Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this year between the 8th – 14th May. The Mental Health Foundation’s focus for this year is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’. The aim is to draw attention to the ways in which the demands of everyday life can undermine our capacity to stay mentally well. By looking at aspects of our lives that help us to thrive, we can rediscover ways to build resilience and increase our ability to cope, in-turn leading to better mental health.
How can we be more resilient?
… the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
There are many ways to build resilience. It would be hard to list all of them here; however below we have attempted to suggest some ideas that may offer inspiration or a starting point for you to think about your own unique strategies.
How resilient are you?
Attempting to understand the factors that influence your mental health is a good way of beginning your path to better resilience. Feel free to have a go at the checklist to identify the areas of life that influence your wellbeing (from the Mind How To, Mental Wellbeing booklet). You can then start to think about possible solutions that might help, from those suggested in the rest of the article. You can also use the Resilience Plan below the checklist to make some notes in order to help form your own personal strategy.
My Resilience Plan
So you have answered those questions. Have you noticed some things in your life that are not as you would like them to be?
Use these to reflect on what is working for you and what isn’t.
- Things that have a positive effect on my life…
- Things that have a negative effect on my life…
Think about how you might be able to change the things that don’t work and experience more of the things that do.
- Things I could try to improve my situation…
- Who might I ask for help..?
What you have come up with may seem difficult to make part of your life by yourself. If you would like some advice about who you can go to for support with your plan you can contact the Mind in Brighton Hove Advice and Information Service who may be able to point you in the right direction.
If you would like to create a more detailed plan for developing resilience, perhaps you may like to try a WRAP…
The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is a self-designed plan to help you get mentally well and stay well. Originally developed by Mary Ellen Copeland PhD, WRAPs can be used as a tool to develop an approach to overcome distressing symptoms, unhelpful behaviour patterns and helping you to get more control over your problems. WRAPs also enable you to:
- Discover your own simple, safe Wellness Tools
- Develop a list of things to do every day to stay as well as possible
- Identify upsetting events, early warning signs and signs that things have gotten much worse and, using Wellness Tools, develop action plans for responding at these times
- Guide you through the process of developing a Crisis Plan
- Introduce you to Post Crisis Planning
As you develop your WRAP it can become a practical support which you refer to daily, as a reminder and guide, and also turn to at times of difficulty. It is designed as an aid for learning about
yourself, what helps and what doesn’t, and how to get progressively more in control of your life and your experience. Here is a useful guide on how to develop your own personal WRAP written by Mary Ellen Copeland to get you started. To see an example of what a WRAP looks like follow the link to the Working Together for Recovery website and their WRAP .
As well as using these tools, there are other ways of approaching areas of our lives that can help us to build resilience…
Five Ways to Wellbeing
Looking after our mental wellbeing can provide us with a greater resilience, providing the opportunity to thrive as opposed to merely surviving and to be in a position to adapt to life’s challenges. The New Economics Foundation have developed the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ as a useful framework for actively developing good mental health. The Five Ways provide the opportunity to take control of the improvement of our own wellbeing. They can be very useful in identifying areas of our lives that need our attention.
Below are listed the 5 Ways to Wellbeing with links to our articles on each of them which include examples of how they can be incorporated into your daily life.
Learning can help to increase our self-esteem, meet new people and lead to new opportunities. You can use the article Keep Learning to find some practical local examples of learning activities and courses.
Taking notice means to focus our attention upon ourselves and the world around us, both the external factors that influence our lives and how they affect us internally. It can also help to remind us to be appreciative of the positive aspects and relationships in our lives and savour experiences. For an explanation of the importance of Taking Notice and suggestions as to how you can take notice of both the world around you and how it may be affecting you please use the following link.
Being active has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety and to lift moods. It can also help to boost self-esteem and can encourage clearer thinking and calm. Many physical activities are also social opportunities to meet with others, making new relationships or strengthening existing ones. Read our wellbeing article on Being Active to both discover the ways in which you can do this locally, and the beneficial influence being active has on our mental health.
As social beings we naturally require a level of interaction with others. The relationships we create and nurture in life provide social bonds that can give us a sense of purpose and belonging. As well as the initial benefits of relationships, being connected to a network of people can also aid us in times of difficulty, offering the support and advice needed to more forward. See the following link for our article providing information on Connecting.
Give to Others
The act of giving can take many forms; it can be with your time (volunteering, helping a friend or loved one); it can be through the use of skills or knowledge; providing advice; or through material things (gifts and charitable donations). Giving can strengthen existing relationships and can help to foster a more positive outlook. By helping us to think about other people it can also put into perspective our own concerns. For ideas of ways that you can give check out our article on Giving.
Give to Others
How and what we eat can be another factor that affects our mental wellbeing. Despite being aware of the effects our diet can have on our physical health, it is easy to overlook the impacts what we eat has on our mood.
Food can affect mood, and what you choose to put in your mouth can influence the state of your mind … Greater control of your moods and energy levels is possible through exploring the links between diet, nutrition and emotional and mental health. (Amanda Geary, The Food and Mood Handbook).
Please follow the link to our useful Food and Mood wellbeing article that explains how food can affect our moods, offering both practical information and tips on how to alter your diet in order to help improve your mental wellbeing. It also contains links to fact-sheets and leaflets to help get you started at exploring your relationship with food and includes a handy Food and Mood Diary to keep track of the foods you eat, when you eat them and how they make you feel.
Online Advice & Support
There are many useful online resources and organisations dedicated to supporting people with their mental health in Brighton & Hove. Here are a few examples:
My Life Brighton & Hove is an online directory of local and national services that support all areas of everyday living that acts as a point of contact for those seeking help or advice. Services are broken down into simple categories to make it easy to find the relevant organisation for you.
SilverCloud, provided by the Brighton & Hove Wellbeing Service is free online supported CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) tailored to your specific needs. The easy to use programme consists of six to eight modules which you can complete at your own pace independently, with a supporter who will provide online feedback and guidance at regular intervals. The programmes have demonstrated high improvement rates for depression, anxiety and stress. They are flexible and easily accessible through your computer, tablet or mobile phone. To sign up or find out more, please use the link to the service above.
Mind in Brighton & Hove Advice and Information Service offers a range of information on mental health services in the City and help to find the right support if you are worried abot your mental health. The service also offers advice on how to look after your mental health, publish online wellbeing articles as well as a regularly updated directory of local and national services and groups.
Young People and Resilience
Although a constant in our lives, change can be a particularly difficult process for younger people, who can experience rapid changes to many aspects of their lives. In some situations young people may be unable to be part of decisions that have massive effects to their lives and wellbeing. Times when young people are able to make their own choices can lead to new levels of personal responsibility, which when coupled with important changes – such as leaving home for the first time – can influence their mental health. Despite a wealth of information targeted at adults for use in supporting younger people, below are listed some handy places that young people can find mental health and wellbeing resources for themselves to use in building their own resilience.
The Where To Go For page for Brighton helps to connect you to directories that offer help, advice, activities and support for young people in Brighton and Hove.
Right Here a health and wellbeing project led by volunteers aged 16-25. They support young people age 13 – 25 across Sussex in a range of ways, from offering free resilience building activities to making films and websites and creating awareness raising campaigns.
YMCA Downslink Group offer a range of services including support for young people around housing, family issues, health and wellbeing, advice, and help to access training and education.
Young Minds is a national organisation working to help you prevent mental illness from developing and improve early intervention and care for those living with a mental health problem. They run several projects that cover a range of different aspects of young people’s mental health.
Student Minds is a leading UK mental health charity for students. They offer a range of resources as well as advice and information for meeting the challenges of university life.