When you are having a tough time, asking for help might be the last thing you want to do. Society has spent years telling us that when things go wrong, we need to have a stiff upper lip and just carry on, because someone somewhere in the world probably has it worse. 

Well we think that’s total crap. So here is why asking for help is always a good idea. 

A problem shared is a problem halved

Even if you don’t think the person you are talking to can do anything to help you, talking will make you feel better. Sure, it might not bring you a solution, but at least you won’t feel alone in this. Having someone to go to when everything hits the fan is good for all of us. 

All problems are relative

It might be that you haven’t asked for any help yet because there is someone in your life who you think has it worse, and making a fuss seems selfish. Let us tell you, this is NOT TRUE. All problems in the world are relative to how we usually live our own lives, and whatever is going on with you should never be compared to someone else. 

You don’t know what’s around the corner

Have you ever heard that saying – “when it rains, it pours”. Well although we can never tell what’s going to happen in the future, there’s always a chance that something else can go wrong. We aren’t saying this to make you feel worse, but it’s a good reason to ask for help now. If you feel like your plate is already full, then the next thing that comes along could leave you feeling a hell of a lot worse. So ask for help now, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Someone will have a different perspective 

Sometimes, when we are really close to a situation, we can’t see the wood for the trees. Everything can feel so much worse, and we can catastrophise everything and pretty soon, everything can feel like it’s never going to get better. Asking a friend for advice or help can bring a fresh set of eyes to the situation, and they might be able to help you see that this might not really be as bad as you think it is. 

Or can just give you a chance to relieve some stress

It’s been proven that sharing your thoughts and feelings about whatever is making you stressed or anxious can help relieve that anxiety, even if the problem is still there. If something makes you feel better in the short term, it’s always worth giving it a go. 

Or they might know exactly how to help 

Whether they have lived this before, or know where you can go for more support, advice and even answers, you never know what another person can do to help you unless you ask them. Simple as that. So give it a try, you never know what they might be able to do to make things a little easier for you.

If you feel you need help, you can reach out to our community here, for confidential support and advice.

We can’t lie, times are tough for everyone. Whether you’re getting bogged down with politics, coronavirus, or literally just life in general, it’s perfectly normal to feel like you’re struggling with your mental health.

You’re probably feeling fed up and like you’ve tried loads of things to make it better which haven’t worked. 

However, we want to know, have you tried a gratitude diary? If not, here are all the great things you need to know about them ☺ 

What is gratitude?

In a nutshell, gratitude basically means being thankful and ready to show your appreciation for absolutely ANYTHING.

What are the benefits of gratitude? 

Psychologists have been researching gratitude diaries for years now and the studies often suggest they may play a part in:

  • Improving your mood and making you happier overall
  • Making you feel more connected to people 
  • Giving you a more positive outlook on life 

What is a gratitude diary and how do I do it?

So, are you still interested? If so, great! Gratitude diaries are really easy to keep and people all over the world love them. 

To keep a gratitude diary, every day or every couple of days, you can make a list of at least two/three things that you’re grateful for. You can write this down or keep it in your head, heck, you could even draw them!

People usually find it best to do this at the end of the day. You can write down just a short sentence if you like (people tend to find it easier when they keep it short!). If you want to do more, you could write down why you are grateful for whatever you’ve listed. 

When you’re listing what you’re grateful for, try to write down different things each time. You might find this easy at first, but as time goes on, you’ll probs find it harder. The aim of writing different things is that you have to really dig deep to see what you’re thankful for.

By doing this, we begin to notice and appreciate more and more positive things. For example, at the beginning, you might say more general things like ‘I’m grateful for my family’ and ‘I’m grateful for my friends’, and then, as time goes on, you might focus on really small things like ‘I’m grateful that I didn’t stand on that snail on the way to school’ and ‘I’m glad that my friend had a spare pen for me in class’. 

Do you see what we mean? As time goes on, we become more positive and grateful for our lives. We look to the tiny little things that we probably wouldn’t have noticed before. When we are grateful, we are happy ☺

By the way, with a gratitude diary, you probably won’t see the effects of it for a while and this is perfectly normal. It can often take a while to see how helpful a gratitude diary is, so it’s important to stick with it. They are more of a long-term thing.

Why don’t you give it a go for a month and let us know how you found it in the comments?

Talking to someone you love about something difficult you are going through is never an easy conversation. We all want to keep those we care about free from pain, and if we feel like we are the ones that are going to be causing it, opening up can be an extremely tough ask. 

