How to Mind your Mental Health
Every year, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, something that resonates with us all. Stress, anxiety and depression can affect your mental health in many ways, and can also affect you physically if not managed effectively. Unmanaged stress can lead to symptoms such as weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, depression and fatigue, and in some cases result in uncomfortable ‘fight or flight’ symptoms such as fast heartbeat, muscle tension, and in cases of prolonged anxiety- panic attacks. We outline ways below in which to ensure you are minding your mental health in the best way you can, to aid the best life you can lead.
Manage your time:
There are often things in our life that consume more time and energy than actually needed. You can easily eradicate unnecessary daily stressors and anxiety by managing your time more effectively. Start by writing a list of your daily tasks/work schedule down, and try to give each task a score of importance; 1 for anything that needs to be done this morning, 2 for ‘this afternoon’, 3 ‘can wait until tomorrow’, 4 ‘next week’, and so on and so forth. Ensure you plan your day around regular breaks and time away from your work-station, as well as ensuring your daily calendar is not ‘back-to-back’ booked. If something cannot fit today without being ‘back-to-back’, there is always tomorrow. Try not to be too rigid or hard on yourself with moving tasks/appointments around, as in the end you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Write it down:
Writing your thoughts and tasks down may seem like a very simple thing to do, but it is often something we just don’t do or forget to, instead relying on our minds to remember a day’s agenda all at once, which can easily make us feel overwhelmed and often result in forgetting (and further annoyance). When you think of a task, write it down, seal it in ink on paper and let that do the thinking for you until you actually have to. Doing this each morning/each night/whenever you find yourself worrying about something, does wonders to help clear your mind.
Mind and body are not separate. Working on your physical health will help improve your mental health, and vice versa. Exercise is a proven way to help reduce stress and anxiety in our lives, and has also shown effectivity in helping with symptoms of depression. Regular exercise can help clear the mind after a long day or week, and release endorphins that naturally make us feel happier and lighter, provide more energy to your body and help with sleep. Ensuring you are staying active, whether it be an evening walk getting fresh air, or playing a sport or taking a gym class, can help you manage your stress and mental health overall.
Go electronic free at bedtime/after work:
Trouble sleeping can also be a symptom of daily stressors and anxieties and using electronics close to bedtime doesn’t help. Phones, tablets and televisions stimulate the brain, and using them right up until you sleep can sometimes cause issues with sleeping. Instead, try eliminating electronics from your bedroom as best you can and allow your brain time to get used to the idea of switching off. Try reading a book or listening to some relaxing music instead. Having a no-emails after work hours rule can also help you wind down properly after day. Set app restrictions if you have emails on your phone, and turn notifications off, so as you are not prompted to get sucked back into work-mode when you are not there.
Practice relaxation techniques:
Each day, try to set some time aside for you to do the things that you find relaxing and help empty your mind of the day’s happenings and thoughts. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to learn how to enjoy the current moment and for 5-10 minutes empty your mind. Even if your technique does not seem to fully distract you, allowing your brain this time to relax, not think and focus on yourself, can help wonderfully after a long day or experiencing a stressor. Whether it’s reading, doing yoga, painting, playing some music or cooking a nice meal, allowing yourself to enjoy your ‘relaxant’ can help to wind you down and steady the ebbs and flows of anxious thoughts.
Talk to someone:
Above all, talking to someone when you are feeling overwhelmed by worry and stress is the best way to help alleviate it. Whether it be your friend, a family member, a therapist or your doctor, talking to someone who can empathize with how you feel is one of the greatest medicines. Know that you have options to help manage your stress and anxiety, and that help exists in all of the above shapes, sizes and professions. Whether help for your looks like daily exercise, mindfulness, talking to a friend, or consulting a doctor for medical advice if stress/anxiety or depression begin to take too much control, do not be afraid to ask for help. Silence does not mean strength, feeling overwhelmed does not mean lack of control. Asking for help is one of the strongest, and more importantly, responsible things you can do to look after yourself. Make sure you do it.