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Looking after your mental health

Being healthy doesn’t just mean looking after the physical aspects of your health; it’s just as important to care for your mental wellbeing. When you feel good in both mind and body, you can enjoy life to the full and cope with the usual stresses of everyday life. 

Here we consider some common issues that may affect your mental health and suggest some tips for coping.


  • Don't get overwhelmed Don't get overwhelmed

    The issue

    Life throws all manner of things at us. Bereavement, relationship breakdown, redundancy and retirement, to name just a few, can all take their toll on your mental wellbeing. You may also suffer if you find you can't switch off, or take on too much. Work is a common culprit if you have a demanding job.


    It's vital to strike a balance between meeting your responsibilities and taking time to relax so you can reduce your stress levels. If you don't, you might be forced to take time off later because of ill health.

    Take a minute to consider your lifestyle and see if you can do things differently in a more leisurely and less hectic way.

    • Try prioritising things and reorganising your life so that you're not trying to do everything at once. If you do, you're in danger of making mistakes. 
    • After you finish a task, take a few moments to pause and relax in a way that works for you. Go for a walk or try a relaxation technique, for example. 
    • Aim to be clear and assertive when you communicate with others. Be prepared to say no to unreasonable demands placed on you. 
    • At the end of each day, take time to reflect on what you've achieved, rather than worrying about what you still need to do.

    For more tips, see our information on managing stress.

  • Fight the fear of missing out Fight the fear of missing out

    The issue

    Social media can fuel our anxieties because we now have easy access to instant information about activities happening across diverse social networks. The amount of information at our finger tips has led to a phenomenon called 'fear of missing out'. We worry that others might be having a great time without us and we need to continually check what they are doing. This has been found to make us unhappy and to feel dissatisfied with our lives.


    Accept you can't do it all. It's important to take time out to relax in any way that works for you to help you to manage your emotions.

    You might find meditation or a mindfulness technique can help you to live in the moment and enjoy and appreciate the positive things in your life. Mindfulness helps you to manage your thoughts and feelings in a more balanced way, instead of being overwhelmed by them.

    Research shows it:

    • improves concentration 
    • reduces feelings of stress and anxiety 
    • can help you take better control of addictive behaviour
  • Reach out when you're lonely Reach out when you're lonely

    The issue

    If you're feeling low, it may be difficult to connect with your community. But our relationships with friends and family are vital to our mental wellbeing.


    Maintaining good relationships with people builds up a support network, which is always important, but especially so in times of need.

    Research has shown that people who have a good social network are less likely to:

    • feel sad 
    • feel lonely 
    • have low self-esteem 
    • have problems with eating and sleeping

    Make strides to stay active in your life and try to keep working, or take on some volunteer work. A fulfilling work-life can give you a sense of achievement and give you the opportunity to meet people, while keeping you physically and mentally active. It can also give structure to your day-to-day life.

    For more information on how to connect more with your community, see our Related information.

  • Our Health Insurance

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  • Expand your horizons Expand your horizons

    The issue

    If you don't get out and about and get a good dose of sunlight every day, it can really affect your mood. Feeling trapped in old habits and not learning new things can also make you feel stuck in a bit of a rut.


    Make sure you leave the house and see some sunlight every day, because this will lift your spirits. Remember to be safe in the sun. Enjoy the beauty of nature. Research shows that simply spending more time outdoors in green spaces or at the beach, for example, can lower stress and make you feel better.

    Taking the time to learn or discover new things can contribute to good mental health too. Learning something new will give you more confidence and is usually great fun.

    Here are some ideas.

    • Take an adult education class. 
    • Join a book club. 
    • Visit a museum. 
    • Learn a new language. 
    • Travel somewhere new.
  • Be kind to yourself Be kind to yourself

    The issue

    How you feel about yourself affects your daily life and wellbeing. It can also affect how other people view you. If you don't value yourself and be the best you can be, other people might not see what you can offer.


    Accept who you are and be kind to yourself. It’s important to see the value in yourself and to acknowledge that everybody's different. Try not to judge yourself against impossible standards; be realistic about things.

    Think about the things you're good at, rather than focusing on things you don't excel in. Make a list. Learning how to accept yourself will help you to stay healthy and happy throughout your life.

  • Seek support and another point of view Seek support and another point of view

    The issue

    If you’re feeling particularly low or finding it hard to cope, you might feel guilty or embarrassed about asking others for support.


