Mental wellbeing for young people

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Dump Despair!!

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 11 Oct, 2020

Feeling down in the dumps? Weary and can't be bothered? How do we dump despair and lift our mood when we feel low and flat? Here's Kate's top 5 tips to bring the sun out again on your grey days.

So it's a pretty dingy day today, and it's autumn, and it's gone all grey and miserable, and hey, this year we've perhaps got more reason than most to feel a bit down in dumps about stuff. So what do you do on a grey day? How do you dump your despair? How do you lift your mood if you're feeling rubbish? Here's five tips.

Number one, get some rest. Did you know that when you're feeling really tired, when you're knackered, when you're exhausted, when you've just run out of your energy, you can feel super flat. It's your brain's way of trying to get you 'just go to bed, chill out, rest, don't do too much'. So if you're feeling really flat and low, maybe you just need to grab some sleep, or chill out, watch a movie, read a book, take a restful moment, don't feel guilty about it. Plan it, do it really well, really intentionally. Grab some rest, and maybe you'll feel better.

Number two is about dwelling on good stuff. So did you know that your brain has a negative bias? 'Cause it's kind of more important that you remember the stuff you've done wrong, or the things that haven't worked out, the things you don't wanna do again. So your brain can obsess with negative stuff, and sometimes, particularly on low days, that just makes you feel rubbish. And we can deliberately counteract that by choosing to focus on some good things instead. Like how much would it change your mood, if you spent as long obsessing over good things as you do over the less good stuff? Stuff about you, stuff about your friendships, stuff about how your day went, the grades you just got in school, whatever.

So how can you deliberately think about good stuff? You could get a box and put reminders, keepsakes, things in there that remind you of really good moments, or good friendships, or things that can make you feel good. Stuff that's good in your life, and then when you feel rubbish, you could get the box out and go through them. Maybe you could do the same, but do it in a journal, like write down good moments, things you're grateful for, so you can read through them. We have a photo wall, which is really cool. It's of a time when we were living overseas, and when my kids were little, and sometimes, if we're having a rough day, I can go look at those photos, and there's loads of memories on there that just make me smile. So think about how you can dwell on the good stuff.

Number three is get out! Did you know sometimes when you're just feeling low and flat, and remember, I said you're feeling tired, and your energy's gone, and you just can't be bothered to do anything. And you're in the house, and you've been in the house, particularly if it's lockdown or if you're limited about what you can do. Gosh, it feels like you've just been sat looking at those same four walls for like six months. In fact, maybe you have been spending quite a lot of time looking at the same four walls for six months right now. But so can you get out? And depending on the limitation, obviously if you're under a really strict quarantine, you probably can't get out much further than a garden if you've got one, or maybe just get somewhere you can see the sky. But can you get out further? Can you go for a walk? If you're able to, if there's no reason why you can't, can you go out for a ride? Can you go out into the hills or something?

You know, sometimes, even if you don't feel like it, even if it's pouring with rain, you put on your raincoat, grab your brolly, just going out, getting some fresh air, really lifts your mood.

Number four is about changing your perspective. 'Cause when we feel low and we feel rubbish, and particularly if you're stressed out and life is hard, your brain kinda narrows down and it starts to see the world as really black and white. It's trying to oversimplify things to make life easier. And so things feel like they're either totally good or totally bad, totally a success or totally a failure. Like you're either really rubbish or you're the superhero, and the reality is, you're probably neither. Almost all of life is lived out somewhere in the grey areas in between. So do you need to reframe your thinking and recognise, 'you know what this isn't a complete disaster, it's not like super 100% brilliant either, it's probably somewhere in the middle?' Do you need to change the way you're thinking about something? Maybe this feels like the world's biggest disaster. Maybe you really messed up, but you know what? Sometimes the most important moments in life aren't the things you get everything right, it's where you really do mess up 'cause then you learn something, and you're never gonna forget that. You're never gonna make the same mistake again. You're never gonna mess up that question in the same way, or get that answer wrong, or do that thing wrong again. So maybe you need reframe the way you're thinking about something in your life right now.

And then number five, which can actually often help with number four, is phone a friend. You know, when we get down in the dumps, and you're just obsessing and going round and round in your head the same thoughts, you just make yourself feel more and more and more rubbish, and sometimes, what you need is a mate to tell you stupid jokes, or remind you of something really funny, or just make you laugh, or chat you out of it, or tell you you've been an idiot, or tell you it's not as bad as it feels, or whatever that is. Can you phone someone who can do that? Can you arrange if you're able to to catch up with someone? Can you do a FaceTime? Can you just message, whatever it is? It's always awesome to have good mates who can do that. And they could be people your own age. They could be people in your household. They could be another adult, who's like a mate and who you can hang out with. Someone else in your family, a grandma or a godparent, or a youth worker, or it could be almost anyone.

And sometimes it's worth thinking about who those people might be. Who can you phone in a low moment who can lift your mood?

Anyway, these are my five top tips to help you dump despair. So if you're having a grey day today, I hope you find something that can help it feel a bit brighter.


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