Looking after your mental health
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Advice, information, local and national support services that can help you, your loved ones or those you care for, prioritise mental health.
In the post pandemic world, with the living-crisis taking hold, the war in the Ukraine and climate emergency continuing, looking after our mental health is now more important than ever.
Why is looking after your mental health important?
We know how to care for our physical health and what to do when we're unwell or injured. So, we should take the same approach to mental health when we're not feeling quite ourselves.
We can do a lot for our mental health and overall wellbeing. Knowing some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety is half the battle, and identifying them can help determine our next steps in deciding what care and support we need. It’s important that we should seek professional support where and when self-care hasn't been effective.
What signs should we look out for?
Depression and anxiety can present physically and psychologically. While mental health conditions are more common than you may think, not everyone will suffer the same symptoms or experience mental health issues in the same way. Here’s what to look out for:
· Persistent low mood.
· Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
· Significant weight gain or loss.
· Increased or decreased appetite with loss of interest in food.
· Extreme feelings of worthlessness, guilt or worry.
· Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
· Loss of interest in personal care, hygiene and general wellbeing.
· Suicidal thoughts.
How to care for your mental health this winter?
Looking after our mental health during the colder, darker months is vital, as winter weather can cause many of us to feel gloomy. Here are some ways you can lift your spirits:
Breathe. Experiencing periods of depression and heightened anxiety often leaves us on edge and tense. We should pause and take several slow, deep breaths, allowing ourselves a moment of calm and a chance to reset.
Find time for yourself. Depression and anxiety can be isolating, so spending time alone can be the last thing we want to do. But it’s important that we try to do things that have made us happy before. Whether you take time to get back into a hobby that has fallen by the wayside or indulge in some self-care, take time for yourself.
Keep active. Low moods and energy levels leave us wanting to stay in bed or curl up on a sofa, but exercise releases endorphins. You do not need to overexert yourself or spend hours exercising. If you can, something as simple as a short walk is all you need to kick-start your recovery.
Get outdoors. While the winter weather does not motivate us to go outside, connecting with nature has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation found that spending time in nature can bring consolation in times of stress, reduce feelings of social isolation and effectively protect our mental health.
Sleep well. It can be hard to switch off when we're anxious or depressed, but sleep is the body's way of healing and recovering. Rest supports our mental and physical wellbeing. Consider creating a bedtime routine for yourself to encourage a good night's sleep, avoiding caffeine after three o'clock and screens up to an hour before bed.
Eat well. When we experience periods of depression and anxiety, we should avoid recreational drugs and alcohol and cut back on ''unhealthy'' foods, swapping them instead for healthier, nutrient-dense foods that will provide the nutrients and vitamins our bodies need for healing and energy.
Stay connected. Make sure you keep in contact with friends and loved ones – even if this is via text or phone.
Reaching out for extra support.
While mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can leave us feeling estranged and isolated from friends and family, the reality is that our friends and family are a support network we can reach out to for help when we're not quite ourselves. Remember it's ok not to be ok and that you're not alone.
For some, self-care is an effective way of managing their mental health and overall wellbeing, but sometimes, we need extra support. There is no shame in asking for help. Should you need additional support to look after your mental health and wellbeing this winter, why not consider the following:
Friends and family. If you’re not sure where to begin, reaching out to friends and family is a great place to start. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Workplace support. Mental wellbeing in the workplace has become more of a priority, with many organisations offering mental health support services to their staff. If you don’t want to confide in a loved one because you feel guilty or embarrassed, using a workplace mental health support scheme could be the right first step.
Your GP. They may be able to offer you support and treatment. They can also refer you if appropriate or recommend local options.
Mental health professionals. You may be able to self-refer to the NHS in some areas. This means you don’t need to see your GP first. You can also access therapists through certain charities or privately.
Charity helplines and support groups. We’ve listed below a selection which includes local support.
Emergency help if someone is in crisis or has attempted suicide, call 999 straight away and ask for an ambulance.
Urgent non-emergency help:
Call the Mental Health Crisis Team if you need urgent help, but it’s not an emergency:
Local and National support:
o Berkshire Women’s Aid offers specialist help to victims of domestic abuse –
call: 0118 950 4003
o Cruse Bereavement Care provides a helpline, for those who are bereaved –
call: 0808 8081677
o Emotional Wellbeing Hub offers free support and advice, providing a central point of contact for young people, families, and professionals to access mental health services.
o Kooth provides free, safe and anonymous online support for young people aged 11 to 18 in Wokingham Borough
o Sane Line: support for people affected by mental illness - call: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm to 10.30pm, daily)
o Shout is a confidential 24/7 text service offering support if you are in crisis and need
o Switchboard operates a confidential helpline for LGBTQ+ communities across the UK –
call: 0300 330 0630
o The Silver Line provides support and friendship for those aged 55 and over –
call: 0800 470 8090
o Wokingham Recovery College gives people with mental health problems the chance to access education, workshops and training programmes, designed to help them on their road to recovery
o Wokingham Mind Wellbeing Service offers free one-to-one sessions for people over 18 to help manage everyday stress and wellbeing challenges.