City Lit Blog

Practical ways to invest in your mental wealth

Story added 27th Sep 2019

The Mental Wealth Festival
(8-12 October) is a time to reflect on how we stay well mentally and emotionally. Key to that is building resilience to enable us to cope with whatever live throws at us. Taking some time to invest in our mental health can help us live richer and more fulfilling lives. City Lit lead counsellor and psychotherapist Karen Dempsey shares seven practical ways to make that investment in your emotional wellbeing…

Know your stressors
The first step towards optimum mental health is knowing what stresses you out. Your stressors may be lack of time, an overwhelming workload, a fractious relationship. Whatever your pressure point is, stress can burn you up and turn your energy to ashes. To keep your flame lit, get to know your triggers. Once you know them you can take steps to reduce them and look at alternatives to the stressor.

Contain your worries
Worry has a nasty habit of creeping into your thoughts and twisting them until your mind has created a worst-case scenario. Worrying can spoil your day and stop you living a full life. To support yourself in worrying less, try these two things. Firstly, agree with yourself that you will only worry about things that you have some control over. Secondly, if you feel worried give yourself a set time each day – say, 20 minutes – when you can allow yourself to worry, worry, worry. When the 20 minutes are up, you can leave the worry behind and take it up again tomorrow.

Express your feelings
Expressing how you feel is vital to mental health. Bottling things up never works; eventually the feeling you are trying to suppress will come out sideways. It’s OK to have feelings. There’s nothing right or wrong with a feeling. Speak to a friend or loved one and tell them how you feel. Speak to a therapist if you feel you need professional support. Or start a journal where you check in with yourself daily and write down what’s happening in your inner world. You will feel the relief of unburdening yourself.

Prioritise self-care
This is about putting your own oxygen mask on before you help others. You may feel it is selfish to put yourself first when there are other people who need you, but without self-care, you won’t have anything to give others. Self-care means ensuring you sleep and eat well, take some exercise, and build in some time to relax or meditate. Tune into your needs and aim to meet them where you can.

Stay connected
It can be so tempting to tune the world out and isolate yourself as an antidote to the 24/7 demands of life. Yet part of the definition of mental health is “making a contribution to your community”. Staying connected with people – friends, family, groups, or even volunteering for a good cause – can build the feel-good within.

Try something new (just for fun)
Do something just for fun. Build, draw, write, paint, dance, act, knit, learn. Choose something that makes your heart sing. Do something you love just for the sake of it – not because you’ve got a deadline to meet or a boss to impress or a point to prove. Whether it’s writing poetry, improving your drawing or painting skills, or learning how to play an instrument, having a project can give you meaning and purpose. It can put the spark back into your life.

Take the pressure off 
A lot of frustation in life is caused by expecting perfection. Having incredibly high standards that you expect everyone to meet can often lead to feelings of disappointment. Self-pressure can be even worse. Your inner slave-driver can torture you with 'shoulds', 'musts' and 'ought tos', leaving you feeling as what you do will never be enough. That's exhausting and can lead you down the road yo anxiety and depression. Taking the pressure off yourself, and giving everyone permission to be imperfect, can be so freeing. Accept that you are good enough just as you are. 

Download our Mental Health Toolkit 


Mental Wealth Festival 2019 

Karen Dempsey is a UKCP-registered psychotherapist and lead counsellor at City Lit. Karen will be hosting a writing for wellbeing workshop at City Lit on Saturday 12 October as part of this year’s Mental Wealth Festival.

Now in its fifth year, the Mental Wealth Festival provides a forum for informative, challenging and inspiring discussions and workshops exploring mental health issues and takes places across different venues in London including City Lit, The National Gallery and The British Museum. This year we focus on relationships, family, friendship and the importance of community and support networks. We will also discuss loneliness and isolation, and the impact this can have on mental health and wellbeing and the strategies and tools to support this. 

Find out more about the Mental Wealth Festival