To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Anna Russell from the Bupa Foundation shares her advice on taking care of your mental wellbeing. 

I had many episodes in my late teens and early twenties of poor mental health. When I was doing exams, I’d get super stressed and anxious – I really wish that someone had told me about some of the simple things I could do to take care of my mental wellbeing.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, here’s what I’d share with the younger me:

1. Know what makes you feel good and do it

Protect time to do those things that you love and that make you feel good. If you’re making a revision timetable, put in slots to rest and recharge. That might be meeting up with friends, exercising, meditating or listening to music.

Whatever your happy thing is – make time for it and do it every single week. More if you can.

2. Get outside

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is nature. There’s increasing research to show that spending time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, boosting the release of the feel-good chemicals in our brain.

During lockdown, we’ve all appreciated how something as simple as going for a walk can help us feel better and mentally press the reset button. I live in London but even in our cities there’s always green space and wildlife to be found. So this week, take time to get outside, get away from your screen and simply slow down and watch Spring unfold. I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.  

3. Know your early warning signs

We’re all human and will have times when we’re not at our best.

It can be helpful to tune into the first warning signs that we’re slipping away from our good place. Our internal voice might get extra critical or be full of self-doubt. We might be less patient and lash out at others. Our bodies can tell us too – we might clench our jaw, have an eczema flare-up or an upset stomach.

While these might be negative things, they are helpful signs that we need to take a breath and look after ourselves.

4. Invest in you

Good physical health gives us all a strong foundation for good mental health. So looking after our bodies and minds by getting decent sleep, regular exercise and eating well really does matter.