Whilst this is true for anything that you might be going through, dealing with an eating disorder is tough, and helping family and friends to understand is important for your recovery. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you open the conversation.

Pick a safe space to have the conversation

The most important thing before having a conversation like this is to choose a place where you feel comfortable enough to have it. It could be around the dining table, in your bedroom, or even out in nature, as long as it’s in a place where you feel calm. 

If you need to, have the conversation side-by-side

Talking about the issues that affect us can be really daunting, and starting this conversation is always challenging. It’s often the thought of looking at someone’s face and their reaction that puts us off. Instead of sitting opposite who you want to open up to, try sitting side by side, or going for a walk whilst you discuss it. If this feels wrong, you could try writing it in a letter, or even simply connecting with them via Whatsapp or another messaging platform. All means of opening up to someone have their pros and cons, but the important thing for you is to start it any way you feel most comfortable. 

Make sure they are in a position to hear what you have to say 

Not everyone in your life will be a good person to go to with something like this. Have a think about if you know someone who you’ve confided in before, or who you might have heard talking about similar issues in a sensitive way. Going to someone else you know is currently dealing with a similar thing might not be a good idea, as it could be triggering for both of you. Instead, perhaps someone has recovered from their eating disorder, or they are simply a good friend to you. If no one in your life feels right, there are plenty of helplines you can use, a list of which is at the bottom of this page. 

Be prepared for questions 

It is likely that whoever you choose to speak to, they will have some questions for you about what you’re going through. If you feel like you can’t answer them, the best thing is to be honest. It could also be that they might jump into overdrive trying to get you help. Understand that this is coming from a good place, a place where they want to help. If you feel like it’s too much, share that with them. Perhaps suggest taking a break from the conversation and doing something else until you feel ready to talk again.

… And for emotions

It might be that the person you are talking to blames themselves for your condition, or reacts poorly to your current situation. It’s important for you to remember that it is no one’s fault, and you cannot help how someone reacts to what you have to say. It’s understandable that this could make you reluctant to tell someone else, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t. Take a bit of time to regroup after a difficult conversation, and have a think about who else in your life might be better placed to understand what you are going through.

Have a conclusion ready 

A conversation such as this could have the ability to drag on for a while, especially when there are lots of questions and emotions involved. If you don’t feel like that is something you can manage at the moment, have a conclusion to the conversation ready. Whether that is saying you want to find help, or you simply are grateful for them for listening but you need to take a break from talking about this, it will help you to know before jumping in that this uncomfortable situation won’t last forever. 

If you need any further help, reach out to us 

We are always here. If you need further support, you can reach out to our community here for confidential support and advice. 

Alternatively, you can seek specialist support at the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline, on 0808 801 0677 or beateatingdisorders.org.uk  

Eating disorders can be tricky to handle. If you have one, or know someone who does, it can be tough to know what’s happening or sort fact from fiction. There are lots of things that we often automatically think are true about eating disorders that actually are not, and there lots of different types that can affect people differently. So we wanted to bust some myths around disordered eating so that you feel more informed, and can ask for help

Myth 1: It’s only girls that get eating disorders

Anyone, regardless of gender, can develop an eating disorder. Whilst young women aged between 12 and 20 are the most likely to develop an eating disorder, because most people think it’s just for girls, a lot of cases in guys will go undiagnosed for longer. Talking about having an eating disorder is hard for anyone, but when you are part of a minority within the group, it can be even harder.

Myth 2: It’s only teenagers that get them too

Like we said above, anyone can develop one. Just because they are more common in younger girls does not mean that you can’t get one as a 23 year old man, a 9 year old, or any other age. Mental health issues do not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity or religion, and anyone can develop any one. Because a lot of society thinks that it’s only young girls developing eating disorders, a lot of those dealing with them in older age brackets struggle to get the support they need, or face further stigma for developing a mental health condition usually associated with young women. 

Myth 3: It’s a behaviour you can choose not to do

No one chooses to have an eating disorder. In the same way we don’t choose to develop depression, catch a cold or anything else related to our health, eating disorders are mental health issues that need to be treated. 

Myth 4: You have to look a certain way to have an eating disorder

A big misconception with eating disorders is that you have to look a certain way before it’s classed as “real”. As with any mental health issue, eating disorders come in stages, and the earlier one is caught, the more quickly someone will be able to overcome it. Of course, this means that you might not fit the stereotypical image of someone with an eating disorder. But that does not make you any less worthy of help and support. 

