Today is World Mental Health Day and although I’ve touched on this a little in previous weeks, thinking about how to keep positive as the seasons become colder and darker, it’s worth exploring further as it’s a subject that can affect so many of us in one way or another.
The Mental Health Foundation suggest ten ways to look after your mental health. How many of these steps do you take on a regular basis as part of your own self-care routine?
1. Talk About Your Feelings. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust, or a professional such as a therapist or coach, can help your emotional wellbeing. I would add to this that journaling as a way of expressing your feelings, thoughts and experiences is also helpful.
2. Keep Active. Doing exercise, however light, is good for your mental wellbeing. Physical activity releases all those feel-good chemicals and holistic practices such as yoga are known to be as beneficial emotionally as they are physically. If you can exercise outdoors, you’ll be adding all the positive effects of being out in the fresh air and nature too.
3. Eat Well. The Mental Health Foundation say that ‘Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.’ Often people turn to food for emotional comfort, but usually the food we choose for this comfort has the opposite effect. If you notice yourself reaching for food when you’re feeling low, stop to check whether this is hunger or emotional eating, and either make a healthy choice or try one of the other methods as a way of lifting your mood instead.
4. Drink sensibly. Drinking is part of our culture either socially or as a way or relaxing. How often do you see Facebook posts as friends reach for a glass of wine at the end of the day? Drinking as a way of managing emotions is unhealthy as a problem ignored or avoided won’t go away, and the effects of the alcohol on your body and brain will harm your wellbeing.
5. Keep In Touch. We are social animals and need human connection. Although time for ourselves is important too, becoming isolated is bad for our mental health. Connect with friends, even if it’s just on the phone or online, and create opportunities for connection.
6. Ask for Help. There are professional services to help with your emotional wellbeing and mental health, therapists, coaches, counsellors and other practitioners, so if you need help and support, please make that commitment to your self-care. Also ask for help with day to day tasks, or at work, to lighten the load and reduce stress and overwhelm.
7. Take a Break. A change of scene, a break from activity, or getting outside for a few minutes, all of these things can help you to re-set and re-focus, but also to give yourself a chance to just ‘be’.
8. Do Something You’re Good At. The Mental Health Foundation suggest that spending time on an activity you enjoy and that you’re good at will boost your self-esteem. So what do you enjoy? Do you have any hobbies or favourite pastimes? Creative activities are particularly good for mental wellbeing.
9. Accept Who You Are. This can be a difficult one, especially if you struggle with low-self esteem or a lack of confidence, you often compare yourself to others, or you’ve had past experience of being judged or criticised. Learning to love yourself can be a challenge, but it can be life changing too. There are people who can help with this and I’ll be running a feature on some of them soon.
10. Care For Others. I agree with the Mental Health Foundation that this is a great way to boost your wellbeing through human connection, and having a sense of purpose, but I would add that you need to choose wisely where you give your time and energy.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the points raised in this weeks blog.
Have a great week, look after yourself.
Ruth Randall is a Life Coach and Employee Wellbeing Specialist. Ruth helps busy professionals to balance career, family, relationships and wellbeing, to make life and work less stressful. She also works with teams to improve employee wellbeing and mental health in the workplace.