Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event when there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation started the event 21 years ago. Each year the Foundation continues to set the theme, organise and host the week. The event has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally and is open to everyone. It's all about starting conversations about mental health and the things in our daily lives that can affect it. This year we want as many people as possible – individuals, communities and governments – to think about connecting with nature and how nature can improve our mental health.
However, the week is also a chance to talk about any aspect of mental health that people want to – regardless of the theme. This year has been tough on everyone, so we've asked the professionals in Student Welfare how we can take that little bit of extra time for ourselves, this week and every week.
LAU Mental Health Advisor, Kate Wilson, shares her top five self-care essentials:
Starting and ending my day in a relaxed state is really important to me. To do this I practise 5 deep belly breaths when I wake up, before I go to sleep and whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed. To do this I close my eyes and place one hand on my stomach. I then breathe in through my nose deep into my stomach so that my stomach expands, I then hold for a couple of seconds and then breathe our through my mouth as long and as slow as I can. The key is for your exhale to be longer than your inhale. You are bringing yourself into rest and digest, which is hugely powerful and calming.
Movement is also something that hugely helps my mental health. I make sure I listen to what my body needs. This might be a walk in nature, one of my favourite runs, yoga, a few stretches or dancing to my favourite songs.
I love having time on my own, so making sure I schedule this is something I chose to do every day.
Checking in with myself. The majority of our time is spent in our sub-conscious, so I take some time in my day or week to check in. I reflect on what has been going on for me lately. How I have been or am feeling emotionally and physically, and asking myself what do I need? This might be changing my environment, having an evening to watch my favourite show, speaking to a family member or friend, having a bath. Whatever I feel I need in that moment.
Making sure I’m fuelling my body. When I don’t eat enough I notice a huge negative impact on my mood, so again food is something I chose to prioritise. Making sure I always have food in the house that I enjoy, eating at the right times and drinking enough water.
These are my non-negotiables when it comes to looking after myself. When I chose to do these things I am choosing myself, which allows me to improve my relationship with self and others, allows me to think creatively and bring in different perspectives and life feels a lot easier.
How can you prioritise yourself today?