How to protect your mental health
Mental health fluctuates. Some days we feel together and other days it can feel as if we are walking a tight rope between sanity and insanity. There are ways you can help yourself to protect your mental health:
Have an outlet
We can all experience strong and intense emotions. The trick is not to suppress these emotions or deny their existence – especially negative emotions and stress. It is far healthier for you to have an outlet as a way of expressing those emotions. Internalising negative emotions can lead to serious health issues and the worsening of mental health issues.
Examples of positive outlets:
Communication – talking to friends, family and/or a counsellor. This is one of the most effective outlets. It improves self awareness and insight into the problem and helps us minimise future occurences.
Exercise – this can be good as long as it is used in conjunction with expressing yourself verbally. I see clients who exercise obsessively and that isn’t the healthiest route.
Being creative – pottery, painting, colouring in, knitting etc
Don’t be swayed by what others are doing. This will dilute your focus. Instead, focus on your strengths and work towards maximising your potential. We are all on different paths, life is not linear. Just because others are having babies or buying houses doesn’t mean you should be doing the same. Learn to stay centred – by that I mean, focus on what your true values are and work towards those. Think about what you loved doing as a child, what are your natural talents. What do you do that allows the time to pass in the blink of an eye – those are the things you should be pursuing.
Reject pressure to be like others or impress others.
Friends, family and pets are where it’s at. Makes sure you nurture those close relationships in your life. It feels good to know there are people you can connect and bond with. reserach has shown repeatedly that time spent with important people in our lives releases the hormone – Oxytocin. This is known as the “hug hormone” and produces a feeling of lasting happiness. Having social support is also seen as a ‘protective factor’ when dealing with mental illness and can help us to fight the negative effects of depression.
Make time for fun
Work/life balance is vital. We all need to have strategies to ward off stress and the general pressure of life. When we keep at it for too long, we run the risk of burn out. Know your limits and always always make time for pleasure. Be silly, laugh a lot. Be playful. There is no need to take life too seriously. Learn to see the funny side of life and maintain perspective. If something is overwhelming you, ask yourself if you will feel this awful in a few months’ time. Learn to pull back slightly from what is going on in your life and remember that change is inevitable.
Ruminating is the biggest waste of time. This is when we worry and the thoughts run through our minds over and over without any problem solving. It’s wasted mental energy. Learn to problem solve by regularly asking yourself if the problem is something you can or can’t control. Deal with what you can control and learn to let go of those things you can’t control. Life throws a lot at us and we all have to accept that we can’t control many things – like how others behave. When we resist instead of accepting we create a lot of unnecessary stress for ourselves.
Be nice to yourself. We are often our own worst critics and it isn’t good for our mental health. Visualise yourself as you were when you were 5 years old. Would you be harsh and critical of that cute, innocent 5 year old? probably not, so don’t do it now. Talk to yourself as you would that sweet little child. Encouragement, compassion and understanding are the keys to self compassion. Learn to quiten that inner bully – you don’t have to listen to it. Acknowledge that it is there, it exists in all of us but you can chain that bully up and refuse to ‘buy into’ the negative messages it tells you. It’s juts your insecurities, it;s not reality. How you see yourself may not be how others see you at all. be kinder to yourself. be your number one fan.
If you find it very difficult to improve your mental health by using the above strategies, it may mean that you are depressed. Depression is different and it’s hard, if not impossible, to talk yourself out of it. See your local doctor or contact a therapist to find out what can be done to help you. There is hope, we can all feel at peace and content…sometimes we just need a little help to find our way.