Looking after my mental wellbeing

Mental Health is everybody’s business. It’s about the way you think and feel, the way you cope with life’s difficulties, how you manage your relationships and making the most of your potential. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. This section of the website focuses on steps you can take to protect your mental wellbeing.

Mental health is everybody's business because it is part of life.  Everyday our emotions and how we feel can be affected by things around us.  There are times that some can feel stressed as we have money concerns; perhaps a family member has been unwell and we are worried; maybe we are fed up with our job - the list and scenarios are different for everybody but we can all be doing some of these things to help with our wellbeing everyday. Remember, these steps are not things you only have to do if you are feeling stressed or sad or fed up or anxious.  Doing some of these things whenever we can will make a difference to taking care of our mental wellbeing everyday. 

it is really important to know when things have become too much and we need to ask for help.  There is no clear line that we cross - how do we really know when being stressed about situation becomes too much?  Every individual is different so that is why if you are worried about your mental health then call along your GP and chat it over and also visit our LINK for more information.

What can I do to improve my mental wellbeing?

All of these are suggestions of things that you can do.  Work with a friend or loved one and make it fun.  Making changes doesn't have to be something that we don't enjoy.  What is important is to remember that motivation can slip over time so having somebody else to share experiences with can sometimes help over time.  It's also important to reward yourself for things that you have achieved and focus on the good things you do.

Eat Well

How many of us often find ourselves at the end of a cold Shetland winter with some extra pounds to show for it?  Over the winter we may not be as active and perhaps not eating the right amount of food or the range of foods to help us have a balanced diet.  If we are feeling low in ourselves some people may eat more to bring comfort and if our bodies are lacking in some nutrients it can have an impact on our mood.  Making some simple changes and having a more balanced diet can make a difference to our physical and mental health. 

This doesn't mean you have to go on an immediate crash diet either.  Start by taking small steps towards improving your diet - you could swap your mid morning biscuit for a piece of fruit or try to cut down on caffeine and in the winter time warm yourself up with homemade soup made with vegetables.  Remember as well not to deny yourself foods you enjoy eating.  If you like having chocolate maybe try not to eat it everyday but allow yourself a little amount at the weekend as a reward. 

There are lots of healthy recipes available on the internet such as these available on the NHS choices website.

Being underweight or overweight can have negative consequences for your health. It is important to try to maintain a healthy weight and stay active.  If you have any concerns about your weight and would like support to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight contact your local GP Practice.

Alcohol & Drugs

Shetlanders certainly know how to party and alcohol is often a key part of celebrations but there are many who will, for example, wake up the day after Up Helly Aa or after a trip on a birthday bus and know that they have over done it.


For many people, drinking alcohol is a normal and enjoyable part of life but we also have to remember that in a 2011, 81% of respondents to a Drink Better survey in Shetland said that they think we drink too much.

Alcohol can have a major impact on your mood.  Small amounts can lower inhibitions and help us feel more confident and sociable.  The more we drink though the more likely it is that we will feel negative and large amounts can make us irritable, angry, anxious or depressed.  Alcohol can also be something that people reach out for when their mood is low but that can make you feel worse, especially in the long term.  If your mood is low try talking about it with a friend or loved one instead and try to reduce drinking.

Cutting down on drinking or even taking a break can boost your mood.  For example, to help you cut down, then drink singles instead of doubles and every second drink have just a soft drink which will help you drink less in a night.  If you are going out maybe leave your bank card at home and just take enough cash for the night so you are not tempted to buy that extra round at the end of the night (and perhaps save money at the same time) and also if you are drinking at home, try to use a measure cup to make sure you are not overdoing it.

If you feel you are addicted to alcohol or are drinking heavily it is not recommended to just stop as this could cause further health problems.  Try contacting Community Alcohol and Drugs Service or ask your GP for advice.


Drugs have been part of our culture since the middle of the last century. There are some in Shetland who may not appreciate that drugs are part of the culture here or view it to be a 'problem' which only exists amongst younger generations.  The simple truth is that in our community the likelihood is that you probably know someone who has been affected by drugs, directly or indirectly.

People take drugs for many different reasons.  Some may take them because they want to change something about their lives - to help them fit in, escape, relax, rebel or experiment.

Drugs can directly affect the mind.  They can distort the user’s perception of what is happening around him or her. As a result, the person’s actions may be odd, irrational, inappropriate and even destructive.  Drugs can block off sensations, the desirable ones as well as the unwanted.  Drugs can also lift a person into a state of cheerfulness and sometimes when the drug wears off, he or she crashes even lower than before. And each time, the emotional plunge can be lower and lower.

If someone is trying to push a drug on you, or if you are considering using a drug or are already using it, or if you know someone using drugs, check out support sources below for more information.

Novel Psychoactive Substances

Novel Psychoactive Substances (also known as legal highs) mimic the effects of illegal drugs.  You may have heard them under names such as 'Mary Joy Pink' or 'Annihilation'.  It's misleading to call them legal highs as that implies they are condoned or safe to buy which is not the case.

Effects can include nose bleeds, confusion, sleeplessness, anxiety, seizures, changes in behavior, palpitations, vomiting, terror, panic, psychosis and dependency.  Because such substances are not regulated and the chemical make up is constantly changing you can't be sure how a person will react to them.  It is also known that for some, after coming off some substance, that mood and behavior can be affected.

Find out more about drugs and novel psychoactive substances from Know The Score.

Get out and about

You may not be aware of the links between your physical and mental health; doing regular exercise can help keep you fit and will release feel good chemicals into your body. It can also help you sleep, look and feel better which in turn can boost your confidence and increase your self esteem.  It's not all about going to the gym and wearing lycra either.  There are lots of ways to be active and the important thing is to find what is right for you and what you will stick at.  Try thinking of things that you can do with friends or that will allow you to meet new people too.  Being sociable and around others can help your self esteem and that can be as simple as catching up with a friend you've not seen for months for a cuppa.

Here are some ideas on how to get out and about:

  • Go for a walk on a beach in Shetland you've never been to before
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier
  • Attend a nightclass and learn a new skill
  • Join a class such as jazzercise or zumba with a friend
  • Go for a short walk in your lunch break
  • Have a go at doing the Couch to 5k
  • Play a sports game on a games console with the kids
  • Take up the challenge of persuading plants to grow in Shetland and do some gardening
  • If it snows go sledging and build a really big snowman
  • Climb Ronas Hill with a group of friends
  • Have a go at parkour - it's a great way to get fit
  • Take part in a charity event such as the Mind Your Head Fun Run and Walk
  • Wear a pedometer - work up your steps to 10,000 a day
  • Look into what sporting activities you can access with Shetland Recreational Trust

Keep in touch

Keeping in touch with family and friends can help if you are having a difficult time and can make you feel supported.  You can also be there for another person who may need help which can help you feel needed and valued.  Talking about life's stresses can really help and it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.  Maybe next time you are on your social media then message a friend you have not spoken to for a while rather than just read their status update.


It's important to make time for yourself to help de-stress – find something that works for you. It could be playing sports, going for a long bath or even just getting an early night. 

How often do we allow ourselves the luxury of doing something we really enjoy.  Time sometimes gets in the way but make time for doing the things you enjoy.   Spending time with friends and family, reading, watching films, cuddling your pet or partner, knitting, fishing, playing golf, painting, listening to music - lose yourself in what you enjoy most and that will help you forget about your worries for a while.

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