How to combat mental health issues in the young
Those feelings of failure can creep up on us in many situations. The good news is that you can take steps to tackle them before they get out of hand. It may take a little practice before you stop negative feelings in their tracks, but these tips should help you feel more positive.
• Keep control of your inner voice: Saying to yourself “You should have tried harder, you’ve made yourself look stupid”, is what we call a faulty dialogue. When you start giving yourself these negative messages just say, “STOP”, and throw the thought out. Managing your inner voice is a life skill.
• Congratulate yourself: Believe in the power of positive psychology. Say you took a risk, having prepared yourself in the best possible way, but it didn’t work in your favour. Take some time to look at what you’ve learned. It’s going into your pool of life experience, and you’ll have that experience to call upon.
• Never label yourself as a failure: Labels tend to be self-fulfilling. If you believe you’re a failure you won’t buy a lottery ticket because you’ll know there’s no point, you’ll never get lucky. And that’s the best way to assure you never will.
• Ban yourself from saying ‘I knew that would happen’: It’s a phrase only ever associated with perceived failure.
• Open up about your feelings: Bottling up negative feelings is likely to make things worse. Talk to someone you like and trust, and explain why you feel as though you’ve failed. The feelings of affection and support that come back to you should lift your spirits and help you feel more positive about yourself.
What is loneliness?
‘The terms “loneliness” and “social isolation” are often used interchangeably, but are distinct concepts,’ explains Dr Winwood. ‘People can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, or feel emotionally lonely even though they are surrounded by people daily.’
Social isolation is an objective state that refers to the number of social contacts or interactions you have. Loneliness is more of an emotional state. While it is not in itself a mental health problem, the two are explicitly linked, with loneliness often the result of poor mental health or vice versa.
How to cope with loneliness
If you feel lonely, following the tips below will help you get started and move in the right direction:
Making new connections is arguably the most obvious way to combat loneliness, but it can really help. Joining a group or class you are interested in will increase your chances of meeting like-minded people to make friends with. For example, joining an exercise club is a great way to socialise and can give your mental health a boost. Increasingly too we are turning to the internet for companionship, with community groups existing in almost every niche interest group you could imagine.
Be more open. If you have a fairly big social circle but don't feel truly close to any of them, the underlying issue may be that you need to open up more. Letting your friend or acquaintance in on your vulnerability or honest opinion can help to deepen your connection with them.
Stop comparing yourself with others. The desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses' is not a new one, however the rise of social media has exacerbated the problem by giving people the chance to constantly compare themselves with their peers. If you’re already feeling lonely, the idea that everyone else’s life is more idyllic than yours can make you feel even more isolated and alone. This can lead us to ‘compare and despair’ – which only exacerbates our negative experiences. Remind yourself that people only share what they want others to see about their lives. Don’t form unrealistic expectations about life and friendships based on what you see online.
Keep all lines of communication open. Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Or you can stay connected with loved ones online. Talk over Skype, exchange photos and keep up to date with the latest news from friends and family with Facebook or on email.
Volunteering is also a popular route to meet people, improve your mental health and do good for wider society. You will not only give something back to your community, but it will also help you to feel more connected, involved and needed. There are lots of volunteering roles that need your skills and experience.
Pride comes before a fall. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help, companionship or just a chat. They may be feeling lonely too!
Take it slow. If you've felt lonely for a while, or experience anxiety around new social situations, throwing yourself in at the deep end could exacerbate the problem. With loneliness, slow and steady often wins the race.