We often find ourselves racing along at 100mph, saying yes to everything, and building up our stresses and tensions until we find ourselves crying in the office toilets or having a breakdown in the grocery store.
It’s probably a good idea to address poor mental health before you get to this situation — but where do you start? Often when we think about our mental health, it can feel extremely overwhelming, especially if your mind jumps straight to medication or therapy.
There’s nothing wrong with either, but there are some simple but effective lifestyle changes you can make that will help to improve your wellbeing and feelings of being overwhelmed; read on for five helpful ways to take care of your mental health.
Talk about it
Talking about your mental health is one of the biggest helpful ways you can take care of it, but there are still so many of us that don’t do it.
Treat yourself with kindness and respect; if you knew that one of your friends or a family member was struggling with poor mental health, you would want them to feel like they could talk to you and find support.
Opening up about your feelings is not a sign of weakness; it shows strength that you are taking charge of your health and wellbeing.
It’s up to you who you talk to. It could be a good friend, family member, or a colleague that you’re close to. Sharing how you are feeling can help hugely, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes, you might feel like you need a bit of extra help, especially if what you’re experiencing isn’t going away and it’s impacting your daily life. This help could come in the form of a doctor or a therapist — whatever you need to make you feel more comfortable and more in control.
Do what makes you happy (or happier)
One small but really effective way of taking better care of your mental health in life: do what makes you happy (or at least, happier). If there’s something you can do that can make you feel better, then do it.
So often in life, we get stuck in a rut of not particularly enjoying our daily routine. We go through the motions of waking up, going to work, and coming home again — and repeat it, without anything (or very little) fun or happiness on the horizon.
Fill your daily life with things that make you feel happy and more relaxed. Whether it’s seeing your friends, listening to music, doing a sport or something creative, or being outside in the sun and surrounding yourself with nature… it’s easy to add these small things into your day, and bit by bit, they will help to lift your mood.
You can think a bit bigger than your daily activities too. If you’re not happy with the life you’re leading, change it. Leave your unhappy 9-5 office job to find your passion and start that career you’ve been talking about. If you’ve always been desperate to travel, do some research and plan that Costa Rica trip that you’ve been dreaming of. Go for that promotion at work. Tell that guy you like him!
Do the things that make you happy, and you’ll see more positivity coming into your life.
Look after your body as well as your mind
Your physical health and your mental health are not two separate things; they’re linked together in all sorts of ways, and when you treat one badly, the other will also suffer.
Eating badly, smoking and drinking heavily, not staying hydrated, and not doing enough exercise will all have a negative impact on both your physical health and your mental wellbeing. All of these things can make you feel low, lethargic, anxious and generally unwell.
Here are some easy ways you can look after your body to help your mind too:
- Do regular exercise: there are many reasons why physical activity is great for your mental health. For a start, your body releases mood-boosting and stress-relieving chemicals before and after you work out, which is why exercise can be so powerful when it comes to tackling poor mental health
- Eat well: nourish your body and mind with the food that it needs to function properly. We’re talking plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet including protein, carbs, and fats to keep your mood balanced
- Avoid refined sugars: too much sugar in your diet will impact your blood sugar levels, which will make mood swings more extreme, give you draining energy lows and make you feel worse in the long run
It doesn’t take much, but taking care of yourself physically can help to improve your mental health.
Don’t be afraid to take a break
If everything is getting too much, don’t be afraid to take a break and step away from an overwhelming situation.
This could be stepping out of the office for a quick breather if your work situation is getting too much and you feel stressed or overwhelmed at your desk. Instead, talk a walk outside; get some fresh air and walk around the block. Find a green space and some trees if you can.
Likewise, if things are getting too frantic in your social life, don’t be afraid to say no to things. Often we feel like we have to say yes to everything, and our social obligations pile up. Drinks with friends and dinner with the in-laws and Christmas parties and baby showers and leaving parties and weddings all start to fill our calendars until there’s not a single space left. Phew.
You don’t want to burn out; for a start, you’ll no longer enjoy doing all of these fun things. Give yourself time off. If you need to, physically write it into your calendar: me time. Have an evening to yourself; run a hot bath, pour yourself a glass of wine (or a cup of tea), and read that book you’ve been meaning to.
Practice good sleep hygiene
One really simple way of taking care of your mental health is to go to bed on time and get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is so important for both your physical health and mental health; sleep offers your body the time it needs to repair and recharge each night, allowing you to wake up feeling well-rested and ready for the day ahead.
Failing to get enough sleep or enough good-quality sleep can exacerbate mental health problems, and leave you feeling even more stressed and anxious than you did before.
Here are some top tips for practicing good sleep hygiene:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day: it’s simple, but keeping a consistent bedtime routine will improve your sleep patterns
- Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only: ban screen time on your phone or laptop to avoid overstimulating your brain
- Try some simple breathing techniques or meditation as you lie in bed: this helps relax the nervous system and prepare your body for sleep
Carry out these small changes and you’ll soon see a difference in your sleep quality and quantity in no time at all.
There you have it: five helpful ways to take care of your mental health. Start putting these positive habits into practice today, and you will start to notice gradual but meaningful change.