Imagine if we looked after our mental health and wellbeing in the same way we look after our physical health? We would all be a lot more resilient.
Right now, the world is more stressful than it’s ever been. Our lives were busy and high-pressured before but living through a pandemic is placing further strain on our mental health. Looking after our minds has never been more vital. Don’t wait until you’re burnt out, start protecting your mental health and wellbeing now.
Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
One of the common barriers to protecting our mental health is that people feel they are being self-indulgent or selfish. But consider what it’s like for everyone around you if you don’t? As they say on aeroplanes, we must put on our own oxygen mask first.
By working to protect your mental health you will also improve it. When you are in a good place mentally, you make better decisions. You’re fun to be around, you achieve more, you’re less self-focused and more able to be there for others more. Everybody benefits.
How To Protect and Improve Your Mental Health
Start Small and Go Back to Basics
You’re not stuck where you are. Humans are always changing and evolving. Small steps can result in big changes, so never underestimate shifting even one basic habit for the better. Eating well, staying hydrated and moving your body are a good place to start.
In the world of psychology, the gut-brain link is becoming more and more important. Over 90% of serotonin is made in your gut, so feed your body well to nourish your mind.
When we’re stressed, our bodies release chemicals previously used to prepare us for fight or flight from our predators. As our stressors are no longer out to eat us, these chemicals stay in the body and are detrimental to our physical and mental health. Exercise is the antidote. Even just a short walk around the block can help.
Get to Know Your Mind
When we understand what depletes our mental health and what nourishes it, we can focus on doing more of the latter. For example, overworking might deplete your mental health while catching up with friends or doing yoga might help nourish it.
Journaling is a useful tool for gaining clarity. Write down everything that nourishes your mind, all your antidepressant activities, and choose five to prioritise. In my guide to building emotional resilience I call this having stress anchors. Make these a non-negotiable part of your everyday routine. You might want to set aside some dedicated ‘mind time’ – white space in your diary just for you. If it’s planned, it’s more likely to happen.
Be Your Own Coach
How we talk to ourselves in our mind has a huge impact on our mental health and our ability to be resilient. Self-criticism is aligned with increased anxiety and depression, so it’s important we’re kind to ourselves. Ask yourself, would I talk to a friend like that?
Talk It Out
As a therapist, I’m obviously biased but talking things through or just connecting with others who are supportive is very protective for our mental health. If you find talking hard, writing can help too. Journaling has many benefits including reducing stress and building stronger immune health. Find out how to get started in my Beginners Guide to Journaling.
Coping with Another Lockdown
If you’re struggling with the latest restrictions or feeling overwhelmed by the current news cycle, read How to Manage Stress and Anxiety During a Pandemic.