FACTS - an acronym for good mental health in difficult times

If you live in Scotland, you’ll be familiar with the public health FACTS campaign to help remind us how to keep physically safe during the Covid pandemic.

We thought it might also be useful to use the FACTS acronym to help us remember there are also actions we can take each day to boost our mental health during these difficult times.

F – Focus on the present moment at set points every day
A – Articulate your feelings
C – Connect with family, friends and colleagues
T – Take time for self-care
S – Stick to good sleep etiquette

We have taken each of the above tips and provided an explanation below of their value, together with further reading links to help embed them into our daily lives.

Focus on the present moment at set points every day

During these current times, it is easy to allow our mind to drift into comforting memories from the past when we could engage with others whenever or wherever we wanted.  Or spend time imagining our lives in the future when we can do so again.

However, spending time in the present moment and allowing our minds to be open, curious, and non-judgemental, can help us to look after our mental health.  As one of our mindfulness trainers explains, “Mindfulness is like a mind gym. While we understand that we need to keep our bodies healthy and fit, so we also need to look after our mind.”

As with physical health, it can be all too easy to put off today what you can do tomorrow. But benefits can be reaped by practising mindfulness whilst you do mundane tasks that you may repeat several times each day, which means you can build it into your routine easily and quickly.

Here are two suggestions for building mindfulness into your day whilst you are handwashing and making a cup of coffee/tea.

Articulate your feelings

Emotional regulation is the skill of being able to calm down and constructively express our feelings so that we don’t become overwhelmed.  Resilient people know that whatever is happening it is their interpretation of events that will determine how they feel in the end, no matter how adverse that event.  They know that there is a difference between our thoughts and our feelings.

Getting to know and name your feelings is an important first step towards regulating your emotions.  The vocabulary wheel in this article can help you with this, whilst this short article explains why it is so important to express your emotions.

Connect with family, friends and colleagues

We’ve long been told that it’s important to develop a strong support network.  The giving and receiving of advice and support, and the interaction that involves, not only helps us solve problems but also benefits our mental health by combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As the pandemic continues it is more important than ever to remember our support network.  Thankfully, we have many communication methods which allow us to keep connected whilst our face-to-face interactions are restricted.

A little further reading:
How you can improve your social support network.
The value of non-judgemental listening in the workplace.

Take time for self-care

Many of us are very good at taking care of the needs of everyone close to us but not so good at looking after ourselves.  Although it’s a newish term, self-care is an old idea and means being as kind to ourselves as we are to others.

Far from being selfish, setting aside some time daily for ourselves - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially - puts us in the best position to be able to help others.

Practising self-care not only boosts our self-esteem but can help us to be more productive at work and, importantly, may help us develop a stronger resistance to illness.

Our article, ‘Is self-care an indulgence or an essential part of resilience’ provides an example of working self-care into your day, and this article offers seven tips for good self-care.

Stick to good sleep etiquette

Anyone who has spent a night watching the clock whilst ruminating about an argument they've had or before an event they are anxious about, will know how important sleep is to both our mood and our performance.

During this pandemic, with many feeling increased anxiety, it is important to remember the things we can do to try and improve our sleep quality.  This includes actions we can take instead of watching the clock if sleep fails to materialise.

You’ll find plenty of tips and advice in the response to a recent question in our Ask the Expert series – Do you have any tips to get a restful night’s sleep?  Another helpful resource can be found on the Trouble Sleeping page of the NHS Every Mind Matters website.


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