We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Our mental health is how we’re feeling inside, or how we are emotionally. It’s a bit like internal weather.
Our mental health is at least as important as our physical health. It strongly affects our daily lives – how they feel to us, as well as our ability do the things we need and want to, including work, study, getting on with people and looking after ourselves and others.
Another way to think about mental health is like thinking about the weather. As the seasons change, the weather does too. There are bright and sunny days which make us feel happy and want to do things like going outdoors, but on other days the weather can change to darker, rainy days, where you don’t feel like leaving the house. Like the weather, your mental health can go through periods of positive and bright bursts of energy, and it can also dip and drag you down a darker road. You may feel tired and lack motivation or energy to do the simple things, such as getting out of bed or getting on with your day.
Whatever you are feeling, know that this is completely normal, and you can seek support or speak to family and friends about how you are feeling.
Many people are reluctant to talk about their feelings and their mental health – there is still a stigma around it. Ironically, not sharing our feelings with anyone, or even knowing what they are, can make our mental health worse. Talking can help us find hope again, and feel closer to other people.
What affects mental health?
Our mental health may change because of situations we’re in, things we’re doing and things beyond our control, including other people, our physical health, our finances and even the weather and world events such as the pandemic.
All of us are affected by what happens to us, past and present. Things that happened even many years ago can affect our mental health today, for better or worse. Our genes also have an influence.
Better mental health
When our mental health is good, we feel good inside. We might feel calm or content, peaceful, hopeful and accepting of ourselves and valued by the people who matter to us.
Having good mental health makes life easier. It helps us to calm and comfort ourselves when we’re upset, to cope with the losses, changes, fears and uncertainties in life, to make and keep good relationships with other people and to learn.
Having good mental health does not mean feeling good all the time. We all have our downs and ups. Life is full of unavoidable risks, worries and losses, which affect everyone. Sometimes difficult feelings pass quickly and we bounce back. Sometimes we struggle for much longer. This can happen to any of us.
We can all do things to support and improve our mental health, and help prevent problems. Our How to look after your mental health guides include some suggestions about the best ways to do this.
Worse/poor mental health
When our mental health is not so good, life feels more of a struggle. We might often feel sad or tearful, and hopeless and exhausted. We might feel under unbearable stress, or often worried about bad things happening to us or people we care about. All of these are very common experiences.
Feeling down, anxious or stressed can mean we don’t have much energy for activities such as work or study, ‘life admin’ and looking after ourselves and others. It can be hard to keep going.
Feeling like this for a while could be a sign that something else in our lives is wrong, or that we need help. It is also a natural reaction, if we’ve had a major loss or shock, such as bereavement, unemployment, divorce or a serious health problem.
Some things are easier to change and some problems may be beyond our control. Sometimes we need help, with our mental health or with the situations causing us to struggle – for instance, debts or relationship problems. In these situations, the sooner we get support, the better.
My mental health has got better as I've got older. I worry less about what other people think and speak to myself in a much kinder voice now, especially if I've done something embarrassing or made a mistake.
The evenings are the worst. My energy is gone and my anxiety and loneliness creep in. I try to block them with internet shopping or smoking weed or drinking, but they come back.