If your mental health is in decline as winter stretches on, it might be challenging to get professional help.
In a new report, the watchdog said that while the number of people getting care has increased to four and a half million in England, some targets are not being met and do not even apply to the bulk of inpatient or community treatment.
An estimated 1.2 million people are on the waiting list for community-based NHS mental health services, with eight million more having mental health needs, but not yet in contact.
Just like physical health, sometimes seeking professional help is vital. But when it comes to taking care of ourselves in a general sense, there’s lots we can do to support our mental and emotional wellbeing – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth…
1. Try a gratitude stretch
Take the time to move your body, and combine it with something mentally refreshing.
“Stretch your arms and think of one thing that makes you feel grateful,” advises Dr Audrey Tang, psychologist and author (draudreyt.com).
“Stretch your legs and think of a person you are grateful for, then shake out and think of one thing you have to look forward to today. Do it for a week, and spend time with the people who come to mind – and don’t bother with those who don’t.”
2. Get outside and get moving
It sounds like a cliché, but Tang says “looking at a tree will make you feel far better than a concrete jungle”. It is also important to “do something physical, be it stretching or running”, she adds.
Similarly, PT and fitness expert Laura Williams (laurawilliamsonline.co.uk) says “different types of exercise can work in different ways to improve our mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Slower-paced exercise can help us to unwind and feel more relaxed, while more intense exercise can help us feel more energised.
“Group exercise is a great way to feel good quick! You’ll get all the physical benefits of exercise and the sense of feeling connected from being part of a group. We can often feel more motivated when working out in a group environment. The sense of belonging and fun that comes from a group effort can have an incredibly positive impact on your day.”
3. Plan something to look forward to
It’s important, Tang says, to “make plans to meet up with friends even without going out – have friends over for coffee, and have things to look forward to”.
4. Be creative
Tang recommends finding a creative outlet that works for you.
She says it’s “not just about writing poetry, or painting. You can be more creative with your hair and clothes. Take part in an activity you normally lead, say if you coach football, actually play it instead.”
5. Prioritise sleep
“Humans are at their best when we get eight hours or more of sleep a night,” suggests Dr Marianne Trent, author and clinical psychologist (goodthinkingpsychology.co.uk).
“Take a look at your sleep hygiene, use dark curtains, no caffeine after midday – try and sort out your sleep, and you will feel better.”