How To Look After Your Mental Health
Mental health has become one of the most widely discussed topics over the last couple of years, with the stigma slowly being chiseled away.
More people than ever are opening up, the government is placing mental health at the forefront of policy, and businesses are realising that they need to do more for their employees.
But, as this widespread conversation around mental health is still fairly new, it’s understandable that many still don’t know how to talk about their mental health, or how to look after it.
Here are some tips for the best ways you can look after your mental health in 2021.
#1 Check your relationship with mental health
The first and most important thing that you must do is to check your relationship with your own mental health.
It sounds obvious to say, but every single one of us has mental health, we’re just at different points on the spectrum.
Much of the conversation at the moment is focused on the 1 in 4 people who will suffer from a mental health issue, and while this is incredibly important, it can leave the 3 in 4 excluded & thinking that they don’t need to work on their mental health.
In truth, every single person should be working on their mental health just like they do their physical.
Just as we go to the gym to get physically fitter even when we’re already fit, we must do the same with our mental health, even if we already feel mentally “fit”.
Prevention is always better than cure, especially with our minds.
#2 Create a greater sense of self-awareness around what you need
Once you’ve understood your relationship to mental health, it’s then important that you take time to understand what you truly want and need.
Again, it sounds like an obvious point to make, but you’d be surprised at how little people realise what they actually need.
It’s easy to turn to ‘vices’ like alcohol, caffeine, social media, socialising or “being busy”, when in reality, these things could be more of an escapism strategy rather than things that are actually good for us.
Equally, these things could make us happier, but we feel pressured into avoiding them.
So it’s important that you look at the things in your life and ask yourself:
- “Is this making me feel better, or worse?”
- “Am I doing this thing because I really want to, or because I feel pressured to?”
- “Do I truly enjoy this activity, or am I just doing it to fill a gap?”
Also ask yourself what you could replace certain things with. If you’re scrolling through social media because you’re just looking for something to read, then why not read a book instead?
#3 Don’t be afraid to open up and talk
The conversation around mental health is changing, so don’t be afraid to be a part of that conversation.
Opening up and being honest about how you really feel, good or bad, can be difficult, especially if you’re a man.
But, every single person has thoughts, feelings & emotions, so you’d be surprised how often people will relate to how you’re feeling.
Talking has been proven to make us feel better, & to psychologically reduce the size of a problem that we may be facing.
And, if you lead the way and open up, you’re also giving others permission to be vulnerable too; one of the most powerful things you could ever do.
#4 Physical health and mental health
Another thing that the current conversation around mental health doesn’t do brilliantly is that it separates mental health and physical health.
These two terms have almost become separate entities in their own right, when the reality is that the mind and body are intrinsically linked.
One always affects the other; if we are stressed, we have less energy. If we eat certain foods, it can change our mood.
With this in mind, working on your physical fitness, whether it’s by going to the gym or just going for a walk, will directly impact your mental fitness too.
#5 Meditation for your mental health
As with mental health, meditation has been taken out of the shadows in recent years. It no longer only draws connotations with mystical monks in robes atop mountain peaks, but has instead become a useful & practical everyday tool that millions around the globe use.
There are numerous studies and reports that highlight the benefits of even just 10-minutes of meditation a day; improved memory, improved mood, reduced stress levels and even links to a longer life-span!
Meditation has become much more accessible with apps such as Headspace or Calm, which provide a cost-effective and easy way to engage with the practice to improve your mental health.
#6 Is social media affecting your mental health?
As touched on in point #2, it’s important that you check your relationships with social media. The platforms that we use have the ability to do a great deal of good, and it’s fun to see what people are up to.
Just be careful that you’re using these platforms in the right way, and be aware of reality when looking through them.
Remember that everything you see on social media is carefully filtered; people rarely share the difficult periods of their lives, and it’s easy to compare yourself to others.
And, with a number of studies proving links between social media use and mental health issues, make sure that getting your social media fix isn’t leaving you feeling worse.
#7 Ask for help
We’re all going to have challenges, issues and struggles in our lives.
It’s just life, and sometimes life throws curveballs our way.
It’s not a sign of weakness, or a sign that you’ve failed, or a sign that you’re not enough.
Asking for help also isn’t a sign of weakness, failure or not being enough.
Whether it’s that you’re struggling with a project and need to ask a colleague for help, or that you’re struggling with your mental health and need to turn to professional support, it’s important that you don’t try and leave any problems on only your own shoulders.
“A problem shared is a problem halved” as they say!
#8 Don’t overwhelm yourself!
We live in a time where we’re bombarded with dozens of pieces of advice every day from friends, family, adverts, social media, news reports and more, all telling us how to lead a physically and mentally healthy life.
It’s impossible to listen to so much information, especially when it can often be conflicting. It’s actually overwhelming in itself, and we can begin to pile pressure on ourselves that if we don’t meditate, or drink too much, or don’t eat enough fruit, then we’ll be permanently harming ourselves.
As we’ve touched on in #2, take time to understand what it is that you need. It doesn’t matter as much what your friends tell you, or your family, or that BBC news report – the most important thing is what makes you happy.
If you don’t like meditating, then don’t meditate. If you fancy having a beer each night, then that’s okay.
Again, as covered in #2, be sure to ask yourself why you’re doing certain things and what effect it’s having on you, but beyond that, don’t feel pressure to have to justify your decisions to anyone else, or to follow every piece of advice out there.