How to Protect Your Mental Health During Tough Times

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Staying mentally healthy when you’re experiencing difficult times can be hard. Even if you’ve never struggled with your mental health, challenging circumstances can weigh heavily on your mind. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that outlines how to take care of your mental health when life isn’t full of sunshine.


Many of us are struggling to stay mentally healthy at the moment and considering all the nasty obstacles 2020 has thrown at us so far, it’s no surprise. If your mental health has taken a serious dip, you are far from alone. During any kind of extremely stressful event, whether that’s a pandemic, economic downturn or personal tragedy, it’s completely normal and expected that you won’t be feeling your most positive. And if you’re running a franchise or business on top of that, you’ll have even more sources of stress to add into the mix.

We all understand the importance of staying mentally healthy, but it can be difficult to know where to start. This article is packed with handy tips, tricks and strategies to keep you well during these unprecedented times, as well as ways to maintain your mental health in the long run.

Understand the warning signs

Mental health is something we don’t really think about until it’s suffering. And if your friends and family have never outwardly displayed issues with their mental health, you might not even know how to spot the signs that you’re struggling. You can also have periods of poor mental health without experiencing a diagnosable mental illness (like depression, PTSD or anxiety), particularly during difficult times.

Common signs that your mental health needs some TLC include:

  • Increased tiredness for no obvious reason
  • Increased irritability and anger
  • Feeling sad or crying more often, or for no reason
  • Feeling panicked more often, or more easily
  • Low motivation
  • Feeling uninspired about your business/work
  • Unexplained stomach aches
  • Losing interest in hobbies you loved

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Not everyone that experiences these symptoms needs to see a doctor. For most of us, they will pass once the tough time is over, or if you give yourself the mental and physical break you need. However, you shouldn’t ignore these signs. The NHS advises chatting to a doctor if you’ve felt low for more than a few weeks, or straight away if you experience more serious symptoms like hallucinations or thoughts about not wanting to be around.

Getting clued up on the signs of poor mental health will help you look after yourself and everyone else in your life. It means you can take steps to make yourself feel happier and healthier before there’s a more serious problem.

Accept how you’re feeling

The first hurdle many fall at in their quest for good mental health is disregarding how they feel. Some people have developed this behaviour as a coping mechanism, as they may convince themselves that a problem isn’t real if they ignore it. Others feel societal pressure to hide their emotions for fear of being seen as weak, so let problems fester in secret.

You should never be ashamed of your emotions. A study by Kindred Group found that 40% of all UK adults had suffered from symptoms of a mental health issue in the last 12 months. Even without a global crisis, it’s clear that many of us have experienced difficult periods with our mental health. You are not alone, and you are not abnormal for feeling anxious.

If you’re usually open about your emotions, you might feel embarrassed that your mental health slump is disproportionate to the situation. Maybe you’ve avoided the worst of a global crisis or are doing better than friends and family. It should never matter if what you’re experiencing may seem trivial to others. Everyone reacts differently to situations and there’s a chance that your outwardly strong and seemingly happy friend or fellow franchisee feels exactly the same inside as you do.

Try and take steps to improve your mental health as soon as you notice something is wrong. If you are in the UK and require support, contact Samaritans or check out Mind’s crisis services. Additionally, you can talk through how you’re feeling with the NHS mental health services team.

Schedule in ‘mental health’ time

You wouldn’t expect to be physically fit if you never set foot in a gym, and the same applies to your mental health. It’s hard to be mentally healthy if you don’t treat your mind well, so try and plan out time in the day to do something good for your thoughts.

Treat it like the most important client meeting you’ve ever attended. As a society, we can dismiss the time spent relaxing, meditating or watching an episode of our favourite TV show as laziness. However, working yourself into exhaustion, or spending hours looking at the stock market, news or other sources of stress is a one-way ticket to a breakdown. Seriously. Even taking just half an hour out of your day away from work and the stress you’re going through can keep your spirits up and stop you from crashing and burning.

Making time for things that make you feel better is even more vital if the challenging circumstances you’re in seem like they’re going to stick around for a while. Adrenaline and stress might keep you going through the first few weeks, or even months, of a crisis, but it’s a physically and mentally draining strategy that will make you unwell. Taking a break to do something fun might mean you have to think about your unpleasant situation, but it will get easier to relax the more you try.

Take those 20 minutes to do some yoga, go on a run or consume light-hearted content. Make an appointment to call your friends or family and don’t work through it yet again. Let yourself cry, or feel frustrated, or even happy, before getting back into work mode.

Retrain your mind

Retraining your mind isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and it can really improve your mental health during ongoing struggles. It’s all about changing how you look at a situation and giving your mind time to rest throughout the day.

Whether the tough times you’re going through have been caused by an internal problem (like bereavement or money troubles) or an external situation (a pandemic or recession), you can try to look at them differently. Mindfulness might help – an exercise where you spend a few minutes focusing on nothing but the things you can sense in the immediate now. Strategies like this can stop your mind racing over future ‘what-ifs’ and help to make you feel more grounded.

The NHS’ ‘OneYou’ page has plenty of great resources on this, including advice on reframing unhelpful thoughts. You can try out this method for yourself, by recognising unhelpful thoughts (such as ‘if only I’d saved more money ahead of an unexpected global pandemic’), challenging them, and replacing them with a more optimistic statement. With practice, this approach can help you look at the problems in your life from a more pragmatic point of view.


Keeping your mind well

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling right now. Everyone experiences times of sadness, despair, and anxiety, no matter how tough or happy they look. Better times will come, and you’ll be prepared for future struggles if you follow the tips we’ve set out above. If you need specific help or support, contact one of these mental health helplines for every condition and situation. Or, you can read more helpful articles from our editorial team if you’re looking for advice on all things franchising.

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