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Mental Health Awareness Week: Self-Care Challenge

10–16 May was the Mental Health Foundation’s official mental health awareness week. We challenged ourselves to commit to self-care acts in this five-day window, to reflect on what it taught us about our mental wellbeing and the ways we can influence it positively. Here’s what we tried and learned, with some books to help you in your journey to better mental health.

Ellie Brady: Reducing Screen time

We spend too much time looking at our phones. Whether we use them for work, socialising or doomscrolling, screen time is a concern for us all. My smartphone is simultaneously my calendar, message receiver, iPod, weather checker, newspaper, workout tracker, pedometer, alarm…need I go on? While the idea of a total divorce from my phone seems excessive, scaling back my screen time is a priority in my mental health journey. Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism helped teach me how tech can enhance, not interrupt, my life. A practical guide to being more deliberate with time, this self-care book is accessible yet impactful enough to help change perspectives towards screen time and social media usage, reminding us that less is more.

Laura Jones: Mindful Journaling

With a busy daily routine, self care often gets lost amongst the chaos. In prioritising my mental health, I decided to get up a few minutes earlier each day and spend 10 minutes journaling. To help me, I used a ‘happiness planner’ that I received as part of a stationery subscription box, but a trusty notebook would also work. My planner has pre-printed prompts to guide mindful reflections, but 365 Journal Writing Ideas is a great book for daily self-reflection topics such as “How are you feeling today?” Taking the time to focus on my mental health and deeper feelings made such a difference and helped me to start the day focused and with a sense of clarity and calm.

Lucy Lillystone: De-stress Through Colouring Books

Suffering from anxiety, it can be hard to shut off my brain and take time for myself. This week, my goal was to practice self care through spending an hour a night colouring in. I cracked open the fantastic The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons, I put Fearless (Taylor’s Version) on and I coloured away. After only a week, I already feel so much better. The focus on filling the pages with colour, staying neat within the lines helped calm my thoughts and de-stress. The colouring equivalent of taking a hot bath, Farrarons’ book resparked my creativity with my favourite designs being the intricate flowers. I recommend purchasing some colouring books if, like me, you find yourself regularly feeling overwhelmed.

Kelly Stone: Relaxing Painting

I decided to take a slightly unconventional route to prioritising my mental wellness this week by making the conscious effort to engage with my creative side. Painting has always been a way for me to de-stress by allowing me to focus on one project and leave all my other stressors beyond the canvas for a little while. For this exercise, I used Emily Winfield Martin’s The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories as inspiration. This children’s book features extraordinary paintings accompanied by brief captions that read like intriguing story prompts. It’s a great book for artists of any age to get inspired to make their own unique creations.

Sarah Lundy: The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo

The idea of the pomodoro technique is to work for twenty-five minutes with no distractions and then take a five-minute break. After repeating this four or five times (so roughly every two–two and a half hours), you take a longer fifteen–thirty-minute break. It may sound simple, but I noticed a real improvement in my ability to focus during my twenty-five minute work bursts. When working from home, it can be easy to feel that you need to be working non-stop, even though this is not realistic of how we work in an office. Allowing these breaks boosts productivity while minimising the feeling of being overwhelmed. I would definitely recommend this technique to prevent burnout, especially if you’re working from home.

Kate Baguley: Reading Before Bed

How many of us get in bed, ready to unwind, and then unlock our phone to scroll away for hours? I am guilty of this; my phone is a hub of entertainment at my fingertips. However, scientific studies have proved that this actually wakes the brain up - exactly what you don't want. So, I read every night for a week. I got into bed, set my phone on the side, and cracked open some commercial fiction. Despite enjoying the book, I began feeling tired much quicker than usual. Deciding to give in to it, I forced myself away from ‘just one more chapter’, put out the light, and was woken up by my morning alarm. I’m not going to pretend like I’ll follow this rule every night, but I do think reading before bed is beneficial to unwind away from the technology that wants to keep us awake. If you’re feeling glued to your screen at night, try picking up a book!


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