Myth 5: Eating disorders are easy to overcome alone

The best thing to do if you think you or someone you know might be dealing with an eating disorder is to ask for help. They are difficult to handle, and can be complex to try to defeat for good. Going to a parent, friend or trusted adult is a great way to start the conversation and they might be able to direct you to the support that’s needed. 

Myth 6: It’s only an eating disorder if you do certain things

There are lots of stereotypes around eating disorders, but a key one is that you only have one if you excessively exercise or binge and purge. In fact, there are lots of different ways disordered eating behaviours can manifest. For example, it could be that these things only happen intermittently, or for short periods of time. These are classed as an OSFED, or Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. People suffering with an OSFED are just as worthy of treatment as anyone with typical anorexia or bulimia. 

Myth 7: Asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure 

It is really important to know that no matter what you are struggling with, asking for help is NEVER weak or a sign of failure. If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life you can talk to right now, or you’re worried about upsetting them, you can come to us. Reach out to our support community here, and we will listen to you. 

If you have been affected by any of the information in this article, you can reach out to our support community here for free confidential support and advice. 

For more information on how to deal with mental health issues, go to our Mental Health hub for all the information you need. 

Our ambassador Max Hovey talks about what he finds helpful when he’s dealing with anxiety

I hate anxiety, I really F***ing do. It creates so many problems and can be such a hindrance to me in most walks of life. But the fact I have to face is that it’s just how my brain works. I can’t beat myself up for it, my brains just trying its best. The healthiest thing to do is to simply accept it as a fact, and gradually we can learn to live with it more peacefully.

I think literally the worst thing a person can hear when experiencing anxiety, anxious thoughts or an anxiety attack is “calm down”. It’s the equivalent to telling someone that is depressed to “cheer up”. It’s a complete invalidation of someone’s emotions and mental state and is probably the least helpful thing you can say. The thing I have found most helpful is if someone helps me to breathe by reminding me to take deep breaths. When someone breathes with me and helps to bring my breathing pattern back to normal, within a short period of time, I will be calm.

The problem with this is that I’m not always going to have someone there to breathe with me. I’m not always going to have someone there to make me feel safe, tell me everything’s ok, and to get me to take deep breaths. The last thing anyone should become when suffering with anxiety is co-dependent. The idea of medication, therapy and coping mechanisms is to teach us how to gradually deal with anxiety by ourselves and to help ourselves to breathe through it. Sure, there will still be times that we still need some help, but the aim of this is to minimise the amount of additional support that we need.

I myself have learned many techniques for my anxiety over the years. Some have been incredibly beneficial, others not so much. My first round of therapy taught me more practical methods such as thought diary’s:

A thought diary is a way of noting down your thought process and then picking it apart piece by piece, and figuring out how true the thought is, and redirecting it into a more positive and rational thought process.

Whilst thought diaries had become helpful for me, I have a very hectic lifestyle and am almost always busy. So, when some anxiety arises, I don’t have the time to stop for 10 minutes to write down my thought process and tell myself I’m being irrational, sometimes it just isn’t practical. So, I began to learn that there are some techniques that are good for short-term anxiety relief and some that are better for long-term. 

Short-term Anxiety Relief:

  1. Counting down from 100 – This is the most recent technique that my therapy has taught me. This takes up a lot more brain activity as you have to think more consciously about what number comes next. This is a great way to distract your brain, stop it spiralling and bring yourself to the present moment. 
  1. Square Breathing – I learned this technique in my yoga practices. The act of square breathing involves breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts – and repeat. Doing this will naturally slow your breathing and help to slow your heartbeat back down to something more manageable. If like me you experience the joy of palpitations during anxiety, then this will be super helpful for you. 
  1. Calming Statements – Imagine someone was just continuously insulting you, you’d start to feel and about yourself, right? And you definitely wouldn’t do that to someone else, so why would it make any sense to do that to yourself? The way you speak to yourself matters. When negative or self-depreciating thoughts arise, have some calming statements memorised that can help put a stopper in that spiral. For example: for me, I really struggle with the idea of doing or getting things wrong, I’m a perfectionist. So, when I do do something wrong, it is easy to put myself down. A calming statement my therapist has taught me is “I prefer not to do anything wrong, but it’s not essential”. The whole idea of this is that not doing something wrong is simply a preference, we’re human and we’ll get things wrong from time to time!

