The Power of Talking for Mental Wellbeing

Mind Cymru shares its tops tips on how to find the time to talk and look after your mental health.

With today marking Time to Talk Day, a day which encourages the nation to get talking about mental health and help end the stigma around it, there’s never been a better time to open up, express how you’re feeling and consider ways you can take care of your wellbeing.

And, with so much going on in the world at the moment it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit more stressed or anxious, so it’s especially important to keep talking and take positive steps to look after yourself.

We ‘talked’ with mental health charity, Mind Cymru, and anti-stigma campaign, Time to Change Wales, to offer five powerful top tips on how we can all care for and improve our mental health and wellbeing during the lockdown.

1. Talk to someone – it’s OK to talk about how you’re feeling

It’s important to open up about how you’re feeling – talking to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or teacher, can help you to feel like you’re not alone and that you are supported. You might also find others who have experienced similar things and who understand what you are going through.

A small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference. Opening up to somebody else and getting things off your chest can help negative feelings and anxiety from building up and getting worse. Conversations don’t have to be face to face; they could be over the phone, via text, by writing a letter, or even creating a personal diary entry. It may feel like there’s never a right time to tell someone or jot down how you’re feeling – just pick a moment when you know that the person can give you their full attention and you feel comfortable to ask for the time. Some people find it helps to have the conversation while doing something together, like going for a walk, so you feel more relaxed and the focus isn’t just on you. Explain how you’re feeling and how it’s affecting other parts of your life.

2. Stay in touch with people

Message, call, or video-call those you can’t safely meet up with. It will help you feel connected, and give a sense of things continuing as usual. Equally, you may notice that someone around you is feeling low, so you could send them a text, card, or a small gift to let them know you’re thinking of them, which can open up a conversation to benefit both of you and might give you the boost you need.

Conversely though, you could be feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with everybody all the time – this is normal, so it’s okay to want time to yourself too.

3. ‘Virtual fatigue’ is common – you’re not alone

You will no doubt be spending a lot of time online at the moment; from virtual lessons and research on your laptop, to digital catch ups with friends, relaxing in front of the TV and daily scrolling on your phones. You may feel like you are forever looking at a screen, and could be struggling with ‘screen and virtual fatigue’, which can put stress on your eyes, affect your sleep cycle, give you headaches, and impact your mental health.

There are steps you can take to combat screen fatigue though. While you are looking at a screen, a good starting point is to dim the screen and to look away from it every 20 minutes to help your eye muscles relax. Try to regularly take breaks from your screen – get up every couple of hours even if it’s just to make a tea, go for a walk on your break. In your downtime, try to do things that don’t involve looking at a screen – go outdoors and spend time in nature, do some yoga or meditation, read a book, or try speaking to a friend via a phone call rather than face time!

4. Help others

Helping others can make us feel happier, give us a sense of achievement, increase our self-worth, and boost our relationships. You could:

  • offer a neighbour socially distanced help if you see they need it
  • volunteer your time or skills somewhere
  • ask a friend how they are, and truly listen to them

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you feel like you can’t talk to your friends of family about what’s going on, or you feel like they don’t understand, you are not alone. It could help to try talking to a teacher at your school or speaking to an organisation trained to listen and support you. There are plenty of resources available, such as Mind CymruChildline, Meic Cymru, or The Mix, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Have a look at Mind’s pages on finding support to learn about the different types of help, advice, and support available to you. Or you could read about how to talk to a doctor. The most important thing is that you reach out and get support for how you’re feeling.

And finally… what about finding the time to talk in a new language…?

We spoke with MFL Mentoring Cymru – a project that inspires and encourages the learning of international languages at GCSE level and beyond via a programme of in-classroom mentoring and online mentoring – about how learning even a few words of a new language can improve our wellbeing.

Often we think of languages as being something to improve our career prospects, or that allows us to engage with people when we’re able to travel abroad, but it can also help us to find a more positive headspace, and build our motivation, resilience, and confidence.

For lots of people, languages are about connection, including to people and neighbours within our own communities. The most obvious place to start is learning or broadening your Welsh if it’s not your native language; one of the oldest languages in the world. Or what about Polish, the third most spoken language in Wales!

Learning more about the languages in our communities can help us to feel more connected to the people and places where we live, as well as to ourselves. A simple ‘hello’ to a neighbour in their native language can feel so rewarding, and will surely raise a smile on both your faces. No matter the level you get to, learning a language can provide us with a healthy focus which is especially important in lockdown when we may be feeling disconnected from the world outside.

Find out how you can get involved with MFL Mentoring Cymru’s workshops and language learning activities on their Twitter channel:  @MFLMentoring

And Seren will also be running exciting MFL activities this year! Follow us on Twitter for more information: @RhwydwaithSeren / @Seren_Network

#TimeToTalk

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