Giving mental health advice can be difficult as what works for one person might not work for another. Everyone’s personality, brain chemistry and life experiences are different and therefore finding methods that work best for you will require some trial and error. Whatever someone is going through, everyone needs some support and the people in our lives can make the critical difference to our mental health. Supporting a friend struggling with their mental health can be difficult because it is common to feel powerless or have no idea how to help. These simple tips will provide a good foundation to help support your friend or loved one, or even help yourself.
How can I protect my mental health?
There are many different ways to protect your mental health and one of the easiest and cheapest methods can be right in your back garden or local park. This year’s theme for mental health awareness week is nature and being connected to nature has been proven to decrease stress levels and improve your mental health. A study found that 20 minutes of nature a day efficiently lowered the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and could even be prescribed by doctors as a way of combating stress1.
Here are some simple tips to help you get the most from your stress busting 20 minutes in nature:
During your 20 minutes in nature, you should try to absorb as much as possible. This means no cheating, try to unplug from devices, books and work. This is a great excuse to turn your phone off for 20 minutes and enjoy everything our beautiful environment has to offer.
Be one with the trees
Find somewhere as calm and settled as possible. Take some time to relax and just be. Remember, no cheating, focus on your breath.
How can I support my friends and family?
Just be there
It’s common for someone who is struggling with their mental health to feel alone and isolated which may prevent them from reaching out for help. Sending a quick informal text message or voice note to say “Hey, I hope you are doing ok and I’m here if you need anything”. Simply letting them know you are there for them can make the world of difference.
Be your normal self
Although it can be hard watching a friend struggle with their mental health, it’s important that you don’t walk on eggshells. Your friend probably just wants you to be yourself because that’s why they’re your friend.
Don’t be the knight in shining armour
You’re not the rescuer; typically the person is experiencing something that you personally can’t fix and your friend probably just needs someone to take the time to listen to them. Most likely you’re not a professional so try to avoid Dr Google and instead signpost your friend to some helpful resources such as SANE Australia or Beyond Blue or if you feel it is necessary, gently encourage them to speak to their doctor.
Mental health is not a linear process; some days are better than others. As a friend it can be frustrating and that’s ok, but try to remain patient. Sometimes it’s helpful to try not to understand and simply let the person talk through their problem.
Remember that although you want to help your friend, it’s important that you set boundaries to prevent yourself from becoming a punching bag. You need to protect your own mental health, if this begins to affect your mental health it is important to take a step back because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Everyone has mental health and as the conversation surrounding mental health continues, it’s important that we take the time to listen to those around us and take steps to protect ourselves, such as taking our time connected to nature. This year’s mental health awareness week, we at vybey hope you are able to take the actions required to aid your own mental health and also support any loved ones who need it.
- Hunter, M., Gillespie, B., & Yu-Pu Chen, S., 2019. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology. 10.