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How to support your friends with their mental health

1 Feb 2023 06:00AM by Kirsty McLean - Head of Wellbeing

Personal Trainer and client

We all struggle with our mental health and emotional wellbeing at times. When we’re going through a tough time, we may have the tendency to tell ourselves: 

 

“There’s so much going on for me right now. I’ve just got to pull myself together and get on with it.” 

Sound familiar?

We currently live in a society where mental health is not recognised and supported in the same way as physical health. Therefore, the more we talk about our mental health, the more likely we are to create a culture of empathy and understanding that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’.

Here are six ways you can support your friends with their mental health:

1. Social connection

Arrange to meet up for a walk weekly with your friends.

Not only does this help your physical health, but it creates a safe space for your friends to talk about anything on their mind. Meeting up in person also helps us to disconnect from technology and social media, which at times can affect our mental health negatively. And it doesn’t just have to be a walk either. You could try a spa day, a run, a gym class or anything else in between.

2. labelling emotions

When asking your friends the everyday question: ‘how are you’? 
Instead, try asking: ‘tell me what’s going on for you’.

The power of ‘tell me what’s going on for you’ can help your friends label emotions they may have felt over the last few days. Labelling our emotions helps us acknowledge them. We can then process what we are feeling in a healthy way.

It’s common for most of us to suppress our emotions and this can lead to negative physiological symptoms, including:

• Skin problems
• Hair thinning
• An increase in blood pressure and blood sugar levels
• Disturbed sleep
• Loss of libido
• Lack of concentration

3. The together challenge

Take part in a fun challenge together. This builds confidence, gives us a sense of purpose and improves our self-esteem. Fun challenges could be:

• An organised event, like a 5k, swim challenge or fundraising event
• Setting up your own step challenge together or getting into a daily Yoga practice or 10 minutes of ‘Me time’ together.
• Alcohol free month – this could be a good challenge as reducing alcohol intake improves our mood.
• Give up smoking together – you’ll breathe easier, feel better and save money.
• Try a month free from caffeine. Switch coffee and black tea for herbal tea.

• Start a book club or movie club – this will give you both a common goal while taking the time to relax.

Routine is beneficial towards increasing resilience and improving our mental health. Exercise does wonders for our emotional wellbeing so an active challenge could be the way to go. As well as being fun, it helps us ‘switch off’ and enables us to be in the present moment.

4. Write letters to each other

Writing letters can be fun and you’ll be surprised at the buzz you feel when you receive a letter too! In these letters you can remind your friend of all their positive traits and remind them of all the things that they have achieved over the years.

5. Take a full lunch break daily

Offer to have lunch with a friend at work. As well as taking a well-deserved break, eating together creates a space to talk. You may also gain new ideas for interesting and healthy lunches.

6. Do something new

Learn a new skill together. It could be:

• A new language
• A new exercise
• A new instrument
• A new arts-y hobby
• Spending time together exploring somewhere new

There are plenty of ways to help your friends with their mental health and support their wellbeing. If you notice someone struggling or think that someone you know could do with some support, give some of these points a try.
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