Brain 119

A guide to mental health - for yourself and for the people you care about

7 minutes

Feeling down at times is completely natural. Life has its ups and downs. 

Below, we have gathered some information for those who are feeling low and seeking answers, tips, and advice, as well as for those who are concerned about someone close to them who may not be doing well.


In cases of acute, life-threatening conditions, call emergency services immediately - 112!



If you are feeling low


Feeling down can be attributed attributed to three different causes:


Something distressing has happened



Worrying about how something might turn out



Unknown reasons, where you are unsure why you're feeling down

To understand what kind of help you may need, it is important to try and identify which of the above points best aligns with your deteriorated well-being.



If something distressing has occurred


When something distressing happens, your body needs to process the experiences. This may involve the need to comprehend and accept what has occurred. Three things that can be important for coping are:



Time is said to heal all wounds. While it may not always be entirely true, there is some truth to the saying. As time passes, the distance from the painful situation increases. The greater the distance, the more likely it is that the situation can take up less and less space in your life.


Do not underestimate the power of time. Remember that your distress will decrease over time, but time alone may not make it disappear completely.




Find someone you feel comfortable talking to about what happened. Sharing your difficult experience with someone else can be scary, but no one should have to go through a tough or scary period alone. Turning to someone for support will not only give you the opportunity to articulate your thoughts, experiences, and emotions, but it can also prevent a decline in your well-being. A person whom you allow into your experience can help you break old patterns and thus shorten the time of feeling bad. Whether you find it easier to talk to someone you know or not, it is important that it is someone you trust. In the end, the most important thing is that you talk to someone.


Establishing routines


So, what's so important about routines when something difficult has happened? Routines have been found to play a crucial role in giving us a sense of predictability and control. They are among the first things that individuals, both those affected and the rescue personnel, try to implement in the aftermath of significant devastation, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. It is known that the absence of routines can lead to deteriorated well-being.


Here are some routines that we recommend you follow, and we encourage you to seek support if you feel unable to establish them on your own:


- Regular and sufficient sleep


7-9 hours


- Consistent dietary habist


3 balanced meals spread throughout the day, avoiding snacking


- Regular physical activity


A minimum of 30 minutes of daily walking, even if divided throughout the day. Getting outside and getting some sunlight (even if it's not visibly sunny) helps the body distinguish between day and night and, in addition to reducing sedentary behavior, aids in better sleep.

If you worry about how something might turn out


Worrying and feeling stressed is a part of the human survival strategy, and like all our emotions, it is necessary in moderation. When worry becomes overwhelming, it can hinder us and limit our daily lives. Sometimes, worry is justified, arising from situations that would understandably cause significant concern. Examples of this include being threatened - and subsequently worrying about encountering that person again - or getting fired - and uncertain about managing your finances. In other cases, worry lacks a clear focus and becomes more generalized, applying to various aspects of everyday life.


If you frequently find yourself worrying about how something might turn out, there are several things you can do to try and reduce it:

Lower your expectations


Lower the demands on yourself. It's easier said than done, but if you recognize that your worry is linked to performance (whether it's school, work, sports, or anything else), a recipe for success is to reduce your own expectations of yourself.


Identify what you can and cannot control


There are many things that can worry us, not least of all, major injustices like war and poverty. Every day, we receive information about the world around us, and it is often negatively emphasized. If this causes worry that hampers your everyday life, it may be relevant to distinguish between what you can control and what you cannot control in order to gain better control over your worry.


Here's how you can identify whether what you're worried about can be influenced or not:


- Write down all the things that worry you on a list


- Create two empty columns, one labeled "Can Influence" and the other "Cannot Influence."


- Move each item on your list into one of the two columns based on how you answer the question: Can I do something about this point? If the answer is yes, place it in the "Can Influence" column. If you realize that you can't do anything about it (like for most people, it could be a war), place it in the "Cannot Influence" column


Limit your worry


Limiting worry allows you to dedicate more thought and time to other matters. However, you would probably not be reading this right now if you knew how to limit worry, as it can be as challenging as not thinking about a pink horse. Yep, exactly like that.


There are various ways to try to limit worry, with two overarching themes being limit the time spent worrying and limit the impact worry can have on you: 


Limit the time spent worrying


This serves to control and limit the impressions and situations associated with the onset of anxiety.

Various strategies which can assist you in limiting your worry include:


- Decide how much time you wish to spend on news apps, social media, etc


- Set screen time limits on your phone


- Avoid checking the news or work emails before going to bed


- Activate the "Do not disturb" mode on your phone before going to bed


- Engage in activities that make you feel good.


Try relaxation exercises, such as yoga and mindfulness. Choose a method that suits you and practice it when you're feeling well. That way, you can use the technique when you're feeling anxious and not at your best.


