From rubik's cubes to getting a vit hit – take back control of your stress

WHEN you suffer a cut, you reach for a plaster. Got a headache? Take a painkiller. But what do you do when you’re feeling frazzled, anxious or stressed?

Few of us will have escaped those emotions in the past year or so, and charities including The Health Foundation have warned of a growing mental health crisis in the UK – depression rates have doubled since the start of the pandemic.

Dr Kate Mason, clinical psychologist at Roots Psychology Group, warns: “People tend to wait and ride it out, thinking they’ll be alright ‘when’ the pandemic is over or ‘when’ they get a new job. People wait and wait, they don’t get help and then their depression becomes so intense, it is difficult to get out of it. That’s why it’s so important to take action ASAP, reach out for help, whether that’s to a loved one or GP.”

Better still, try to act before you reach your crisis point, says Dr Mason. Easier said than done maybe, but she says there is one thing we can all do now and it starts with a first-aid kit – for your mind.

“Mental health first-aid kids are a great way of taking back control and can help when life gets tough. It can empower us, which can have a massive impact on low mood and anxiety levels. Learn to recognise the early warning signs and if you start to feel wobbly, get your kit out.”

Here’s how to build yours… 


If you suffer with anxiety, you can end up feeling restless. “Anxious people often fidget, pace the room or bite their nails,” Dr Mason explains.

The solution? Try adding a tool to your kit that can serve as a healthy distraction.

“Find another way to get rid of this excess energy by using a stress ball, fidget spinner or a Rubik’s cube. Anything you can fiddle with will help – it could be as simple as a bit of Blu Tack.

"It helps to calm the nervous system and regulate your emotions by bringing you back to the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or the past. Try a Rubik’s cube (£8.99, to help you focus on the here and now.” 


A picture paints a thousand words, so try sticking a selection of your treasured snaps into a mini photo book (from £20, Not only will you feel smug for finally getting them printed, but it will help lift your spirits.

“Pick photos that bring back really happy memories,” says Dr Mason. “It could be a holiday you went on or a photo of loved ones.” And it’s not just about reflecting on a happy past. “Looking ahead can also help, so print off a picture of your dream holiday destination to make you look more positively to the future,” she says. 


It’s dubbed the sunshine vitamin and a daily dose of vitamin D could be just what you’re missing. Nutritionist Amanda Ursell says: “Around one in five of us have low vitamin D levels in the UK, which are linked to poor muscle strength and fatigue.

An ongoing lack of energy and feeling tired can profoundly affect your mental health, so it’s worth keeping supplements or a vitamin D spray handy. Taking 10 micrograms a day in winter is advised by the Department of Health and taking it in the summer will do no harm.” Try BetterYou D4000 Vitamin D Daily Oral Spray (£9.95,


Whether the fluorescent squares frame your computer screen or brighten up a noticeboard, few people will make it through life without the humble Post-It note. But rather than barking instructions at yourself, use them to display positive affirmations.

“You can stick them on your mirror to read while you’re getting ready,” Dr Mason says. “Positive quotes such as: ‘I can do this’ or: ‘I am strong’ will work. Physical activity is good for the mind, too, so try notes telling you to do 10 minutes of yoga or to go for a short walk.

"It doesn’t need to be too challenging – sometimes just having it on paper is all the encouragement you need to get your momentum back.” You can come up with your own positive gems, or draw inspo online.

Try The Positive Affirmation Cards (£20, The Positive Planner at, and to get moving we love the 30 Day Fitness Challenge cards (£9.81,


Fancy yourself as the next Banksy? Channelling your inner artist could be a vital part of your mental health kit. “Colouring, painting and crafting can all be done mindfully, so you could consider putting a colouring book in your kit,” says Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind.

“For some people, mindfulness can be really helpful in understanding their thoughts and feelings in a calm way, while managing unhelpful thoughts.”

To reap the benefits, focus on the colour you’re using, the sensation of the pencil, pen or brush against the paper and the shapes you’re creating, says Stephen.

“Mindful colouring books or apps can help you switch off from daily pressures as it demands focus and concentration.” We recommend The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons (£7.99,


Yes, too long spent glued to your phone can be bad for your mental health, but if you avoid falling into another social media rabbit hole, it can be time well spent.

Psychologist Emma Kenny says there are plenty of apps that are good for your mental health. “Headspace and Calm can help with breathing techniques and meditation and my own one, Appy, helps you build positive social networks,” she says.

“During the pandemic, research found people who played games with each other online fared better when it came to their mental health, probably because they were having fun. Anything that helps you build alliances and connections is positive, so even FaceTime and WhatsApp can help.”

If you’re new to wellness apps, try the meditations and sleep stories on Calm (free).


If you’ve ever woken up in the night and struggled to stop your brain whirring, putting pen to paper could help. “Journalling is a great way of recording your feelings and reflecting on them,” says Emma. “Getting them on to paper clears space in your head for other, nicer thoughts.”

And if you’re not already list-obsessed, give it a whirl. “Lists are amazing for helping you feel organised. Working through one makes you feel efficient,” says Emma.

“Physically ticking something off will release happy hormones into the brain.” My Mindful Mind Journal (£10, and Busy B To Do Notes (£8, are great starting points. 

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