Tips and tools for looking after your mental health – with Dr Alex George
Over 3000 GDST students and pupils from our partner schools came together to celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week online. It was fitting, then, that the theme of 2023’s celebration was ‘Let’s Connect’. My role at the GDST as Trust Consultant Teacher for PSHE is all about forging connections; between pupils, schools and within our wider society.
We were particularly delighted to be joined by Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George for our virtual celebration.
What is Mental Health – and having ‘A Better Day’
Dr Alex explained the concept of mental health to the Year 5 and 6 students on the call. “What is Mental Health? If your heart is beating, you have physical health. If you’re watching and listening to me right now, you have mental health.”
“If your heart is beating, you have physical health. If you’re watching and listening to me right now, you have mental health.”
He went on to explain that hardly anyone has perfect mental health, and your position is never 100% fixed; “the fact you can improve and work on [your] mental health is incredible.”
A Better Day: Your Positive Mental Health Handbook is the book Alex wishes he had when he was growing up, having experienced many of the anxieties and hurdles which young people still encounter today. From exam stress, to bullying, and fear of failure.
“I wrote the book to help children live, thrive and enjoy school and whatever you do in life. Not just survive and get through the day.”
The book ties into his role as Youth Mental Health Ambassador; helping young people build a toolkit to proactively manage their mental health.
Easy ways to manage your mental health, for children and adults
Various tips and tools to manage mental health were shared by Alex on the call – in his book, he calls these ‘lifelines’. Here’s just some of those he recommends:
- Improving your sleep
“If there’s one change to make to your life, it’s sleep”, advises Alex. Making sure your room is dark, avoiding screens before bed, putting a pen and paper near your pillow to write down intrusive thoughts and ensuring you get morning exercise to boost your circadian rhythm – physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle – can all improve your sleep.
- Zooming out
Does that problem still feel overwhelming? Dr Alex advocates the ‘Zoom Out’ technique – helping you gain perspective on your challenges. Think about the problem in the context of a period of time; a year. Human history. The universe. The problem should feel smaller – but if it doesn’t, you must talk to someone you trust.
- Supporting others
Alex advised students on the call; “one of the most powerful ways to feel connected to someone is to be kind. Be that amazing person who reaches out and asks ‘are you ok?’”. It’s also important to remember that sometimes listening doesn’t mean fixing. It just means being there for someone.
Heading out the door can seem an insurmountable challenge when you’re feeling down. But, Alex said, “Sometimes we have to do things that aren’t easy, in order to help ourselves”. The links between exercise and mental health are positively proven; Mind have some helpful tips to start moving.
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