According to new reports, mental health concerns in the UK are at an all-time high
According to fresh figures from the Office for National Statistics, twice as many adults in the UK are reporting symptoms of depression now compared to this time last year. Previously, one in ten people were living with depressive symptoms. Now, following the COVID-19 pandemic, that figure has risen to one in five.
The survey, which questioned more than 3,500 adults over a 12-month period, included a standard set of questions used to assess depression. Participants were asked to consider how often they had experienced certain symptoms in the past two weeks, including changes in sleep and appetite, a loss of pleasure in doing things, and difficulty concentrating.
In these turbulent times, there is even more reason to care for our own wellbeing through the likes of exercise, nutrition and, fundamentally, sleep.
Severe mental health concerns are on the rise
Findings from the survey concluded that almost 20% of people met the criteria for depression in June 2020, compared with just under 10% between June 2019 and March 2020. And while a small number of people say an improvement in their symptoms (3.5%), around 13% of people had newly developed symptoms of “moderate to severe” depression.
Among those who were most likely to show symptoms of depression were women, people under the age of 40, people living with disability and those who said they were struggling financially.
Head of information at the charity Mind, Stephen Buckley, commented on the findings, saying:
“It’s important to bear in mind that most of us will have found the last five or six months more difficult than usual, and there’s no ‘normal’ way to respond to a pandemic.”
Looking after your wellbeing is more essential than ever
If you suspect that you are currently living with depression, it’s important to seek professional help from your GP, who can recommend you treatments such as medication or counselling.
However, there are also lifestyle changes you can implement yourself, which can help you improve your mood and wellbeing in the long run, and promote healthy hormone balance. It’s all about taking care of yourself and your needs.
Three key elements involved in this are light, fitness and diet. One of the ways depression can impact sufferers is by causing constant feelings of tiredness and lethargy. Making the time for regular exercise — even if it is just a walk in the fresh air – can help to boost your energy levels as well as your mood. Similarly, getting out in natural light every day can also promote the release of hormones like serotonin, which is closely associated with positivity and productivity.
Ensuring you eat a healthy, balanced diet is also important. Many depression sufferers rely on processed foods that require minimal efforts, but the sporadic highs and crashes these foods cause — usually due to high sugar contents — only serves to make symptoms worse. A healthy diet that includes three distinct meals a day allows your body and your mind to release energy gradually.
The importance of good quality sleep to mental health
When talking about improving symptoms of depression yourself, it’s impossible not to mention the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate depression symptoms, which in turn can make getting to sleep even harder, creating a vicious cycle.
Not getting enough sleep makes you more susceptible to negative feelings, like anger, frustration, irritability and sadness, while good sleep increases your energy levels and your ability to cope with situations. It is widely reported that chronic sleep loss through conditions like insomnia makes you more at risk of depression.
Improving your sleep habits is an important step to fighting depression. Set yourself a regular sleep schedule that you can follow, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day, including at the weekend. To help yourself get to sleep, put down your smartphone at least an hour before bed and instead engage in some reading or meditation.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and try to avoid using your bedroom throughout the day, as this will keep it solely as a space for resting.
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