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  • Writer's pictureHealthwatch Reading

Looking after your mental health

Updated: Jan 15

Advice, information, local and national support services that can help you, your loved ones or those you care for, prioritise mental health.

In the post pandemic world, with the living-crisis taking hold, the war in the Ukraine and climate emergency continuing, looking after our mental health is now more important than ever.

Why is looking after your mental health important?

We know how to care for our physical health and what to do when we're unwell or injured. So, we should take the same approach to mental health when we're not feeling quite ourselves.

We can do a lot for our mental health and overall wellbeing. Knowing some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety is half the battle, and identifying them can help determine our next steps in deciding what care and support we need. It’s important that we should seek professional support where and when self-care hasn't been effective.

What signs should we look out for?

Depression and anxiety can present physically and psychologically. While mental health conditions are more common than you may think, not everyone will suffer the same symptoms or experience mental health issues in the same way. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Persistent low mood.

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.

  • Significant weight gain or loss.

  • Increased or decreased appetite with loss of interest in food.

  • Extreme feelings of worthlessness, guilt or worry.

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

  • Loss of interest in personal care, hygiene and general wellbeing.

  • Suicidal thoughts.

How to care for your mental health this winter?

Looking after our mental health during the colder, darker months is vital, as winter weather can cause many of us to feel gloomy. Here are some ways you can lift your spirits:

  • Breathe. Experiencing periods of depression and heightened anxiety often leaves us on edge and tense. We should pause and take several slow, deep breaths, allowing ourselves a moment of calm and a chance to reset.

  • Find time for yourself. Depression and anxiety can be isolating, so spending time alone can be the last thing we want to do. But it’s important that we try to do things that have made us happy before. Whether you take time to get back into a hobby that has fallen by the wayside or indulge in some self-care, take time for yourself.

  • Keep active. Low moods and energy levels leave us wanting to stay in bed or curl up on a sofa, but exercise releases endorphins. You do not need to overexert yourself or spend hours exercising. If you can, something as simple as a short walk is all you need to kick-start your recovery.

  • Get outdoors. While the winter weather does not motivate us to go outside, connecting with nature has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation found that spending time in nature can bring consolation in times of stress, reduce feelings of social isolation and effectively protect our mental health.

  • Sleep well. It can be hard to switch off when we're anxious or depressed, but sleep is the body's way of healing and recovering. Rest supports our mental and physical wellbeing. Consider creating a bedtime routine for yourself to encourage a good night's sleep, avoiding caffeine after three o'clock and screens up to an hour before bed.

  • Eat well. When we experience periods of depression and anxiety, we should avoid recreational drugs and alcohol and cut back on ''unhealthy'' foods, swapping them instead for healthier, nutrient-dense foods that will provide the nutrients and vitamins our bodies need for healing and energy.

  • Stay connected. Make sure you keep in contact with friends and loved ones – even if this is via text or phone.

Reaching out for extra support

While mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can leave us feeling estranged and isolated from friends and family, the reality is that our friends and family are a support network we can reach out to for help when we're not quite ourselves. Remember it's ok not to be ok and that you're not alone.

For some, self-care is an effective way of managing their mental health and overall wellbeing, but sometimes, we need extra support. There is no shame in asking for help. Should you need additional support to look after your mental health and wellbeing this winter, why not consider the following:

  • Friends and family. If you’re not sure where to begin, reaching out to friends and family is a great place to start. A problem shared is a problem halved.

  • Workplace support. Mental wellbeing in the workplace has become more of a priority, with many organisations offering mental health support services to their staff. If you don’t want to confide in a loved one because you feel guilty or embarrassed, using a workplace mental health support scheme could be the right first step.

  • Your GP. They may be able to offer you support and treatment. They can also refer you if appropriate or recommend local options.

  • Mental health professionals. You may be able to self-refer to the NHS in some areas. This means you don’t need to see your GP first. You can also access therapists through certain charities or privately.

  • Charity helplines and support groups. We’ve listed below a selection which includes local support.

Emergency help if someone is in crisis or has attempted suicide If it’s an emergency, call 999 straight away and ask for an ambulance.

Urgent non-emergency help Call the Mental Health Crisis Team if you need urgent help, but it’s not an emergency: Call: 0300 365 0300 or 0300 365 9999

Local and National support

  • Age UK Berkshire has a free, confidential national phone service for older people, their families, friends, carers and professionals – call: 0800 055 6112

  • Beat is an eating disorder charity – call: 0808 801 0677 for the adult helpline, 0808 801 0711 for the youth line, or 0808 801 0811 for the student line.

  • Berkshire Women’s Aid offers specialist help to victims of domestic abuse – call: 0118 950 4003

  • Berkshire West Breathing Space service is a safe, welcoming and supportive space for anybody aged over 18 experiencing emotional distress and struggling to cope. Email or call us on freephone 0800 002 9091.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably runs a mental health helpline – call: 0800 58 58 58

  • Childline offers a free, confidential service for anyone under the age of 19 – call: 0800 1111

  • Compass Recovery College provides FREE mental health and wellbeing support services for those aged over 18 in the Reading area.

  • Cruse Bereavement Care provides a helpline, for those who are bereaved – call: 0808 808 1677

  • Drinkline is a free, confidential helpline for anyone who is concerned about their drinking, or someone else's – call: 0300 123 1110

  • Hopeline (Papyrus): Prevention of young suicide - call: 0800 068 4141, text: 07786 209 697 or email:

  • Mind offers a helpline for mental health problems – call: 0300 123 3393

  • Yound Mind the voice for young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Parent helpline 0808 802 5544.

  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline offers confidential, non-judgmental support and information – call: 0808 2000 247

  • NHS Volunteer Responders can help if you need assistance accessing food, medicine or social connection – call: 0808 196 3646

  • NSPCC can offer support and advice if you’re worried about a child – call: 0808 800 5000

  • No 5 Counselling Tailored counselling sessions to all young people accessing the service with a volunteer counsellor. Call 0118 901 5668 or email

  • No Panic can help if you suffer from panic attacks, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and other related anxiety disorders – call: 0300 772 9844

  • Reading Community Outreach Support Service for people aged over 18 who are struggling with their mental health. We provide personalised support delivered by Peer Outreach Workers. Call 0203 9638201.

  • Rethink a charity offering information, advice and support for people with mental illness, their families and carers. Call 0300 5000 927.

  • Samaritans is here if you need someone to talk to – call: 116 123. Local branch covers Reading Borough, Face to face support: 59a Cholmeley Road, Reading RG1 3NB. Open 11 am - 10 pm. Call 0118 926 6333.

  • Sane Line: support for people affected by mental illness - call: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm to 10.30pm, daily)

  • Shelter can help if you are, or at risk of being, homeless – call: 0808 800 4444

  • Shout is a confidential 24/7 text service offering support if you are in crisis and need immediate help

  • Switchboard operates a confidential helpline for LGBTQ+ communities across the UK – call: 0300 330 0630

  • Talking Therapies: call 0300 365 2000 or email

  • Talk to Frank is a national drugs helpline – call: 0300 123 6600

  • The Silver Line provides support and friendship for those aged 55 and over – call: 0800 470 8090

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