Longer-term Anxiety Relief:

  1. Thought Diary – Now, if you do have the time for a thought diary, these can be great for stopping your anxious spirals. Whilst these are not a permeant fix, these will be better at addressing the problem directly rather than a short-term distraction. If committed to, a thought diary will become a more natural technique that can become second nature to you, helping you deal with anxiety more readily when it arises. 
  1. Zigzag Technique – This may sound weird, but this is a way of having an argument with your brain. Your natural response to anxiety may be to panic and think worst case scenario – this is the part that we want to lose. By using the zigzag technique, we are able to lay out what we are saying ourselves that is negative and then argue against it. The whole point of this argument is to keep going until you have no more negatives or “attacks” to give, helping you to realise the irrationality of your automatic thought process. This can be quite time consuming, but again with practice can become very powerful.
  1. Education – A lot of what therapy is, is homework. Both my courses of treatment have had me doing activities at home to help me develop my own skills to “become my own therapist”. A really helpful tool is books. Sure, there are a lot of self-help books that generally regurgitate the same thing as everything else, but some can actually be really helpful and insightful. Some that have proven to be a great changer of attitudes are:
  • A New Earth and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  • F**k it by John C. Parkin (my personal favourite)
  • Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley

Anxiety is a bitch. None of us like it, and more people have it than we care to admit. But we cannot let it beat us. So, here are a few tips that may help you. Just know that it is ok not to be ok, it’s ok to have anxiety and it’s ok to have for help. You’ve got this!

Stay True,

Max xo

When I was first given the opportunity to write for Ditch the Label back in February, one of my first ideas was for an article like this. However, back then I had got it all wrong.

This September (two and a half weeks ago at the time of writing) I started Sixth Form at a brand new school, and it has completely refreshed my perspective on the friendships I had before.

You see, back in February, I wasn’t as happy as I thought. I was fine, on the whole–I did well at school, enjoyed studying all my GCSE subjects (and when I say this I am NOT counting Maths), had supportive, easy to talk to teachers and was, on the whole, doing pretty well. 

However, no matter the learning environment provided by the school, or how engaging and supportive the teachers are, the one thing they cannot control, which is super important to any teenager in school, is who you sit with at lunch. This simple aspect of the day felt like it would then dictate who you hang out with at breaktime, and leave with after school, and gossip in lessons with. When you don’t have that, it can make school feel very isolating. 

When I walked into the dining hall in Year 10, I would be unsure where my place was. At break time, I hung around the common room occasionally chiming into the conversation, but not feeling hugely wanted by people. In lessons I would studiously pay attention to the teacher, and I never seemed to have people to meet up with outside of school.

I don’t have trouble making friends–I formed solid friendships with students in the years above and below. It wasn’t that the other students were nasty to me either–in lessons, I got along with the other kids in my classes just fine, and was able to have friendly conversations and work well as a group. But I was never able to form a proper, lasting relationship with anyone in my year group. Contrary to everything I had heard about what secondary school was meant to be like, I hadn’t found my crowd.

When I had the idea of writing this in February, I got it all wrong. Back then, I wanted to write what was pretty much a step-by-step guide for other kids in this situation. I wanted to write something that would show me how I could get myself out of that situation, and to feel less alone. But now I realise that that sort of guide doesn’t, and can’t, exist. 

The most important words of wisdom I can give for anyone who feels out of place, lonely, or like they just don’t fit in at school, is that you are not alone

We are sold this idea of our school days being ‘the best days of our lives’, filled with stupid pranks, teenage parties and raucous days out. The truth is, that doesn’t happen for all of us. Some don’t want to, and that’s perfectly fine. But for those of us who do, we can sometimes get hooked on the idea of the ‘typical teenage experience’. 

First of all, it’s worth noting that the way the world works for our generation is completely different to our parent’s generation–teenagers in our day have far more parental restriction than the generations before us, and the way we socialise nowadays is completely different to the days pre-social media. Now, we communicate primarily online, and there are fewer teenager-friendly spaces in our towns and cities. 

Secondly, having spoken to several adults about my situation at school, I’ve gathered evidence that school never seems to be the best days of anyone’s lives. There are so many things that make being a teenager kind of suck – school pressures, strict teachers, not to mention the fact that almost nothing you can do is independent. The best is yet to come! You have so many more adventures and exciting experiences ahead of you, this is only the start of what will be a long and exciting life.

And most importantly, no matter what, you will eventually find your tribe. Some people find their crowd at sixth form. For most, from what I’ve heard, it’s at university or even later in adult life. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. You are still SO young, and have so much time to live your life the way you always dreamed. The point is, you will grow, you will learn, and you will find people you feel safe with. Friendships are really important and special, but most of the relationships you form will not be solely from the first 18 years of your life – it gets SO much better as you learn more about yourself and the environments you thrive most in. 

