Practical ways to protect your own mental health and links to more information about help for yourself and others.

Hands holding a drawing of a smiley face 

It's important to take time out to check in with yourself how you are, or catch up others if you prefer to talk about it. 

Remember that making gradual changes over time builds up to make a difference to your wellbeing. Feeling better could be a marathon for you, not a sprint – taking longer than you might hope – but that’s ok.

Here are Mental Health Foundation’s top, research-backed tips to protecting your mental health and preventing future problems. They are simple activities for everyone that can help us all to cope better with life. Try any of these that speak to you – we’re all different and we’ll all have our own limits.

  1. Get closer to nature. Go outside and tune your senses to what’s around you, such as the sound of birds singing or wind through trees, or the colours of plants. Being in nature has been proven to benefit mental health and wellbeing.

  2. Learn to understand and manage your feelings. Most of us know when we’re upset but might not know what we’re feeling. It can help us to put a name to what we’re feeling and work out what has led to us feeling like this, such as a disagreement or a disappointment. Even a bodily change, such as the hormonal changes from a period, or feeling tired, can lead to a change in mood.

  3. Talk kindly to yourself. Research shows that repeating something positive about yourself every day can reduce negative thoughts and feelings (sometimes referred to as having a ‘mantra’ to repeat). Mindfulness can also be helpful.

  4. Talk to someone you trust for support. Talking things through with someone you trust can feel like a relief. Use your own words, to feel safer and less alone. Talking it through may also mean you start to see things differently, in helpful ways.

  5. Be aware of using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings. Some people use drugs and alcohol for temporary relief, but they don’t stop the feelings returning and can make it worse or create problems, including damaging health, relationships and work or study. If you think you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings, it may help at first to simply notice this and be kind to yourself.
    A next step could be to talk to someone you trust or a charity that offers confidential, free information and advice, such as Talk to Frank.
    You could also look for other ways of coping with painful feelings, such as getting help with the situation causing them, if possible, and finding a trusted person to talk with. This could be a friend or relative, a colleague, a person working for a charity helpline, your GP or a counsellor. Many charities around the country offer low-cost or free therapy. More help.

  6. Get help with problem debts. Money problems can be unavoidable, and fears about paying debts, bills and paying for essentials such as food and electricity can be very stressful and isolating. Having these feelings can then make it harder to cope with everything, including the money problems. Even if finances are impossible to change, sharing your fears with another person who’s not involved, and who you trust, is likely to help you feel less alone and overwhelmed. This may help you to see new ways forward. It can be helpful to talk about debt or other financial difficulties with an expert at a charity that offers free money advice, which could also lead to you finding out about new possibilities, such as benefits you’re entitled to, your legal rights, ways to reduce the size of your debt repayments and ways to save money.

  7. Get more from your sleep. Sleep is often the first thing that suffers when we’re struggling with our mental health. If you’re struggling with your sleep, think about trying a few simple changes.

  8. Be kind and help create a better world through small acts of kindness. Even a small connection with someone else can make a difference to how you feel. Research shows that being kind is good for us: it can boost our mood, help us feel more capable and help us cope with stress. You could try small but meaningful acts of kindness towards others: a smile or a few kind words. Volunteering work and getting together with others to work for good causes can also help us feel better.

  9. Keep moving. Looking after ourselves physically also helps to prevent problems with mental health, and our minds and bodies are connected. Moving your body can mean anything that works for you, whether it’s walking the dog, gardening, cleaning, cycling, dancing, going for a walk, playing sports or going to the gym. Exercise releases ‘feel-good’ hormones that reduce stress and anger, and it can help us to sleep better too.

  10. Eat healthy food. What we eat and drink can affect our brains, bodies and mood. Sugary snacks and drinks can give us a brief sense of comfort, but soon leave us exhausted or jittery. Caffeine can also have this effect. A balanced diet, with lots of vegetables and fruit, is essential for good physical and mental health.

  11. Be curious and open-minded to new experiences. Our expectations can be self-fulfilling, influencing what happens, for good or bad. For example, we might say to ourselves: “Things never get better” or “I’m useless,” as a response to what others have said to us. It can help to notice these thoughts and try out new ones, such as “I can change things for the better” and “there is so much I can do”. Life can feel more interesting, lively and rewarding when we are open to trying new experiences and experimenting with how we do things.

  12. Plan things to look forward to. Making plans for things we enjoy can increase our sense of hope. Your plan could be for anything from small pleasures like a cup of tea or your favourite TV programme or dance class, through to a trip with family or friends, or going to see your favourite film, sports team or singer. Decide what you’re going to do, when and with who, and if needed book it.

Read the full guide from Mental Health Foundation

General information on finding help and helping others

Mental wellbeing: where to get help and how to offer it to others who may be struggling

‘I can’t stress this enough: you’re not alone, you’re never alone’


Specific wellbeing advice

Wellbeing topics: mental health, domestic abuse, gambling, relationships and alcohol

Coping with loneliness

Work-related abuse

Workplace bullying

Managing stress and regaining control

Finding community to beat your stress

How to recognise the symptoms of burnout

Financial wellbeing: help for your finances

Help with debt


For managers

Managing stress, fear and anxiety in the workplace

Mental health and wellbeing surveyed across rail and maritime

Network Rail: dealing with the effects of trauma

Sleep and shift working: study findings on fatigue and mental health

Vital Care Calls: how are you today?

Colas Rail: eight weeks to health and wellbeing