I don’t know about you but I’ve had an incredibly busy and stressful few weeks. I’ve gotten to the point where I have so much to do that I don’t even know where to start. It’s kind of hard to prioritise when at least half of your to do list is important and needs to be done immediately. So today is the perfect time to take a moment to take about something vital: mental health. Being stressed, overwhelmed or anxious about things can have a negative impact on your mental health. So many people experience mental health problems – and yet we don’t talk about it enough! Monday 8th May will mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. This is such a crucial topic so let’s talk about it.
I wanted to talk a little about the topic today, in advance of the week to give you time to get involved. In particular, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve found that help me to cope.
Surviving or thriving?
Every year, Mental Health Awareness Week has a theme. This year’s is one that really speaks to me: surviving or thriving. Let’s just pause for a moment and think about that. Are you surviving on a day to day basis or are you living a life where you’re thriving? When life throws an obstacle at us, we have the ability to overcome it and survive. Despite numerous setbacks in our lives, human beings have the power to continue. Every time we fall, we have the power to get back up. But there’s a difference between surviving and actually thriving.
These past few weeks, I’ve abandoned self-care and looking after my mind. And quickly, I found myself simply surviving. Getting up, continuing on. I struggled to continue but I did, nonetheless. It was – most definitely – a life where I was surviving and simply just “getting by”. But then something happened. I stopped for a moment and I gave myself a break. I took a little bit of time out to do something I love doing, I eased up on my own personal deadlines and cut myself some slack. And instantly, life started to transform around me. I no longer felt like I was simply coping with life but rather, I was actually living a life that I love. I felt more inspired than I had in weeks – and in turn, I think that’s actually making me more productive again.
Do you take care of your Mental Health?
Having good mental health is just as important as having good physical health. Making sure you eat properly and exercise properly isn’t the end all of everything. It’s vital to ensure you dedicate time to looking after your mental health. This can be done in many forms – and looking after your physical health through exercise can also help you to have good mental health. In doing so, you’re more likely to be able to thrive in life.
Mindapples is an amazing concept. It’s kind of genius, actually. We’ve all grown up being told to eat five pieces of fruit or veg a day. Doing so is good for your physical health. However, what about your mental health? That’s where mindapples come in. The idea is about doing just five things a day that is good for your mind. It’s a great way to try and prevent problems from occurring or getting worse. By looking after your mind, you will hopefully be better able to cope with stress, anxiety or any other negative emotions, as well as negative situations & life events. It’s great for prevention but perhaps could also help you if you’re currently experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.
To start, list down five things you do (or want to do) to look after your mind on a daily or regular basis. I think it can be a little tricky to come up with five tasks on the spot.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Practising gratitude
- Journal or keep a diary
- Have a bubble bath
- Do a hobby you enjoy
- Practice mindfulness
- Say no to things
- Get creative or crafty
- Do something you’re good at
- Treat yourself to something you love
- Call someone you love
- Sleeping properly
- Spend time reading a book
- Just take a break
Even something as simple as just taking a break can really help. I find that to be the best thing for me after a long overwhelming or tiring day at the office. You often hear wasting time watching TV isn’t good for your mental health but for me, sometimes it’s exactly what I need. After a hectic day, sitting down and just switching off can sometimes be really good. Honestly, I think there’s no right or wrong or “set way” to having good mental health. Rather, you need to find what works for you. More often than not the days I am super productive at the office are the same days I go home and collapse in front of the TV. Because after 8 hours of doing far too much work, my brain just needs to not think for a while.
This list is just a start. Find five things that help you. Try them out and if, after a while, you think one of them isn’t working for you then change it. You don’t have to stick to the same ones.
What else can I do?
If you are already trying to do a few things to help look after your mind but they aren’t helping then perhaps consider changing what you’re doing. It could be that you need to try something different. I recommend keeping a “mood diary”. This essentially is an account of your mood. It can be something simple and perhaps something you can incorporate into your planner, if you have one.
Keeping a mood diary could help you to pick up on patterns. Perhaps you always feel worse in the mornings, perhaps it’s always after dinner, perhaps it’s before a deadline. Picking up on these patterns could help you to hone into the problem. Perhaps you could do something you enjoy first thing in the morning so you look forward to your mornings. Maybe you’re really tired after dinner so instead of doing things at that time, perhaps you could go to sleep earlier. If it’s because of deadlines or time pressures, perhaps you could treat yourself prior to the deadline.
Try talking to your friends or family. Talking to people about problems can help ease the tension a little. Ask your friends how they are doing. If you know they are going through a particular rough time, check in on them. Just letting them know you are there for them can mean the world to someone experiencing mental health problems.
It’s okay to ask for help
Sometimes, self-help doesn’t work. If you have been experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or any other negative emotion, please seek help. If you can’t cope with it, it’s a lot better to seek medical help. You can book an appointment with your local GP, if you’re based here in the UK. In urgent cases, you can also go to A&E at any hospital.
I’m, by no means, an expert in Mental Health. It’s something I’m interested in and advocate talking about. I have had experience of mental health problems, in particular depression, a lot in my life. So I am aware that I have to make an effort to look after my mental health or risk experiencing that again. However, I’m definitely not an expert. These are tips that have helped me and I hope, they’ll be of use to you.
I also recommend visiting Mind for general mental health information or support. They have a lot of advice and information on their website if you – or anyone you know – has mental health concerns.