There are clever ways to protect your mental health when you know how. I think about ways to protect my mental health every day. I do it professionally and personally and these strategies have absolutely worked for me over the years.
Don’t believe everything you think
Thoughts aren’t facts. They are based on our personal experiences and no one experiences reality directly. We see the world through our own personal filters. If we mistrust people due to a bad previous experience, this ‘filter’ will affect every new experience that we have. We all have preconceived ideas about the world. Knowing this can help us to keep our thoughts in check and challenge them. Just because we thik something doesn’t mean it’s really true. Be aware of making assumptions of what others are thinking. You could be right but you could be wrong. try to keep an open mind and look for evidence of your thinking before reacting to it.
Take time out
Stop and take a look at your life every now and then. Are you on the right track? Are you getting enough sleep, exercise and spending time with the right people? Too often we get so busy and life takes us off onto a path that we never intended to be on. When we take time out, we get to re-assess and make sure that we are living a life aligned with our values.
Fun and leisure time seem to be so underrated these days. We are all working too hard and never seem to have time for the fun stuff. Ensure you have fun and silly times in your life. We all need a break from the pressure. It releases feel good chemicals and helps to keep our brains chemically balanced. I watch comedies and make time to have fun with friends as much as I can. Just acting silly and seeing the less serious side of life is good enough!
Find a sense of purpose
Does your life have meaning or is every day the same with no end in sight? We all need to feel that we are working towards something, whether that’s a better job, a better relationship or just working on ourselves. Self care is as important as anything external and should in fact, be the starting point for our sense of purpose. When we are looking after ourselves, we have far more to give others. Create a few short term and long term goals. Having something to work towards leaves me with a mission, a way forward and helps to structure my life.
Problem solve, don’t ruminate
Overthinking will lead you in danger. When you catch yourself worrying try to distract yourself. If you are problem solving, that;s a good thing. Rumination however is a waste of energy. I have had times where my thoughts are going round and round and I get myself more anxious. This is when I try to get out of my head and stop the ‘what if’ thinking. Get a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons of a situation and then brain storm possible solutions to help. Once you have done this, mentally shelve the worry. Know the difference between what you can and can’t control.
Engage with others
Spend time with friends and family. We all feel better when we spend time with people who love us and care for us. Just being with someone you can connect with and share a laugh with is enough. When we withdraw and isolate ourselves for long periods of time, we place our mental health in jeopardy.
Staying in the present moment is hard. I find it difficult to do but I see the value in being mindful. When I stay in the moment, I feel I am really living in the moment rather than living in my head. I get caught up in my own thoughts and life passes me by. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Look for 5 things you can see around you, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This is a simple exercise that ehlps you to practise focusing on what is happening right now. You will be happier for it!
Protecting your mental health means being self aware and checking in with yourself regularly. Rate your current anxiety levels. If you get above a 7/10, go for a walk or take time out. Be sure not to trust every thought – these make up your life. Ensure you only focus on the thoughts that work for you. Get used to dismissing the negative thinking. We all have an inner bully that harrasses us – it’s just thoughts. Tell the bully to shut up and get back to living your life. Live a balanced life and learn not to take life too seriously. Don’t compare yourself to others unfavourably, this never helps and can affect out mental health negatively. Spend time with good people, limit toxic people. And lastly, try not to overthink – when you are in your mind, you are in ‘enemy territory’.
Protect your mental health. When you feel strong mentally you are far more likely to cope with stress and withstand the challenges of life.