And just remember, you are NOT the only one who feels this way. You are not alone if you feel like you can’t make any friends. It feels like everyone else fits in, but there are other people, just like you, who haven’t found their place yet. Let’s face it, school isn’t a hospitable place for most people regardless of how big your entourage is. If you haven’t found it yet, it’s just a sign that the best is still to come. It’s normal to not have any real friends while you’re in school, and to make them at university instead, or even much later in life. It’s perfectly normal and okay to just go through your teenage years, and come out at the other end, not having had any life-fulfilling experiences yet, but having emerged unharmed.

Above all, once you exit this page, I hope something you take away from this article is that your experience is just as valid as anyone else’s. Your time will come, and I promise you won’t always have to feel as lonely as you might do right now. Trust me, I speak from experience – the best is waiting for you very soon. 

If you feel like you need to talk to someone about not fitting in at school, you can reach out to our Community here for confidential and free support and advice.

Wondering how to help a lonely friend who has isolated themselves? Sometimes, friends can get wrapped up on what’s going on with them and become a bit distant. It can be hard to know if you should even try to help them, let alone how to help them.

Plus, when the nights draw in and everyone decides to stay at home with hot chocolate and the dog, sometimes it’s even pretty hard to tell the friend that’s become isolated from the friends that are just pure chillin’.

Well, in order to tell if they are going through something, take a quick read of this. Feel like you want to help them? Read on.

1) They haven’t become distant to hurt you

When a pal becomes distant or isolated, it can be easy to think that the reason is simply that they no longer want to hang out with you. But, when someone is going through something, they can withdraw from the people around them.

It’s important to remember that they aren’t doing this to hurt you, and they aren’t doing this because they suddenly hate you. 

2) They might just have a lot going on right now 

Life is always about the ups and downs. Sometimes, when we go through a particularly rough patch, we kind of go back to what is familiar and comfortable for all of us, and spend more and more time alone. 

3) Try reaching out in a casual way first like over WhatsApp or Facetime

Talking about what’s going on with us is always a tough one. Try reaching out to them in a casual way first like through WhatsApp or Instagram, just to see if they want to talk. They might not want to, but the action of checking in with them is enough to make them feel like they are not alone for now. 

4) Don’t force them to do things 

So jumping straight on the accelerator might seem like a quick fix for getting them back into the swing of things, but it might not be the best idea. For one, they might have isolated themselves for loads of reasons, and one of them could be anxiety or another issue that makes being around lots of people difficult.

Check out our article on how to help a friend who has social anxiety for some tips and tricks here

5) Be understanding 

Like we mentioned above, jumping in the deep end might not be the best idea. But even asking them over to yours or out for a walk might end up with a resounding ‘no’.

The more someone rejects us like this, it’s super easy to take it personally, but the important thing to remember is that helping most people takes time and patience. Take a step back, take care of you, and then try again a little bit further down the line. 

6) Suggest having a chill meet up and chat about what’s going on 

Ease them into social stuff by asking them for a chill coffee and a chat about what’s been going on with them. Let them choose a space that they feel comfortable in, whether that’s your front room, in the park or in their favourite cafe place, and let them get to talking about it at their own pace. 

7) Read these ideas on how to start the awkward conversations

We know that starting a conversation with anyone about something intense can be difficult. We’ve got you covered though. Give this article a read about how to have a conversation about mental health with someone, because we know it can be really uncomfortable.

Need some confidential advice? Talk to one of our trained Digital Mentors here.

The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we all live and work and has affected mental health and wellbeing of the entire world. 

For me, I can’t put into words how much I struggled at first. It was horrible. I felt so alone, so isolated. I felt like I was drowning in my own thoughts and the stress, anxiety and change really got to me. I hadn’t felt like acting on intrusive thoughts for a long time but going into lockdown very nearly tipped me over the edge.

I’m diagnosed with mixed personality disorder, bipolar and autism (Aspergers & ADHD), and life during lockdown was hard. In particular, the one thing that I really suffered with was the change and uncertainty, something which really affects my autism. Before this, I had a great routine which I followed day in – day out, every week. When this changed, in a way that was completely beyond my control, it put me over the edge, and days and nights of crying and lack of sleep took hold. 

We all know that things have changed dramatically from how life used to be, and it just keeps on changing. Rules have been relaxed but some more restrictions have now been put into place. Now, you’re probably thinking that this put me back into a dark place again after what I have just explained, but that isn’t the case.

