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Looking after your mental health

Most of us will struggle with mental health at some point in our lives. But it’s not always easy to know if you are experiencing a mental health issue, or what to do about it if you are.

Even if you feel good, taking steps to look after your mental health and knowing what you can do to cope with life’s ups and downs is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Read on for tips on how to look after your mental health, spot signs of mental health issues, and take steps to deal with them.

What is mental health?

Mental health is about how you think, feel and act. Your mental health affects how you handle life, the choices you make and your relationships with others.

It is just as important to look after your mental health as it is your physical health. Just like your body can be in good health or bad health, your mental health can sometimes be good and sometimes be bad too.

What is good mental health?  

Having good mental health means, most of the time, you are able to think, feel and act in ways that are positive for you and your life. 

Good mental health allows you to feel good about yourself, have healthy relationships, take part in daily life, study well, go to work, look after your physical health and deal with life’s ups and downs.  

What is bad mental health?  

Having bad mental health means you regularly think, feel or act in ways that are negative for you and your life. Life can feel difficult to cope with, and you can feel bad about yourself and others.  

I’m struggling with my mental health – is this normal?

Yes! All of us struggle with our mental health at times. If you are feeling like this, there are things you can do to deal with what you are going through. Things can get better.  

It is especially important to deal with what you’re feeling if you have been struggling for a while, or you often feel bad. 

What are common mental health challenges?


Stress is when you feel like a situation is hard to manage or control, or you feel threatened or under pressure. Stress is part of life – it’s something we all experience. But if you keep feeling stressed, or the stress feels overwhelming, it can make you think, feel and act in ways that aren’t good for you. It can affect your physical health too. 


We all feel worried or scared at times. This is what anxiety is. Anxiety can become a problem if you often feel worried or scared about something that has happened or could happen, and these feelings are stopping you from doing what you want or need to do.  

Think about it like this. Imagine you have a date with someone you really like or an important exam. It is normal to feel worried or nervous beforehand. But if those worries stop you doing the exam or going on the date, anxiety is stopping you living your life to the full. 

Sometimes, anxiety can get so bad it can lead to panic attacks, which is when your body feels overwhelmed with panic and nerves. Feeling like this can stop you doing even simple things, like leaving the house. If you are feeling anxious, it’s good to deal with it so it doesn’t get worse.


Feeling down or fed up is something we all go through. Feeling unhappy is often caused by something that has happened, and these feelings normally pass. But if you keep feeling sad or low then you might be experiencing depression. Lots of people get depressed at times and there are things you can do to feel better.  

Depression can make you not want to be around other people or do things like go to work or school. People with really bad depression can sometimes feel so bad and worthless they do not want to live. If you think you have depression, whether it is mild or more severe, it’s important to deal with it so it won’t get worse. 

Challenges associated with sexuality and gender 

If your sexuality or gender identity is not accepted by the people around you, it can affect your mental health. You might feel like you don’t fit in or you might experience bullying, harassment, rejection or violence – simply for being who you are. All these things can leave you feeling upset, worried, down, isolated or ashamed. 

If you feel like this, get some support from people and organisations who do understand and accept you. Remember, there is nothing wrong with you. Your sexuality or gender identity is not a symptom of bad mental health. It is how you are being treated by others and society that is the problem. 

Loneliness and isolation 

Some of us want lots of contact with other people and some of us don’t want as much, and that’s okay. But we all need other people to some extent. Feeling lonely is what happens when your need for human connection and understanding isn’t being met. This might be because you do not have enough people in your life (which is what isolation is). Or you might have enough people in your life, but you don’t feel understood or cared for by them.  

If you often feel like you don’t have the right people to talk to or share things with it can have a negative effect on how you think, feel and act. And it can make it harder to reach out to connect with others. If this is how you are feeling it’s a good idea to do something about it. 

What can I do to look after my mental health? 

Looking after our mental health and wellbeing is something which is good for all of us. Whether you feel like you are struggling or not, taking steps that improve how you feel and are able to cope with any challenges is a positive step. 

Here’s some ideas on what you can do to look after your mental health: 

Spend time with people who understand and appreciate you. This can make you feel good about who you are and give you the connection we all need. It can also give you the chance to talk about your feelings and what’s happening in your life, which is so important for looking after your mental health.  

