One of the biggest health concerns circulating the world is mental illness. Last year in the UK alone, there were over 6,000 cases of suicide. To put that into perspective, less than 200 Brits died in the Iraq war. This is not to say that everyone who is suffering from mental illness is suicidal – nothing could be further from the truth. But it is still important to bear in mind that 1 in 6 people report suffering from recurring mental health problems. This means that you’re statistically very likely to experience mental illness at some point throughout your life. The following article lists two things you can do to keep your mental health in check. Remember though, if you’re suffering from mental illness the first thing to do is speak to someone, preferably a doctor.

Lower stress

Stress is an interesting concept. Comedian Frankie Boyle astutely said in a stand-up that ‘stress’ is a rebranding of the word ‘unhappy’. If you were unhappy, you’d have to do something about it, whereas stress we accept as part of life and don’t need to address. But one of the biggest things you can do for your mental health is lower stress.

There are several ways you can achieve this. A good start is exercise. Exercise releases endorphins making you feel happy and accomplished. It also tires the body, helping with insomnia. But most of all, it provides a window during the day where you’re only focus is the exercise. Leaving your worries behind, even if just for a while, is always a good idea.

Some stresses we can’t avoid. Hectic family lives coupled with dreary work-weeks can leave anyone feeling disheartened. A busy week can be a busy week. But if you’re constantly tired and dread going into work, then it might be time for a change. Working more doesn’t always mean better results. In fact, countries with shorter working weeks have been proven to be as productive as the hardest working countries.

Watch intoxicants

Alcohol and drugs are often used when people want to have good time, lowering their inhibitions and elating their experience. However, for people with mental health concerns, these can be dangerous substances to fall back on.

Often when people get addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is because they are trying to fulfil or numb a part of themselves. For example, someone feels sad, so they take drugs, they don’t feel sad and are temporarily fulfilled. The issue with this is, once the effects wear off, the same gap remains and will need to be filled again.

You don’t have to stop drinking, a good night out with friends can be great for your mental health. But you have to be aware of yourself and what your actions signify. If you’re drinking alone, heavily and frequently. Then it’s time for a change. Alcohol is a depressant and, while numbing, will not help any negative thought processes that you may have.  

In conclusion, there are a number of things you can do to better your mental health. The above suggestions are only a few. The most important thing to do if you believe you’re struggling is to speak to someone. As previously mentioned, mental illness is statistically more common than you might think and is not in anyway a sign of weakness or embarrassing.