ‘men don’t talk’, we end up reinforcing that idea,” says Dr Zac Seidler, director of mental health training at Movember.

“We need to stop making assumptions and start asking men what they need, because we know millions of men are reaching out for support. We keep telling men to open up, but we have to be ready to listen to what they have to say.

Two male friends chatting and eating cake outdoors
Should we stop saying men never open up? (Alamy/PA)

“You can’t make someone share before they’re ready, but there are a few things you can do to get the conversation going. Keep things low-key, judgement-free, and ask open-ended questions. It can feel like two steps forward, one step back, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep showing up for them.”

It’s normal for therapy to feel hard

“It is natural when considering starting therapy to feel excited and anxious at the same time, even if it’s something that’s been on your mind for a long time,” says senior therapist Sally Baker (workingonthebody.com). “It’s crucial to find a therapist you feel you will be comfortable working with. Request an introductory chat so you can find out more about their experience and how they work.

“Remember, having to go into forensic detail about your life isn’t always necessary anymore to achieve powerful therapeutic results – this is called ‘content free’ therapy. If this is what you need, it’s available for you.”

Everyone is worthy of support and self-care

“Many of us experience that horrible sensation where we view ourselves as not worthy. These kinds of feelings have increased during the pandemic. Yet it’s important to remember that each of us suffers in some way,” says psychotherapist Dwight Turner (psychotherapy.org.uk).

“Having these thoughts doesn’t mean we are broken, and sitting with a counsellor or psychotherapist can be the perfect route towards recognising we deserve that promotion, the applause, or that person we are having dinner with. Seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor should be an essential part of all our mental health self-care.”

Read: How music can boost your wellbeing

Sleep really does have a massive impact

“When we sleep, our brains go through a host of processes, which help regulate our physical and mental health,” says psychologist Dr Lindsay Browning.

“During sleep we regulate our hormone production, including hormones that control happiness, such as dopamine. If we don’t get enough sleep, we can have an imbalance in hormones, which can impact our mood and physical health.

“We also process difficult situations we’re facing in our lives through our dreaming (REM) sleep. So when we don’t get enough, our brains don’t have the time and opportunity to do this, and we are more likely to be depressed and anxious. This is added to the fact that, without enough sleep, we may feel too tired to get things done during the day, and start to feel sad and anxious about that too.”

Burnout can be prevented

“We’ve been inundated with best practices for work-life balance and self-care. The reality is, people have different needs, interests and coping mechanisms – it’s about striking the right balance for you,” says Dr Sarah O’Neill, clinical director at Spectrum.Life (spectrum.life).

“Setting boundaries between work and personal time is a great first step. Add in stress management – proper sleep, nutrition and regular physical activity go a long way in preventing burnout. Recognising what is within your control (and not) is also important.

“Your job design and workload are usually outside of your control, around which you may need to communicate with your employer – even the best self-care strategies can be overwhelmed by unsustainable job roles. You can focus on managing stress, work-life balance and navigating life responsibilities. To truly manage burnout however, you will also need to engage with your employer when there are areas of your role that are unsustainable, as this is at the core of it.”

Read: Exercise can play a key role in maintaining your mental health

Physical activity really is medicine for the mind

Woman in a swimming pool, smiling at the camera, wearing goggles and a blue swim cap

Exercise is a boost for the mind. (Alamy/PA)

“Being active can improve your physical wellbeing, but it can also help you maintain a healthy mind. People who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, and lower rates of mental ill health,” says Gosia Bowling, psychotherapist and national lead for emotional wellbeing at Nuffield Health (nuffieldhealth.com).

“Exercise can help relieve feelings of stress by releasing anxiety-reducing chemicals and giving you a mood-lifting dopamine spike. Remember: the greatest gains are often seen in those who go from doing nothing to doing something – you don’t have to be an athlete, everything you do counts. Even a short burst of five to 10 minutes of brisk walking can increase your mental alertness and lift your mood.”

– With PA

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