Life often throws us things that we have to deal with, whether we are ready for it or not. Sometimes we can cope okay and other limes we need someone to help us through it all. When life throws you a curve ball you can react in many different ways, sometimes people get angry, cry, withdraw and try to ignore sometimes, it can overwhelm us and we can’t seem to work anything out.
Keeping safe emotionally is just as important as keeping ourselves safe physically. This section has some practical ideas for getting through the times in our when things are not going so well.
What is Mental Health?
When people think of mental health they usually think of mental illness. But just as it’s important to look after our physical health, it is just as important to look after our mental health as well. Mental health is about staying healthy mentally while dealing with the things life can throw at us.
Here are 4 definitions that will get you thinking:
- Mental health involves skills such as the ability to manage change, to recognise, acknowledge and communicate thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative. (HEA 1997)*
- Mental health is about balance but also encompasses abilities at the extreme. (e.g. the ability to be happy and sad, hopeful and despairing). (HEA 1997)*
- Mental health involves the skills to make and maintain relationships to cope with stress and/or to modify environments or relationships that cause stress (HEA 1997)*
- Mental Health is the emotional and spiritual resilience that enables us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness It is a positive sense of wellbeing and an underlying belief in our own and other’s self worth (HEA 1997)*
*Health Educational Authority – UK
How to Stay Mentally Healthy
There are lots of things that we can do to keep mentally healthy. The most important is our own self talk. Everyone does it we talk to ourselves about our lives, what we like, what we hate, what we wish we could change. Positive self talk can be great for your mental health, negative self talk can bring you down and affect your mental health enormously.
So How do You Turn Negative Self Talk into Something Positive?
There are times when we find that we are beating up on ourselves because of a situation or a decision we have made hasn’t turned out the way we thought it would. We can start to say things like “I was so stupid”, “I can’t do this’, and “Why do I get myself into this sort of stuff”. This is negative self talk.
The first things you need to do is stop and calm ourselves down, think about the way we are talking to ourselves. If we were talking to a friend who had asked us for help would we say those things? You need to treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. A best friend would always be supportive and talk to you in a positive way.
- Am I focusing on my weaknesses and forgetting what I am good at and what is good about me?
- Am I making things seem worse or bigger than they really are?
- Am l being too hard on myself?
- Am l being realistic?
- What can I say to myself that is more encouraging?
It takes practice so why not start each day saying 10 positive things to yourself. If you repeat the same thing to yourself enough times you will start to believe it.
So why not try repeating something positive to yourself such as “I can do this” “I am smart” or more specifically “I will get great marks at school”. Of course you will still need to study and try your best. Sorry guys, positive affirmations are not that strong on their own. They are not an instant miracle thing, but study, effort and confidence WILL make you that much more likely to succeed.
Other things you can do to help yourself stay mentally healthy:
- Do things that will improve self esteem (participating community activities).
- Encourage positive thinking by hanging around people that have a positive outlook on life and themselves.
- Developing and maintaining your social skills – by getting out and gaffing involved you are working on such skills as problem solving, communication and confidence – skills which will help make and keep positive friendships.
- Good relationship with at least one parent or another adult who is important to you.
- Good relationships with friends and peers.
- Set goals and go for them
We all get a bit down about things from lime to lime. About 40% of young people will have periods of unhappiness and sadness in the next six months but this may not be depression. Depression is when you can’t shake those down feelings for a couple of weeks, you might experience behaviour, personality changes and your mood affects the things you usually do. This may indicate you are depressed and need to seek some help.
Other indicators of depression can include:
- Sadness or Irritability
- Difficultly concentrating
- Lack of energy, enthusiasm or motivaton
- Restlessness or agitators
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
- Withdrawal from friends, family and previously enjoyed activities
- Putting yourself down and thinking your no good
- Suicidal thoughts or actions (thinking about hurting yourself or acing on it)
Things That May Help
Like any other illness, to manage depression successfully it is a good idea to look at the treatment options available.
Speak to a Professional
Psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors are people who can listen to you and help work out ways of managing your experiences of depression. Your local doctor or community health centre is able to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. For information about how to find your local doctor or community health centre that may be able to help you phone us on 5531 1577.
Medication may be helpful in managing depression. There are several different types of anti-depressant medication, which are prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist and are usually taken along with speaking to a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor. It is a good idea to discuss your medication with your doctor you may like to ask about what options you have, how the medication will affect you and how to take the medication safely. Sometimes you may need to try a few different types before finding one that suits you, so if you find it is not helping go back and talk with your doctor.
Natural therapies such as acupuncture or naturopathy may also complement other treatment options. Your doctor should have more information about what these are and how they may help.
Sometimes if people are so depressed that they cannot see any options then it may be helpful for them to be admitted to hospital. During this lime they can receive the treatment they need that may help them to feel better.
Along with seeking treatment to manage depression there are number of things you can do that may help when you are feeling depressed.
Talking to Someone
When things are tough it may be helpful to talk to someone you trust. This may be a family member, friend or someone Ike a counsellor or psychologist. It may be that you just have someone you trust hang out with you. Sometimes sharing how you feel can help you get through the hard times.
Being Part of a Support Group
Being part of a group of people who have similar experiences may be helpful in getting through the down times. Come in and have a chat to our Youth Worker who can help link you with a group in your local area.
Eating Well and Being Active
It is not uncommon to have a change in your eating habits and become less active when you are feeling down. Research into depression has shown that exercise and eating well may help you to feel better about yourself. You may Ike to spend part of each day done something active, like going for a walk, run or swim. Stay away from fatty and highly processed foods, go for fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water and stay away from alcohol.
Keeping a Journal
Keeping a journal may help to explore your feelings. Some people write regularly while others just write when stuff comes into their head. Some people also find it relaxing to write. You may want to write a poem or a story.
Taking time Out to Relax
It is a good idea to try and take a bit of each day to do something you enjoy. When you are feeling down it may be hard to be social or motivate yourself to do things. It may help to make a list of all the things you enjoy dung then plan to do something from this list each day.
For more information
Different Ways of Coping
Experiencing problems and being worried is a normal part of life. The level of stress people feel as a result of their problems and worry is different for everyone and the way people cope may also vary. It is possible to have a number of ways to manage different problems. Problems may be scary and it is not uncommon to feel stressed and become angry. In dealing with these feelings it is important you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Coping with problems or worries in a violent way is not OK. If you are having difficulty managing your stress levels you may want to check out the fact sheets on the right hand side of the page.
Suggestions for Coping with Problems and Worries
There is not one right way to cope with problems worries and finding a way that suits you is important. Bottling things up inside may make the situation harder in coping, it may be helpful to do something that allows you release the stress, anxiety or anger you may be feeling. This may make it easier to manage your problem. There a number of things you can do that may help.
Talk to someone you trust
It may be hard to let someone know what is going on however reaching out to someone may help you feel better. It can be a relief to share your thoughts with someone else and it may be possible to manage your problem together. You may find it helpful to talk with a friend, family member or teacher.
Write it down
It may take time for you to feel ready to talk with someone. You may find it helpful to write about what is worrying you. Making a list of the positives and not so positive things can sometimes help to make things clearer.
Do a Drawing
Some people may express themselves through their art-work
Do something you enjoy
Taking your mind of the problem may be helpful. You may be able to do this by doing something you enjoy. Doing something active may be a way of releasing some tension. It may also be helpful to hang out with friends, read a book or listen to music.
Talk to a counselor
If you are finding your problem makes it hard to carry on with day to day stuff it may be helpful to talk with a school counselor or youth worker They should be able to help you work out how best to manage the situation.