I’ve had to change my mindset to get through the last few months, but I got through the whole lockdown and adapted a different lifestyle and routine, as I have done moving forward as the rules kept changing. Being able to do that made me realise that although difficult and extremely challenging, I can do it. I can get through this. Yes, I want life to go back to the way it was before like many of us do. However, like so many of us, before this I was terrified of change and it was something I avoided, but being forced to make real and dramatic changes to my life has made me realise that I can do it and sometimes, change is even good.

Before the pandemic, I drowned myself in work. Working 6 and a half days a week and sleeping very little, mostly to distract myself from previous memories of trauma and intrusive thoughts. I took little time for myself and although it might seem pretty obvious, it was not healthy at all for my mental wellbeing. 

After a few months, I started to see the simplest of things that made me happy and realise how lucky I am to be alive and how beautiful life is. From the birds singing, the sun shining, the sound of the rain falling and the importance of family contact and friendships.

I started to take more time for myself. I found myself eating better, my hygiene improving and I was getting the most sleep I had had in years. By doing this, I was giving my body time to recoup and recover and my mood and intrusive thoughts improved dramatically. I know things are different for a lot of people and yes, some things are stressing me out still like the uncertainty. But uncertainty is actually something we live with on a daily basis. It’s actually a good thing and quite exciting.

I know you may be struggling at the moment and your situation may be a lot different, but focus on the here and now and try to not look too far forward. Take each day at a time and be hopeful. Focus on the important things like yourself, your family, your friends and tell yourself “it’s going to be ok”. 

After months of avoiding moving out of my own space and changing my routine, I have now moved out and got a house with my partner (she’s amazing and has supported me more than words could explain). This is something I would never have been able to do without realising that change is good and it’s something I can cope with.

Things aren’t all bad. They may be tough now but better days are coming. You have to look at the good things everyday.

Stay safe and stay strong. You’re not alone! So many are in similar situations. 

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s okay to cry, no matter who you are, and most importantly, it’s ok to not be ok.

Check out our dedicated Coronavirus Hub here for more information and support on managing your mental wellbeing during lockdown

Things might seem a bit bleak right now if you’re a student who’s been locked down in your university halls. The news has been dominated by stories of you guys being put into a lockdown that may or may not even be legal, and to be honest, we know it must really suck. 

Keeping up your spirits during this crazy time might feel like an impossible task, especially when all you want to do is to have the Fresher’s Week you were promised or just to go home to your family, but it is also incredibly important to try to remain positive. That’s why we’ve put together a list of things you can do that will help build you up, connect with your flatmates and try to put a smile on your face. 

Keep your space as clean as you can

It might be tempting to make a mess and throw your stuff everywhere when it’s the first time you’re living away from home, especially when you’re in a pretty difficult situation right now. But keeping your space tidy and organised is a great way to keep yourself from feeling low. If your environment reflects something negative, it’s easy for that to manifest in your brain. 

Get your family to send you care packages if they can

If you are having trouble adjusting, or feel like you don’t have the money to spend on things you usually enjoy at home, ask your family to send you a few things to make it easier. It’s a tough time right now, and having a connection to home will for sure make you feel better. 

Order a food shop online, and get some treats in there too

If you can get a delivery slot, get a food shop in and make sure you are putting a few pick-me-ups in there as well. Whether it’s something delicious for dinner, a few sweet treats to keep in your room or anything else, take care of yourself right now. 

Get familiar with your course materials for when things start up again

It might feel like there isn’t much point in working on course materials when you aren’t getting a lot of communication from uni when you might even be able to begin. But using an hour or two a day to figure out where your classes are on google maps, ordering reading materials and getting stuck into the first few chapters, or anything else, is a great way to see light at the end of the tunnel. 

Have a game night with your flatmates… 

You know when your parents would always make you play endless rounds of monopoly when it rained on a family holiday? Well now might be the time to break the board out again. Get a game night set up with everyone you’re isolating with. You could even turn it into a way to get to know everyone better – you’ll be best buds by the end of the two weeks. 

…Or even a room crawl in your flat 

If your flatmates are all up for it, why not turn every room into a different theme. You don’t have to drink, you could just have games and music and food that goes with each theme. We’re thinking 90’s, we’re thinking punk, we’re thinking top 40 – whatever you want. Why not take it even further and order a few costumes from the internet and each room resident has to dress along their theme. We guarantee it will make for a memorable flat snap at the end of the evening. 

