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Looking after yourself in hospital – for young people

Tips and ideas on how to look after yourself when you’re in hospital for your mental health.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Tips on looking after yourself in hospital

Going into hospital can be a stressful and upsetting experience, especially when you’re feeling very unwell.

This page has some tips and ideas that could help you to look after your wellbeing while you’re in hospital.

You may find some of our tips work better for you than others, or that some don’t feel possible right now. Be kind to yourself and only try what you feel comfortable with.

For information on what happens when you go into hospital for your mental health, see our pages on being a voluntary patient and being sectioned. The following tips are for everyone.

Being in hospital during coronavirus

Your stay in hospital might be affected by coronavirus, making some of these tips a little harder to try.

Each hospital will have their own rules, and things will be explained to you when you arrive. But you might:

  • be asked to do a test when you arrive and stay in your room until you get the result
  • be asked to wear a mask when moving around the ward
  • have stricter limits on visitors and leave
  • have to follow safety guidelines, including hand-washing and social distancing.

You could do this by calling a friend or family member, having people to visit, or sending letters or emails.

It can help to plan regular phone calls or visits so you have something to look forward to.

Remember, there’s no pressure to say ‘yes’ to seeing people, or to keep in touch if you’re not feeling up to it. Saying ‘no’ can be a good thing sometimes.

Meeting new people in the hospital ward can feel scary, especially when you’re in a new place and you’re not feeling well.

But talking to people who are going through similar experiences can help you to feel less alone. And after a while, you might find that you have made some new friends.

“There were 8 other people on my ward and as we spent all day together, we formed friendships and became quite close… Knowing I had an immediate support network if I was struggling was really calming.”

Writing a daily or weekly planner could help you to feel more in control of what’s happening.

Your planner could include structured activities, like therapy or yoga. It could also include time to relax, some space for visits, or any studying you’re well enough to do.

“In the evenings there was free time where we could have visitors or watch TV or chill in our rooms.”

Writing down or drawing how you’re feeling can help you to make sense of what you’re going through.

You could also try to note down one good thing, or one thing that you’re proud of, each day. 

Depending on how well you are, you might be asked to carry on with some work for school or college.

You may find that studying helps to give you a sense of normality, or that it acts as a good distraction.

But if you’re not feeling well enough or you have any worries, talk to your care team. 

It's important not to stress about school or college work and to focus on getting better.

Try to think of little things you can do to help you feel more like yourself. For example, wearing your favourite jumper or something comforting like slippers from home.

You could also find ways to express your creativity, even if you don’t think of yourself as much of an artist, like doodling or writing stories.

If you have another idea you’d like to try, like baking or sport, speak to your care team and see if they can organise this for you.

Your ward should have some outdoor space, like a courtyard. Ask your care team if you can use it to get some fresh air and have a walk.

Being in open space and natural light can help to improve your mood and make you feel less stressed or angry. It can also give you something different to focus on and help you feel calmer. 

If you can’t go outside, you could try to bring some nature inside with you. You could ask to have a pot plant to look after, or you could put up photos of your favourite outdoor places.

This is about understanding what should and shouldn’t happen while you’re in hospital.

This can help you to make sure you’re being treated fairly, and that you’re getting all the things you need.

To find out more, see our information on being a voluntary patient and being sectioned.

Even if you feel like you shouldn’t be in hospital, try to trust the staff looking after you to do the right thing for you.

Having at least one member of staff who you get on with and can talk to can make a big difference.

If you feel well enough, you could also try to think about what you want from your stay in hospital, and let staff know how they can help you achieve this.

"Remember it won’t be forever and staff want what’s best for you!”

“Going into hospital was a very scary experience for me, but I liked to think of it as a chance to restart, to come out a stronger person. It gave me the opportunity to try and create a more meaningful life for myself. It also helped me realise I am not alone.”  

To read about other young people’s experiences of being in hospital, see YoungMinds' blogs on:

< Back to our resources on looking after yourself

Go to our main info hub for young people >

This information was published in December 2020. We will revise it in 2022.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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