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Mental health: taking time to look after yourself

After such a difficult year and a half, it looks as though life might slowly be getting back to normal. But not everything will spring back to how it was before – some things need ongoing effort and attention, and one of these things is mental health.

Even after you’ve decided to try and make your mental wellbeing a priority, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice changes quickly. Just like looking after your favourite plant, or learning a new hobby, these things take time. We’ve collected three great pieces of advice to help get you started on your journey to good mental health.

Eat well

When we start to think of food as nourishment for our body and everything we want it to do each day, it becomes clear that eating healthily doesn’t mean kale & spinach smoothies! Really, a healthy diet is a balanced one. That means including a range of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts into our meals where we can, and opting for less processed foods where we’re able to.

There’s no such thing as the perfect diet. After all, even if we all ate exactly the same food as each other, our bodies would still look different! So don’t get too caught up on what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat, and start focussing on small changes that feel right for you. The benefits of a balanced diet of freshly prepared food can be found in better moods, better sleep and more energy. Speaking of which…

Rest well

First things first – sleeping and resting aren’t the same thing! Let’s look at sleep first.

We all need around seven to nine hours of sleep each night (although we’re all allowed a late night every once in a while!). But sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Getting into good sleep habits starts way before your head hits the pillow! Try to switch off (or ignore) screens for about an hour before bed to let your mind slow down. If you can, open your window to let some cool breeze into your bedroom, because a cooler room always makes for better sleep. If you can’t stop your mind racing once the lights are off, try a guided meditation or relaxing background music to help you drift off.

OK, so what’s rest? Well, there are seven types of rest! Here are our top three:

  • Physical rest. This could mean a good night’s sleep, or it could also be a relaxing activity like yoga.
  • Mental rest. Getting up early and working all day then taking care of children or making social plans in the evening can be exhausting. Schedule short breaks in your day to allow your mind to recuperate.
  • Sensory rest. Computer screens, artificial lighting, video calls… they bombard your senses all day long! Try taking some time out of your day, outside if you can, to let your senses reset.

Live well

It’s so easy to get swept up in routine. Sleep. Eat. Work. Repeat! But as Ferris Bueller once said “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – and he’s right!

Taking time to indulge in your favourite hobbies – whether that’s playing tennis at the weekend, watching a movie or cooking up a storm for the family – can restore your spirit and give you a great sense of accomplishment. Putting yourself first and prioritising the things that make you happy, can be fulfilling.

Woman living well

We're here to help

So, there you have it. Our top three small changes that might make a big difference to your mental health! Of course, there’s plenty of help out there if you’re looking for more information, like:

NHS mindful breathing exercise

Free trial for Headspace

Plus, we have a whole section on our website dedicated to support and wellbeing!