Lockdown got you down? Maybe the pandemic is putting strain on your relationship? Check out our coronavirus support hub for advice and support on issues the outbreak might have caused you

Stay connected with friends and family 

Being away from home for the first time can be difficult enough as it is, even when you aren’t quarantined with people you didn’t know literally two weeks ago. Make sure you stay in contact with your family, who will want to know you’re safe. Book in some zoom quizzes or movie nights with your friends from home and lean on them if you need to. Things won’t seem so bad, knowing there are a lot of people in the world who care about you. 

Try and find a little space to do some exercise at home

Exercise will make you feel happy. That’s it. The best natural serotonin booster is to get your blood pumping so if you have room, clear a little space to set up some yoga or at-home circuit training. During the national lockdown, YouTube was flooded with literally thousands of videos, and most gyms now offer virtual memberships for online-only classes. It will make you feel more awake, give you something to focus on every day and add a little routine to your life that might be a little rootless at the moment. 

Talk to someone you trust if you feel like you need to 

Whether that’s a family member, friend, new flatmate or the university pastoral team, talking to someone about how you’re feeling is the healthiest thing to do. Asking for help when you’re having a difficult time is not a sign of weakness, and you will feel better knowing there is someone else out there who can either help you or at least just listen to what you have to say. 

Remember this won’t last forever… 

It might feel like this is going to go on forever, but it won’t. You will be able to go to class. You will be able to leave the lfat. You will be able to explore your new town or city. You will be able to go home and see your family and friends. This is not forever. 

…And we are here if you need us

If you feel like you need to talk to someone, reach out to our community here for a space to connect with others on the issue and receive anonymous support and advice from one of our trained Digital Mentors. 

It is vital we remove any stigma surrounding mental health and we speak up about it. 1 in 2 people experience bullying at some point in our lives; that’s 1.5 million young people in the last year alone. Of those, only 40% told somebody.

This year the theme of Pupil Voice Week is ‘It’s Your Voice’ which is all about using your voice to promote diversity, individuality and positivity! From the 25th-29th of September, we’ll be encouraging pupil’s to speak up about their mental health and well-being.

Ditch the Label celebrates this important message and this post suggests some great ways you can take care of yourself so you’re happy and healthy – which is just how we like it! Speaking up about mental health is so important and there are loads of ways this can be done!

For example, talking to friends you trust, your parents, a teacher you’re close to or online through various mental health support services. You can also talk to a digital mentor at Ditch the Label here.

So… It’s time to encourage each other to speak up and positively support each other in the school environment.

“We recognise that pupils can only fulfil their potential when they have good mental health and wellbeing. This year’s Pupil Voice Week aims to encourage a long-term change of culture that puts a pupil’s wellbeing and mental health at the heart of the school.” – Pupil Voice Week, Tootoot.

Lets take a look at the best ways you can take care of your mental health and also use your voice to create positivity!

1. Eat and drink well

Food effects your mood! Eating well is something we all struggle with but if you care about what you’re putting in your body you’ll really start to see the benefits!

Have a good breakfast and eat regularly throughout the day to keep your sugar level steady (which means you won’t feel irritable or depressed).

Quit the sugary snacks as they make your blood sugar level fluctuate! Eat more fruit and vegetables so you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Drink more water and cut the caffeine down (as coffee can make you feel anxious, depressed and prevent you from sleeping)!

2. Sleep

Getting plenty of sleep is SO important and helps you feel good. It recharges your batteries, lets your body repair and hello – beauty sleep is a real thing! If you struggle to get to sleep then try and get yourself into a pre-sleep routine.

For example; have a bath, don’t look at any devices like your phone, keep your bedroom at a cool temperature, turn the lights down and try and have quiet time so your brain and body can relax. Try and read a book or magazine in bed instead of watching TV.

3. Exercise

When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body! So try running (which is especially good if you feel stressed or down as it is a great way to clear your mind), engage in a sports club or simply go for a brisk walk with some headphones in and you’re sure to be striding yourself into a happier mood and not to mention a healthier life!

4. Practice mindfulness

Having time to quieten your mind and be still and reflective is so important to gain some perspective. It makes you feel calm and also gives you an opportunity to really listen and get to know yourself.

There are loads of guided meditations on YouTube and apps to help you. Trust me you’ll feel much more relaxed even after your first go!

5. Talk

Yep, use your voice to just let it all out. It’s best if you talk about the more serious stuff with someone you trust. Whether it’s your friends, family, your tutor or a councillor, just chat away until it feels like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.

Talking about your problems or how you’re feeling can really open up the doors to receiving some helpful advice which could help fix your problems. The best therapy is talking – a problem shared is a problem halved after all!

