Looking after your mental health: a guide for young people

This guidance was produced together with the MHF Young Leaders. Together with Leaders Unlocked, The MHF Young Leaders are a diverse group of young people with a wealth of general life and specific mental health experiences who are helping to shape our work with families, children and young people.

Focus on the things you enjoy

This could be an existing hobby or something brand new that you wanted to have a go at. Try creating things (e.g. drawing, painting, writing, crafting), playing games or puzzles, decorating, or spending time watching or creating content on social media or streaming sites.

Set limits on the news and social media

While it is good to stay informed, media coverage of world and UK events can also be overwhelming and make us anxious and worried. Experiment to find the balance of news and media coverage that works for you. YoungMinds has information on how to have a more positive experience online.

  • try setting limits on how much media you watch, only going to a limited number of reliable places for news, sorting out your social media feeds to prioritise content that makes you feel good, and limiting content that makes you feel anxious or down, for example by muting particular people or hashtags
  • check out screen time features available on your smartphone or the Some Good News YouTube channel

Connect with others

Find time regularly to connect with friends, family, classmates, co-workers or others. It can help you all feel more connected.   

Try different ways of keeping in touch to find the ones that work best (e.g. video calls, quizzes or games with friends). If you use video calls for work or study, you might want to try something else for socialising: an online watch party where you all stream the same film and chat together, for example, or simply a phone call.

Find your routine

Try to find a routine that is realistic, flexible, and includes some fun. There are many ways to do this, so experiment with what works best for you.  The proper routine for you might look different from someone else’s, and that’s okay!

Try picking three things to do daily, breaking your day into chunks, or planning regular mealtimes and bedtimes.

Move your body

If we’re unable to exercise in the ways we prefer, we may not be as active as we usually would – which is important for our mental health. Try to include movement and activity in your routine in whatever way works best for you.  

  • try an exercise that you already do, a new type of exercise, a stretch on the sofa, working out with a friend over video chat, or dancing around your room!  
  • check out the range of different free exercise programmes on YouTube or different fitness apps like interval timers or yoga classes

Treat yourself (and others) with compassion

Be as understanding of yourself as you are to a friend, especially if you’re finding things difficult or your plans have had to change.

Being compassionate towards others, and helping them if you’re able, can make you both feel good. Remember that we all may struggle in different ways, and being compassionate towards others can go a long way.

If you’re living with an existing mental health problem

Make sure you're in contact with your therapist or other mental health professionals by phone, video call or email.

Many organisations offer practical tips for managing your mental health. This includes:

There are also helplines and chatrooms such as The SanctuaryPapyrusCALM and Samaritans

For students and school leavers

Being at school, college or university can bring particular worries or challenges. Here are some suggestions for managing as a student or school leaver.

Studying with others

It can be helpful to study with others to boost your motivation. Try organising online study groups with your friends or classmates where you discuss questions about assignments or share tips on studying from home, or watch vlogs for motivation.

Keep an eye out for free resources and qualifications

If you were hoping to start an apprenticeship or enter the job market, you might face uncertainty about your future. Organisations such as The Skills Toolkit and Future Learn offer free online courses in various subjects if you fancy learning something new. They might be a helpful way to stay motivated in this period of uncertainty.

Help your teachers to help you

Be honest with your teachers about how you’re feeling and how they can help you learn better from home. Your teacher or lecturer may also know of other support available for you.

You could try suggesting new resources or ways of communicating online that your teacher might not be aware of. If your teacher or lecturer doesn’t get back to you, find out who your course administrator is to use as a second point of contact. Keep a record of important communications with school staff, especially when discussing coursework, dissertation or deadlines.

Focus on what you can control and acknowledge what you can’t

These are uncertain times, and things like exam marks, university, job or apprenticeship offers, and what the world will look like in a few months can all add to feelings of anxiety. It can feel scary and overwhelming when we don’t know what will happen, and much of it will be out of our control. Identifying the things you have control over and those you don't can help make this feel a bit more manageable.

You could try a Circle of Control exercise, where you think about what’s stressing you out and write down the things you have no control over, the things you can influence, and the things you can control. We feel more anxious when we focus on the things we can’t control and forget about the things we can.

Your productivity doesn’t determine your self-worth

We’ve gone through so many changes to daily life in the last few years and life is still far from easy for a lot of us. It may not be realistic to expect yourself to be as productive as you were before. If you find yourself feeling a bit unmotivated, or you haven’t got as much done in a day as you usually would, that’s okay. Focus on making a plan that feels as manageable for you as you are.

If you’re still isolated in student accommodation 

There is support available. Your university or the building manager of your private halls should have a procedure in place to make sure you have a way to receive food and medicines you need. Be sure to tell your tutor or student representative that you’re staying in your accommodation.

Many university mental health services have moved online, and have temporarily removed the requirement to be referred by your GP. If you feel that it would help to talk to someone, have a look at your university mental health service webpage. If you’re an international student, take a look at the advice from UKCISA.

If you witness or experience discrimination or racism, please report it. Racist incidents against migrants and international students have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, racism is never ok. Report any incident to your local police. Support is available from the Victim Support (for Wales and England) Victim Support in ScotlandVictim Support if you live in NI or Stop Hate helplines.

If you’re worried about your finances, you can find guidance from the Student Loans Company (England, Wales and NI) or Student Information Scotland . If you attend university, your university may offer grants from  a hardship fund which you usually don’t have to pay back. Search on your university’s website for information on hardship funds or contact the Student Advice Team (or equivalent).

Further information for students is available from:

Information is also available from Office for Students and Student Mind.

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

More resources

If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.

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