Creating a life plan may help you feel more in control, but so you don’t try to take on too much at once it may help you to prioritise:
- You need to ensure your basic needs are met first – these are physiological (for example, food and water, shelter, and rest) and safety (personal security, employment / resources, and health). 14
- Then consider your psychological needs of love and belonging (which may take the form of friendship, family, or another sense of connection) and your esteem (feelings of accomplishment, or respect). 14
- You can then focus on other self-fulfilment needs, known as self-actualization, which may be more creative activities, and are linked with a desire to grow and develop. 14
You will need to address your priorities daily, so it is important to balance the pressures of achieving your physiological and safety needs with time for your psychological and esteem needs.
Making steps to deal with negative thoughts and situations requires a conscious effort, which can understandably be hard to muster, so it’s important to recognise the difficult reality of the situation, while using healthy mechanisms to cope with it.13 There are some suggestions below to help you.
While, these steps can help, if you are struggling with your mental health, remember that professional help is also available. Please see the Links section for more information.
Pursue a hobby
It’s important to focus on enjoyable things that you can do, rather than ruminate about things that you cannot do. So why not think about hobbies that are actually achievable right now? But don’t load unnecessary pressure on yourself. 13 [Professor Christian van Nieuwerburgh, Professor of Coaching and Positive Psychology, University of East London]
Or how about volunteering for an organisation or cause that interests you?
Listen to music
88% of people use music to help improve their mood and overall mental well-being. 13 [Consumer research conducted by Spotify in partnership with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)]
You can incorporate gratitude in your life by listing three things you are grateful for each day. You could just spend time thinking of this before you go to sleep, or you could keep a gratitude journal. 13 [Dr Andreas Michaelides, Chief Psychology Officer at Noom]
Limit your time following the news
If you are anxious about the state of the world and are overwhelmed by the news, resist the temptation to continually check your newsfeed. 13
Exercise, or dance
Studies have shown that exercise can help boost your mood by producing the endorphin hormones. Exercise can take many forms, whether it is a workout, dancing, yoga, or something else that takes your fancy. 13
Reframe negative thoughts
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. It teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems. It combines cognitive therapy, which examines the way you think, and behavioural therapy, which looks at what you do.” 13 [Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind]
CBT works by helping you recognise common downbeat thoughts (“I can’t socialise anymore”). It replaces them with alternative perspectives (“I can’t socialise the way I’m used to, but I can do it virtually”).” 13 [Dr Andreas Michaelides, Chief Psychology Officer at Noom]
It’s crucial to pinpoint the source of your stress. It may be about going back to school, to work, your friends, family, or something else. Once you’ve identified each individual stressor, you can explore different ways of coping with them separately. 13
The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing. 13 [Mental Health Foundation]
A small act can go a long way – whether it’s dropping a note to your neighbour, ordering from a local business, or checking in with a friend. 13
Research has shown that the mere act of smiling may have an effect on our mood. Expressing a so-called “Duchenne smile” is associated with a “true smile”. It activates the entire face (muscles in the cheeks and around the eyes), causing an increased sense of positive mood and happiness. Unsurprisingly, a “fake smile” (activation of the cheek-muscle only) does not have the same positive effect. 13 [Johanna Scheutzow, Business Psychologist at Thrive mental wellbeing platform]
This theory is supported by a 2019 study conducted by the Psychological Bulletin. This analysed more than 50 years of data and concluded that smiling makes people feel happier, while frowning makes them sadder. 13
Think of the bigger picture
It’s important to have both short-term and longer term objectives to work towards. Identify one or two positive short-term goals you want to achieve. This may be scheduling a Zoom catch-up with your friends over the weekend, or planning a long walk one evening.
You can also make more longer term plans and goals. This may be to be able to dance all night for a wedding next year, or a career objective. These longer term goals are something that you work towards over time, and can be broken down into attainable steps along the way.
Once you’ve reflected on your big picture goal, lay out the steps you’ll take to get there. Exploring and writing down the ‘why’ behind that goal will help you understand what’s driving your desire for change, keeping you motivated over time. It’s important to start small; biting off more than you can chew, especially in the beginning, can be unmotivating and unmanageable. 13 [Dr Andreas Michaelides, Chief Psychology Officer at Noom]
More steps you can take
Samaritans Self Help App – so you can keep track of how you’re feeling, get recommendations for things you can do to help yourself cope, feel better, and stay safe in a crisis.
Ideas of things to do – other suggestions for distractions, hobbies and exercise
Ideas for being kind – more suggestions for ways to show kindness, and distractions