Exercise. This is one of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety, and it can boost your mood too. 

Eat a balanced diet, including fresh fruit and vegetables and without too much processed fat, sugar or salt. 

Try to sleep well and get enough rest. This can give you the energy and resilience to deal with life’s ups and downs. 

Avoid drinking too much alcohol or taking too many drugs. These things might make you forget your worries for a few hours. But you often feel worse afterwards. 

Have a break from the internet and social media, especially if you use it a lot. We have some tips on how to do this in our blog. 

Set yourself small, achievable goals and stick to them. This can make you feel good for achieving what you set out to. 

Think about what you enjoy doing in life and make time for it. This could be a hobby, or spending time in certain places or with certain people. 

Don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone struggles sometimes, and we all make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time. Do things that will help you feel better instead.  

What can I do if I have a mental health issue? 

As well as doing the things above, here are some things to try if you think you have a more serious mental health issue. 

Talk to someone you trust. When you’re struggling, you can feel like you want to be alone and not talk about how you feel. But this is exactly the time that you need to reach out. Pick someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to admit how you are feeling. It is brave to ask for help, and the person will want to know what’s wrong so that they can help.  

Join a support group or talk to a peer supporter. This could be a local support group or an online forum. You could also call a helpline or meet with a peer supporter one-to-one. 

Get professional help. It can be scary talking to a health professional about mental health. But it's their job to help. They might suggest treatment, such as medication or counselling. These things can really help if you have a mental health issue. 

When should I ask for help? 

Whenever you feel like you need it!  

A mental health issue does not need to be out of control for you to ask for help. Even if you’re just having a bad day or a bad week, it’s better to ask for support rather than deal with it on your own.  

It’s especially important to ask for help if you start to notice changes in how you are feeling, thinking or acting that are stopping you from living your life as you want to. 

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What are the signs that someone is struggling with bad mental health? 

It’s not always easy to spot if someone is struggling with their mental health. But here are some common signs to look for: 

  • They look sad or down, or they express feelings of sadness or negative thoughts, and you don’t know why. 

  • They put themselves down. They lack confidence and see themselves as a failure or unattractive.  

  • They have mood swings. For instance, they seem very happy then very sad, or angry then numb. 

  • They often worry about things that have happened or might happen. Their worries feel out of proportion with the thing they are worried about. 

  • They stop wanting to be around people. They cancel or turn down social plans. They stop going to school or work. 

  • They have regular outbursts of anger, aggressiveness or violence.  

  • They keep falling out with people. Or they feel like people are out to get them with no real reason for feeling like this. 

  • They have physical symptoms, like excessive sweating, nausea, increased heart rate or breathing troubles. They find it hard to relax or sit still.  

  • They often feel tired or without energy. 

  • They are unable to sleep or are sleeping lots. 

  • They have lost their appetite, or they are overeating. 

  • They are taking lots of drugs or drinking a lot of alcohol. 

  • They have changed their sexual behaviour (if they are sexually active). They may have gone from having a healthy sex life to having sex in ways that puts their health at risk, or feeling like they don’t want to have sex at all. 

How can I support someone who is struggling with bad mental health? 

One of the best things you can do is to ask them how they are. But having bad mental health can be hard to talk about, or even recognise, so don't pressure them to speak if they are not ready.  

If they don’t want to talk, suggest doing something that could be good for their well-being. This could be going for a walk or doing an activity together, or just spending time together in a quiet place like their home.  

Keep checking in with that person to let them know you are there. If they do open up to you, respect their privacy. Don’t tell anyone what they’ve told you, unless they say you can.  

Try to really listen to what they tell you. Don’t dismiss or judge what they say, or tell them to feel differently. Doing these things is likely to make them feel worse. It’s also important to let someone know that how they are feeling can change and there is help out there. If they are ready, talk to them about the things they can do to help their mental health (which you can read about in the basics tab).  

Ask them what sort of support they would like. Some people might want to talk. Others might prefer practical support, such as going with them to the doctor or helping with studying or childcare.  

Dealing with a mental health issue is hard and it takes time. So be patient. Encourage them by recognising and praising any steps they are taking to take care of their mental health, however big or small.  

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  • Last updated: 26 April 2024
  • Last full review: 27 September 2023
  • Next full review: 27 September 2026
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