6. Pamper yourself

Nothing feels better than having a bubble bath, lighting some candles and then covering yourself in moisturiser! Giving yourself some self love and looking after your body makes you feel fantastic and also means you look great too!

7. Don’t abuse alcohol or substances

It really isn’t cool – no matter how many times your so-called friends encourage you to try it. Drugs and alcohol have negative impacts on your health and well-being. If this is an area you feel you are struggling with then seek out further support so you can get the help you need.

8. Do something creative (even if you’re not good at it)

Just picking up a pen and doodling for a bit or taking some pictures with your phone can get the creative juices flowing! Or why not write a short story or try and bake and decorate a cake!

Whatever it is – using your hands and creating something will give you a great sense of achievement which will make you feel fab! (And if it’s crap don’t worry no one has to see it anyway!)

9. Try and learn something new everyday

Whether at school listening and asking questions or doing some research yourself on a topic which interests you. For example, read up some facts about space – there’s always something really interesting and mind-blowing which can be discovered!

Plus, it’ll impress your family when you drop in some space facts over dinner like the fact that on Venus a single day is approximately the same length as one Earth year!

10. Play a game (which isn’t on your phone – heard of cards?)

We all love a bit of UNO too don’t we? Don’t pretend you don’t! If you get all your family together and interact you’ll have a laugh, chat about all sorts of stuff and feel much more connected to your family which in turn will make you feel good!

11. Visit your Grandma for some tea and cake

Yep, use your voice again and talk stuff over with someone wise like your lovely grandma! Chatting is so therapeutic and grandparents always seem to give great advice. Chat to them about anything – you’ll be really surprised how much they know about everything and anything (after all they’ve been there and done it all, right?)

12. Cuddle an animal

Preferably this unbelievably cute kitten, but if you can’t get this one then I guess another animal will have to do! Stroking and cuddling pets has been proven to help with depression and stress! Pets are super cute and you just can’t help but smile when you see their silly little faces looking up at you!

13. Daydream and don’t let anything prevent you from dreaming big

Daydreaming helps you to understand your mind and makes you realise what you want to achieve in life. If you don’t dream about things then how else would you realise what you like or want from life?

The biggest dreams may seem unreachable but everything from travelling the world to owning a business starts with a dream, so why is it any different for you? See it as dreaming being the start of your career!

Knowing what you want will in turn bring a sense of focus, excitement and happiness as you will feel like you’re on track towards something. Even if it doesn’t work out how you expect, don’t stop dreaming!

14. Keep an organised and tidy room

Yes, you’ll have messy days and you’ll have super clean days but maintaining a clean and tidy room and knowing where things are will help keep your mind organised and calm!

15. Try and take time out from social media every day

Not just 5 minutes! Try an hour offline, you’ll be super surprised at the results! Being a little less available to people is good for your image and self confidence too as you’ll look and feel independent.

The feeling of self control you’ll gain after refraining from checking your phone will make you feel really powerful!

It’s also been proven that the frequent use of smartphones is linked to harmful effects on mental health. So, don’t let your phone control you, you’re in control of your phone, you’ve got this!

17. Enjoy spending time with friends and family in reality (not just on social media)

It’s easy to stay in and sit on social media, especially when the weather isn’t great! But the benefits of using your voice to interact with people in reality are great! Have a sleepover, go to town or meet for coffee! You’ll develop your social skills, you’ll have fun and you might get to know someone on a deeper level.

18. Get involved in drama

Your voice is so powerful and using it with confidence is very powerful! It’s been found that drama clubs are really good for self-esteem as you’ll learn all sorts of skills which will build your confidence. It’s also really fun and you’ll meet new people too! Who knows you might be the next Jennifer Lawrence or Ryan Gosling!

19. Meet some new friends

It’s great to have friends who all know each other. But it’s also really good to have friends from different social groups so you can enjoy a diverse mix of people. It’s also healthy because it’s easy to become dependent on certain people and we all know that in life unfortunately things can go wrong and nothing is ever certain. It’s not always a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket shall we say!

20. Do something nice for someone

For example, cook your family dinner! It’s fun and you’ll also feel really warm and fuzzy inside doing something for someone else. Doing things for others is proven to make you feel good!

There you go! Why not try some of what’s been suggested during Pupil Voice Week and see the results for yourself!

More info:

Toot toot – An app for school pupils to use which has been developed with the support of teachers and other leading governing bodies, with the goal of providing students with a safe, anonymous environment to report and resolve their concerns discretely.

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