Limit the impact worry can have on you


Limiting the extent of anxiety often involves taking control of the anxiety itself. That means not just thinking that it's actually okay, but also being able to feel that it's okay.


Examples of how to limit the extent of anxiety:


- Avoid alcohol, drugs, or other substances to cope with your emotions 


While it may initially feel relieving, it will worsen your problems in the long run and you also risk developing a dependency in the process


- Create a plan for how you can limit worry that you can influence


Set goals 


Preferably clear sub-goals that lead you towards the main goal.

Make the goals specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound


Answer the following questions:


How can you worry less about this?

Can you delegate responsibility to someone else?

Can you ask for help?

Can you confront the anxiety?


- Manage the worries you cannot influence.


Face the anxiety


What is the worst thing that can happen if the worry becomes reality?

How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will happen and affect you specifically?


Learn more


Read up on the subject if you need more information to feel increased control and thereby become less anxious. Important note: Avoid letting more information fuel your worries.

Consider what you would need to know to become less anxious before you start reading. Then search for that information and avoid spending more time on this question.


Allow the feeling


Accepting the feeling makes it less unfamiliar and less scary. Remember that the feeling does not own you, even though it may feel that way. You own the feeling, and you also have the power to change it.


Interrupt your worry


It's important to remember that emotions and reality don't always go hand in hand. Your feelings may be valid, but they don't necessarily represent an objective truth. If you find yourself caught in excessive worry, stress, or negative experiences, it may be necessary to break free from them in order to gain a break or a fresh perspective.


Breaking the worry involves finding strategies to stop worrying more than necessary. It's similar in many ways to containing worry, but here the focus is on taking active measures in the moment when worry arises, rather than preparing to reduce its impact when it surfaces.


To a large extent, breaking the worry is about redirecting your attention away from what troubles you, or adding a new thought that diminishes the effect of the worry.


Examples of things that can help you break worry in the moment include:


- Reach out and call someone you know

- Watch a movie or series

- Read a book

- Engage in an activity that you know will shift your focus, such as going for a walk, exercising, or cooking


Seek help


If you find that anxiety is difficult to control on your own, do not wait too long to seek help. Sometimes, simply talking to a loved one about your worries may be enough, while other times, professional help may be needed. Regardless of the approach, remember that excellent help is available and that it is important that you talk to someone you feel comfortable with.


Establish routines


So, why are routines important when you're feeling anxious? Routines have been found to play a crucial role in providing us with a sense of predictability and control, especially when anxiety throws us off balance. This is particularly true when it comes to sleep. Anxiety is one of the most common causes of difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep quality. Consequently, this can negatively impact your energy levels and well-being during your waking hours. Maintaining routines is known to be crucial in preventing further deterioration of your overall well-being.

Here are a few routines that we recommend you follow, and we encourage seeking support if you feel unable to establish them on your own:


- Regular and sufficient sleep


7-9 hours


- Consistent eating habits


3 balanced meals spread throughout the day, avoiding snacking


- Regular exercise


A minimum of 30 minutes of daily walking, even if it's divided throughout the day. Getting outside and getting some sunlight (even if it's not sunny) helps your body distinguish between day and night. In addition to reducing sedentary behavior, it will assist your body in sleeping better

If you don't know why you feel bad 


Sometimes we don't know why we feel bad. we just do. If you find yourself in this situation, it can be helpful to try to reflect on what you can actually say about your well-being. Try to articulate your thoughts and feelings.


By being as specific as possible, you will get closer to the answer of why you feel bad.


Here are some questions that can help you get closer to the cause:


- When did I start feeling bad?


- Did it start suddenly or has it gotten worse over time?

If suddenly, was it associated with a specific event?

If gradual, when did I start noticing it and in what situations have I noticed it?


- Have I felt like this before?

Can anything be said about what caused it then?


- Which situations/activities make me feel good?

How often do I engage in them?


- What bothers me the most right now?


- How often do I feel bad and how long can it last?


- What would I primarily want help with?

If, despite this, you still don't understand why you feel bad and the bad feeling doesn't go away, we recommend seeking professional help for support.


When should I seek help?


If you have been feeling unwell for a long time without any improvement or if you feel so bad that you find it difficult to see a way out, it is time to seek help.


Where can I seek help?


There are several organizations with extensive experience in assisting people who are feeling unwell. Below are some examples of where you can turn to, depending on your current stage in life.