    Speaking with others about how you feel may help you to see things from a different perspective. Friends and family are a good starting point. If you prefer to air your worries to someone outside your situation, there's a range of help available that might make all the difference. There are many support groups, charities and professional counsellors you could choose from. See Resources for contact details. If you're feeling particularly low, contact your GP for help.

  • Feel healthier Feel healthier

    The issue

    Fewer people are satisfied with their general health these days. How you feel about your health can affect your general wellbeing and matters a lot to most of us. Good health doesn't just mean not being affected by illness or a disability, it encompasses physical, mental and social wellbeing.


    Take some steps to live a healthy life. You need to eat well, keep active, watch your drinking, and get enough sleep. It might sound elementary but these can all have a profound effect on your mental health.

    Research shows that people who say their health is bad are less happy and more anxious than people who consider their health to be good.

    A healthy diet

    It’s no secret – sticking to a well-balanced diet can help you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of health problems. Eating well can also make us feel emotionally well.


    It's just as important to exercise, as this helps your brain to release happy hormones (endorphins), which can improve how you feel. Do whatever you enjoy most; there’s sure to be something for you. Even low-impact exercise like tai chi can help boost your overall wellbeing.

    False highs

    Alcohol is a depressant and can affect the way your brain functions, so watch how much you drink. Although you may get a temporary ‘high’ if you drink too much, it can affect your mental health. Illegal drugs, such as cannabis or ecstasy, also have the potential to seriously harm your mental health. If you want to keep your mind healthy, don't do drugs.

    Getting a good night's sleep

    Sleep is important for your mental health too. If you don't get enough, it can affect your concentration, demotivate you and leave you feeling drained of energy. If you get enough sleep, you will feel refreshed and more able to go about your daily activities.

    For information and advice on living well, see Related topics. There are often local sources of advice too – check online or at your local pharmacy for advice on quitting smoking, for example. There may be leaflets or advice you can get from your GP surgery too.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information


    • Mental health: strengthening our response. World Health Organization., published August 2014
    • Mental health services/teams in the community. Royal College of Psychiatrists., published August 2013
    • How to manage and reduce stress. Mental Health Foundation., published January 2013
    • How to manage stress. Mind., reviewed 2012
    • Przybylski A, Murayama K, Dehaan CR, et al. Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behaviour 2013; 29:1841–48. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014
    • Generalised anxiety disorder: applied relaxation in adults. BMJ Best Practice., published 27 October 2011
    • Common mental health disorders. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), May 2011.
    • About mindfulness. Oxford Mindfulness Centre., accessed 10 April 2015
    • Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev 2013; 33(6):763–71. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005
    • Measuring national well-being: life in the UK, 2014. Office for National Statistics., published 18 March 2014
    • Is work good for your mental health? Royal College of Psychiatrists., published 2015
    • Joyce K, Pabayo R, Critchley JA, et al. Flexible working conditions and their effects on employee health and wellbeing. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 2. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008009.pub2
    • Sunlight exposure: Communicating the benefits and risks to the general public. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2015.
    • The state of happiness. Young Foundation., published 2010
    • No health without mental health. GOV UK., published 2 February 2011
    • Five ways to wellbeing. New Economics Foundation., published 22 October 2008
    • Accept who you are. Mental Health Foundation., accessed 8 April 2015
    • Steps to a longer and healthier life: For people with severe mental illness. World Health Organization., accessed 8 April 2015
    • Eating well and mental health. Royal College of Psychiatrists., published January 2014
    • Abbott R Lavretsky H. Tai chi and qigong for the treatment and prevention of mental disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am 2013; 36(1):109–19. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2013.01.011.
    • Cooney GM, Dwan K, Greig CA, et al. Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 9. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004366.pub6
    • Depression in adults. BMJ Best Practice., published 5 December 2014
    • Alcohol-use disorder. BMJ Best Practice., published 22 August 2014
    • Alcohol-use disorders: Diagnosis, assessment and management of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2011.
    • Mental health action plan 2013–2020. World Health Organization., published 2013
    • Psychosis and schizophrenia. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., published February 2015
    • Amfetamine overdose. BMJ Best Practice., published 12 September 2014
    • Alcohol and drugs – what parents need to know: Information for parents, carers and anyone who works with young people. Royal College of Psychiatrists., published March 2012
    • Insomnia. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., published November 2014
    • Insomnia. Medscape., published 10 September 2014
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