In England alone, 1 in 3 people have a mental health issue at some stage in their life, and sadly this only seems to be on the rise.
Our 2015 publication, Losing Myself (part of our Life with a Brain Tumour publications), found that, of the over 1,000 people involved, 91% had seen their mental and emotional health decline as a result of their brain tumour. This is an all too common reality for those diagnosed with a long-term illness, but it must change!
While there’s a notable shift in the way we talk about mental health, with many businesses having a culture of openness about mental health problems (we have a great one here at The Brain Tumour Charity) and many references in popular culture, more must be done to change these statistics.
You must be able to get the help you need, when you need it. But, there are also many things you can do before and after a mental health referral to help look after your emotional wellbeing.
If you're living with a brain tumour, it’s understandable that just getting out of bed in the morning, having a shower or facing the day can feel overwhelming – you certainly aren't alone in feeling that way! So it can feel like too much to add anything extra to your day, but below are some little things you can do to help you get back on track.
1. Speak to your GP and ask for a referral
If you’re going to do just one thing on this list, this should be it. Asking for help can feel hard and scary, but it’s one of the best and bravest things you can do on your road to better mental health.
We can assure you, you won’t be the only person your GP has referred to a mental health service, and you certainly won’t be the last – so there’s nothing to be afraid of. It will be handled with the utmost empathy and confidentiality (they won’t tell your family, friends or employer unless you request it, or unless you’re in danger).
2. Find a confidant
Simply finding someone you can speak to can often be enough to help you through this difficult time. They may be a family member, friend, part of your medical team or your neighbour; it can be anyone that you trust. Just being able to share how you're feeling without worrying about being judged can be a huge relief.
However, it’s important to remember their mental health too. It can be tough to see a loved one suffering and they can’t help you when they’re feeling low themselves. Occasionally they may ask for space and you should try not to take this personally.
3. Do at least three things you love every day
This doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, it can be as simple as singing in the shower or going for a short walk, or as big as taking yourself out for lunch or going to the cinema. It can be anything you want, but try to do three each day.
When you're feeling depressed or anxious it's easy to be hard on yourself, take yourself for granted or be overly critical. But this can lead to bad habits and feelings of negativity. You’ll be surprised how much your mood can change when you take time to care for yourself.
4. Set yourself daily goals
By setting yourself small goals, for instance ‘go for a 30-minute walk’, you can set yourself up for those little successes that make a big difference and soon they won’t feel like a chore anymore.
Each night, make a list of the things you want to achieve by the following night and tick off your successes as you go. It may sound odd but feeling productive and actually seeing your success can be a huge motivator. Remember, it's important to push yourself with your goals and reach as many as possible, but don’t rush into anything too quickly and know when you need to rest.
An example of a good list for a Saturday or Sunday could be:
- Wake up no later than 9.00am
- Eat a nutritional breakfast
- Go for a walk (30 minutes)
- Complete my homework by 1.00pm or do my weekly shop
- Eat a nutritional lunch
- Listen to music while doing light housework (1 hour)
- Call or visit a friend or family member
- Eat a nutritional dinner and treat myself to a yummy dessert
- Take a long bath or shower (30 minutes)
- Read a book (1 hour)
- Get an early night and be in bed by 10.00pm
5. Up your exercise
It may sound like a cliché but exercise makes a big difference to your mood because it floods your brain with endorphins, so increasing the amount of exercise you get can be really good for your physical and mental health.
Living with a brain tumour is often exhausting, so upping your exercise can feel a bit scary, but it doesn’t have to be long or strenuous. Even a casual 30-minute walk, remembering to take the stairs rather than the lift and ensuring you stand up for one minute each hour can do wonders for your mental health.
6. Get in touch with us
Even if you aren't ready to talk to a loved one about your mental health there is still help available to you. At The Brain Tumour Charity, we have an array of dedicated support services for anyone affected by a brain tumour.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed yourself or you're a carer, family or friend of somebody living with a brain tumour, we’re here for everyone, at every step to provide guidance or signpost information.
If you would like to get in touch, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0808 800 0004 (9.00am-5.00pm, Monday-Friday, with extended hours of 9.00am-9.00pm on Wednesdays)
Looking to talk and connect with others who understand your situation?
You can join our online support groups where those living with a brain tumour, carers and family or friends can find a safe space to talk through issues, share experiences and receive vital support during difficult times.