If you are an adult

Primary healthcare center (Vårdcentral)


Outpatient psychiatric care (Öppenvårdspsykiatrin)



If you are a teenager/young adult

Youth clinic (ungdomsmottagning)


Child and adolescent psychiatry (BUP)


Primary healthcare center (Vårdcentral)



If you are in school

School nurse


School counselor


Youth clinic


Child and adolescent psychiatry (BUP)



Telephone line


Examples of telephone lines to contact if you feel the need to talk to someone quickly:


Suicide Helpline: Phone 90 101 or chat.


For those who are contemplating suicide and for those who are close to someone with suicidal thoughts. Anonymous. Open 24 hours a day, every day.


Life Line: Chat


For individuals aged 16-25 who want to chat with an adult. Open Sunday to Thursday from 19:00 to 22:00.


Parent Line: Phone 020-85 20 00.


For those concerned about a child in their vicinity. Open on weekdays from 10:00 to 15:00 and Thursday evenings from 19:00 to 21:00


Elderly Line: Phone 020-22 22 33.


For those who want someone to talk to. Anonymous. Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 19:00. Saturday to Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00.


Relatives' Line: Phone 0200-239 500.


A national support hotline for relatives. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 to 15:00. Wednesday and Sunday from 18:00 to 21:00.


Men's Line: Phone 08-30 30 20


For those who feel the need to speak with someone. Monday to Friday and Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00, 17:00 to 21:00. Saturdays from 12:00 to 14:00.


Under Kevlaret: Chat


For those who want someone to talk to. Anonymous. Sunday to Thursday from 20:00 to 22:00.


If you are feeling so unwell that you are considering self-harm or need urgent help, contact a psychiatric emergency department or dial 112. If you are unsure where to turn, call 1177.


If reaching out feels difficult, ask someone to assist you.



If you worry about someone else


It's not always easy to live close to someone who is mentally unwell. Often, one can feel inadequate, leading to questions about being a good support and what being a good support truly entails. Below, we have compiled a few tips and advice that we hope can assist you when you provide support without compromising your own well-being.


Be available


For those who are struggling, it can be difficult to open up about their mental state. Sometimes, it's because they don't know how to initiate such a conversation, and other times, they may not want to burden someone else with their worries. In fact, those who are struggling often feel that they are burdening others by sharing their struggles. Therefore, it's important to clearly demonstrate that you are available and show that you are there for the person if the need for support arises.



Be responsive


It's not just in direct conversations that a person can express their emotional distress. Body language and behavioral changes are examples of more subtle ways to communicate poor mental well-being. Examples of body language and behavioral changes that may indicate poor mental health include:


- Lack of laughter and engagement in conversations


- A more neutral facial expression regardless of the topic of conversation, and a sometimes monotone and subdued tone of speech


- Gradual reduction in social contacts and activities (increasing isolation)


- Altered behavior around food


- Fatigue


Additionally, people sometimes use jokes and humor as a protective barrier, even when they are feeling unwell. Comments implying thoughts about death or hinting at self-harm, such as "this task is so difficult, it might be easier not to feel anything" or "one must be careful not to fall onto the tracks," should be taken seriously.



Be committed


As a relative, you can gain a profound understanding of the situation by seeking to learn more about the condition. Not only what you can do yourself, but also why the person you are concerned about behaves in a certain way. Feel free to suggest activities that counteract their isolation. Just remember to:


- Start small, as energy and enthusiasm may not be present initially. What the person finds most enjoyable for a short period can be a good starting point


- Respect a "no" 


- Understand that this may take time. Even if you receive one or several rejections, or perhaps no response at all, your efforts and commitment will be noticed and appreciated. Do not take the rejection personally!



Don't be afraid


Dare to ask. The notion that you risk waking the sleeping bear by bringing up thoughts of self-harm is unfounded and incorrect. By asking someone about self-harming and thoughts of death, you show that you care, that you want to listen, and above all, that you are not afraid to receive the answer.

Take in what the person is saying, stay calm, and try to understand their perspective. Remember that significant mental distress is a state in which the person is not entirely themselves.


Tips to keep in mind: If you find it challenging to know how to initiate this conversation, you can start with yourself: "I have noticed that you haven't been yourself lately, would you like to share what's on your mind?" or "When you joked about it being more comfortable to feel nothing, I became very worried. Do you sometimes feel like it would be better not to feel anything?"



Be yourself


Two of the most important things to remember when supporting someone who is struggling with their mental health are:

Support is not the same as treatment


As a support person, you play an incredibly important role, but it also comes with clear limitations. Be yourself and provide support, but refrain from offering specific advice or suggestions for feeling better unless you are a professional caregiver.


It's harder to help others if you're not feeling well yourself


When someone you care deeply about is struggling, it's common to prioritize their needs over your own. However, don't forget about yourself! Taking care of your own well-being is not selfish; it's necessary for you to continue being a reliable support over the long term. Don't hesitate to seek help from others if you need assistance in sharing the load.