Many of us will face mental health issues at some point in our lives. I certainly have, but by getting the help I needed, I lived to tell the tale – and finish my latest book, 31 Days of Wonder. The following five tips have become an important compass for me. If you’re daunted by a big project or you’re simply struggling with the demands of everyday life, hopefully they will be of value to you too.

Tom Winter by Virginia Garfunkel

Tom Winter by Virginia Garfunkel

Get out of your own way

Let go of the expectations and instead allow things to flow. This is especially true of writing a book, when the burden of expectation can totally shut down the creative process, but in truth it applies to so many things in life. When we're labouring under the self-imposed demands of being really good at something or achieving perfection – in any endeavour – we lose the ability to just enjoy the journey.

Know which battles to fight and which to let go

Time is precious and few of us have the chance to take hours out of our schedule for ‘me time’, but we can all take a deep breath and ask ourselves if something important can wait for a while, or if it’s even important at all. By reclaiming some time for ourselves, even if it’s only a few moments of tranquillity over a cup of tea, everything else becomes easier.

Recognise when you’re self-medicating

The obvious example is alcohol, but self-medication can take many forms. It takes some honesty to see that there’s a thin line between treating yourself to something you love, and using it as an emotional crutch. If you think you’ve crossed that line, have the courage to admit it to yourself, and try to identify why. Knowledge is power.

If you think there's something wrong with you, question the mirror first

Throughout life, we’re bombarded with messages about our worth as individuals – akin to people holding up a mirror by which we see ourselves – and it’s all too easy to simply accept those messages at face value. If you’re struggling with a sense that you’re damaged in some way, take a moment to step back and examine what information you’re using to come to that conclusion. It’s much more likely that the mirror is damaged, not you.

Accept that mental health issues are perfectly normal

There’s a conspiracy of silence surrounding mental health issues, and it needs to stop. Many people sink into desperation because of things they could identify and change if only they had professional support, but first we need a society where it’s okay to admit to having a problem, and where help is available to everyone who needs it. We think nothing of the car needing some maintenance or the washing machine needing some repairs, but we somehow expect lifelong perfection of ourselves. Free yourself from those thoughts and find the help you need. Brighter, happier days are waiting for you on the other side, I promise you that.