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Are You Ok? No Really, Are You?

The signs you may be struggling with your mental health and tips to help you feel like you again.

CW: This article discusses mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.

mental health, help, support
Mental Health

In the UK, almost half (49%) of all 18–24-year-olds suffer from mental health issues. This statistic from YouGov highlights how pressing an issue mental health is among young people. In this article, I will identify the early signs that you may be struggling with your mental health. More importantly, I will explore what you can do to make yourself feel better.

1. Feeling anxious or worried

It is completely normal to feel stressed or worried at times. However, if this emotion persists and becomes routine it can be an early sign of something deeper. If feeling anxious interferes with your daily life and prevents you from participating in the activities you enjoy, it may signal a mental health condition. Symptoms of anxiety can include, headaches, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, restlessness, and a racing mind. Some individuals can find these symptoms overwhelming. Methods that are recommended to reduce anxiety include breathing exercises, talking to someone you trust, going for a walk, eating fresh fruit and veg or simply keeping a diary and documenting the thoughts that worry you. For more in-depth advice on managing anxiety, the charity Mind has great resources you can access here. This advice is free.

2. Feeling depressed or unhappy

Similar to anxiety, feeling unhappy is a common and valid emotion, but again if it interferes with your everyday life, it could signal something more. From personal experience, feeling depressed can feel like a dark tunnel with no way out, lacking interest in activities you previously enjoyed, and/or feeling irritable and teary. For me, I found that talking to people I trust helped enormously.

Opening up and sharing your feelings can feel scary and overwhelming, but this is something to embrace and be proud of. It can release a burden and help put your feelings into perspective (a problem shared is a problem halved after all!). Taking what appear to be small steps to feel better are in fact massive steps. For example, getting up and having a shower may seem like a small step but it is a step in the right direction. You will always feel better afterwards. There is no instant cure for depression, it will not go away overnight. However, there are things you can do to improve your mood, make you feel better and hopefully show you some light at the end of that dreaded tunnel. Mind has some further tips to help with depression that can be found here.

3. Sleeping problems

Difficulty sleeping can be another sign of a mental health problem. Not getting enough sleep may be a sign of anxiety. Alternatively, sleeping too much can be a sign of depression. If you are having interrupted sleep, a podcast or reading a book can prove useful. This will help to distract your mind and encourages you to focus elsewhere. Likewise, switching off your mobile phone is a must, or better still switch off notifications and keep it out of reach! For those that sleep too much, it is recommended that you develop a structured bedtime routine. Also, setting an alarm for the same time every day can prove useful as it facilitates your sleep cycle to adjust to the alarm. The NHS has some great tips for troubled sleeping. You can read that here.

4. Quiet and withdrawn

Feeling quiet and withdrawn on occasion is perfectly fine. For instance, when you find yourself in new situations or among strangers. Some of us are sociable and others are less so. However, withdrawing from life generally may be a symptom of something deeper. If you are suddenly feeling unsociable or if your social battery is dying earlier than normal, it may indicate an underlying mental health issue. Sometimes, simply pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing things you’re not sure about is the best way to make yourself feel better. I’m not suggesting anything wild or crazy but do go to that coffee date you're not really bothered about or go to that gym class you’ve had booked all week but can’t imagine doing anything worse! Doing these things will give you a boost and a feeling of accomplishment. As I mentioned earlier, small steps are often big steps. On the other hand, having a lazy day where you don’t socialise with anyone, is okay too, we all have those days!

5. Changes in behaviour or feelings

Slight changes in mood, behaviour, feelings, or emotions can be some of the earliest indications of a developing mental health problem. If something doesn’t feel ‘quite right’ and you’re unsure why, it is vital that you share these feelings. You know you! There is no shame in asking for help in understanding your thoughts and feelings. Should you feel like your mental wellbeing is not its usual self, the charity Mind has some great suggestions that can help you here.

It's ok if you’re not Ok

I hope that my piece has helped you. It is completely normal for you to feel any number of the symptoms outlined above. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, then the tips and suggestions provided here will ideally help you feel better. It is okay if you’re not okay! Thoughts and feelings are always valid and important. Try not to compare your situation and feelings to other people. We are all different and we all manage ourselves and our life in our own individual way. In my opinion, the most important resource is having someone to talk to. This person doesn’t have to be a friend, it may be a tutor, a parent a sibling or even a friends Mum! If you are struggling and unsure of where to turn or what to do, then I have provided a link here that you can access to get help.


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