Yes it's World Mental Health Day, but it's time to make every day about mental health!
Wonderful though it is that Mental Health gets its own one day focus, I can't help but feel that it is sad that we have to allocate a specific day to emphasise this vital part of our wellbeing.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not averse to discussing mental wellbeing 365 days of the year, so I am not about to parade my own past or current issues especially for today. What I thought might be more productive is to discuss some everyday tactics for enhancing mental wellbeing that I use both for myself and for my clientele.
None of these suggestions are anything like a 'quick fix', so please, if you are finding yourself really struggling right now, talk to friends, talk to family, and turn to a professional if you feel you need urgent help or are in crisis. The help is out there, you only need to reach out. Not sure who to reach out to? Check out Get help | Mental Health Foundation or message me, please. Don't suffer alone.
Tip #1 - Make Yourself a Priority
Those air hostesses know a thing or two about this!!! You know, the bit where they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help others. Or, to borrow a saying, "You can't pour from an empty cup".
It is all to easy to get so caught up trying to be the rock that everyone relies upon, that you neglect to look after yourself. Whilst this may work in the short term, in the long term it leads to burn-out, resentment and both mental and physical decline.
Make sure that you are taking regular breaks from all the hassles of daily living to look after yourself. Take time out most days to explore some of the other tips in this blog. Feeling better yourself gives you more energy to look after everyone else in your life. It's a win/win!
It works for me: Because my diary gets blocked out with appointments for client sessions, I schedule in 'appointments' with myself for things like walks with friends, exercise, and short breaks, and make sure I keep to them. My diary is colour-coded with client appointments highlighted in green, family appointments and admin in pink and my own time in orange. This way, I can readily see at a glance that I have some me-time scheduled into my schedule.
Tip #2 - Find Your Zen!
For some, this can be meditation, or a practice of mindfulness. But a lot of people feel uncomfortable trying to meditate, or tune in with their breathing, or struggle to find a quiet place to take this sort of time out. That's ok! It is! I get it! What is more important is finding an activity into which you can be completely absorbed, where your focus is solely on that activity for its entire duration.
Read a book, complete a crossword, draw, do diamond art, bake, exercise, play with the kids... whatever it is that completely takes you away from everything else, do it! If it is something that may involve you losing track of time and missing a vital appointment, just remember to set an alarm to bring you back into the real world in time!
It works for me: I try to incorporate a mixture of activities to keep things interesting, so will schedule 2 or 3 walks per week, 2 or 3 runs, a couple of workouts, a book to read and some crafting to do.
Tip #3 - Get Outside
Time spent outside is rarely wasted. Getting fresh air and some sunlight on the skin are vital to both mental and physical health. If possible, take a walk in the light of day taking in some green space (fields, woodland etc), but if you can only schedule outdoor activity at night in an urban area, it is better than nothing. For best effect, try and do something that connects you with the earth is some primal way. Gardening gets us into contact with the plants and earth, hiking connects us with nature, even standing barefoot outside has a way of connecting us to the earth we often live disconnected from. Try open water swimming to truly connect with the elements. Go for a walk in the rain and really smell the damp air. Anything that helps us to tune into the changing of the weather or the movement of the seasons is good!
Tip #4 - Connect with your Tribe
Connections with family and friends are a critical scaffold for our mental wellbeing. Often, when we are feeling low, we can tend to disconnect from our nearest and dearest. If you feel this happening, make the effort to reconnect. Have a hug with your partner or children, phone an old friend for a catch up, meet up with a pal for a gossip... It's amazing how therapeutic a coffee and chat can be!
Tip #5 - Move your body
Our bodies weren't evolved for long periods of inactivity. Movement of any sort is beneficial to increase circulation, mobilise joints and utilise muscles. Research has proven that movement improves mood and can even help reduce pain levels. If you are prone to long periods of inactivity (due to injury, illness, working patterns, poor mobility) try to schedule regular 'movement breaks'. If you can't get up and move around, at least stretch out and shake the limbs, do a little 'desk yoga', maybe even consider some isometric exercises. If you are able to get up and move around, do so! Walk to the coffee machine or the kitchen, take a walk up and down the stairs, or better still get outside and go for a walk or jog.
Be Your Own Best Friend!
It is so much easier to see how someone else has the balance wrong in their lives, and we would doubtless be front of the queue in telling our nearest and dearest if we felt they needed to take time out for themselves and relax a little. So why do we find it so hard to do this for ourselves? It's time to finally stop the patterns of altruistic self-flagellation and do what is properly right for ourselves, right here, right now! Who's with me?
As part of a drive to help everyone take better care of themselves, I will be launching Wellness Wednesdays in November. Please subscribe to this blog (and follow Sort My Body on Facebook) to keep up to date with what is planned. In the meantime, know that even small acts done now can have an effect on how you are feeling both in the moment and in the future. Take action, however small, and reap the benefits. Every step in the right direction adds up over time (regardless of how small each step feels) and progresses you towards a happier, healthier you. Take a step!