The decision to be proactive about mental health is an important one. If you’ve made the call to be mindful about your mental health, congrats!
Life can get busy, and the little things we can do to be kinder to ourselves often become an afterthought; as a result mental health issues are common. In fact, one in five Australians will experience a mental health condition at any given time.
There’s no doubt we all get a case of the blues sometimes, but if you or someone you know is feeling down, stressed or worried for weeks on end and for no particular reason, it could be a sign extra support is needed.
The good news is, like our physical health, there are things you can do to improve your mental health.
Tips for looking after your mental health
1. Find your tribe
Joining a community and building relationships with others is proven to make you feel good. Gaining a sense of belonging, involvement, and purpose can give further meaning to your everyday life. Hear how joining the parkrun community has changed people’s lives. Even if you’re in a lockdown, it’s important to stay connected with family or friends, so try to arrange regular Zoom catch ups or go for a walk in your area with a friend if permitted.
2. Befriend your body
Exercise is a great outlet for stress release, plus it makes you feel good. When you exercise, endorphins are released through your body and blood is pumped to your brain, which lifts your mood and helps you think more clearly. Learn more about how exercise can boost your mood.
3. Food for thought
Your diet and mental health are closely related. Eating quality foods such as vegetables, fruit and lean protein helps to lift your mood, energy and concentration levels. Find out more about brain-boosting diets.
4. Get a good night's sleep
When it comes to mental health, sleep is a game changer. A good night's sleep helps you feel refreshed. It also boosts your mental and emotional resilience, helps you deal with daily challenges and improves the relationships you have with the people around you. Try to practise good sleeping habits, like going to bed at a regular time each night. Read our tips to getting a good night’s sleep.
5. Keep your cool
Stress affects people in different ways. While it’s normal to feel stressed sometimes, severe and ongoing stress can lead to mental health problems.
Beyond Blue share some ways to help reduce stress:
Take time out
Proactively scheduling ‘time out’ in your calendar each week will help you rejuvenate. Make the most of this ‘down time’ to reflect, meditate, or do something special for yourself to help keep your mind healthy.
Making time to contemplate and reflect on the things you’re grateful for in life has been linked to happiness, positive wellbeing and mental health. Try to recite three small things you’re grateful for at the end of each day.
Do what makes you happy
It’s important to do at least one thing that makes you happy every day. This can also help take your mind off things that might be worrying you. Make time to enjoy things like listening to music, reading, gardening, or spending time with family and friends.
Manage your workload
Work plays a big role in our lives and is often one of the biggest causes of stress. If work is increasing your stress levels, try to avoid long hours, additional responsibilities, and learn to say ‘no’ more often. A sustainable work-life balance is really important.
Resolve personal conflicts
Stress in personal relationships can be a major contributor to anxiety and depression. Learning how to communicate honestly, and address problems or conflicts as they arise, will help you keep a calm state of mind. If you’re struggling with your relationship, a counsellor or psychologist can help.
Relax and breathe
Incorporating breathing and muscle relaxation exercises into your daily routine can be beneficial to your overall wellbeing. Taking a few deep breaths will slow your heart rate down and make you feel more relaxed. Find out more about our five positive stress reducing techniques.
6. Be mindful
Mindfulness is focusing on the present. It’s about having awareness of your thoughts and learning to focus your attention to where you want it. Practising mindfulness in your day-to-day life can reduce stress and improve your physical and mental health. Why not try listening to a mindfulness podcast on your commute in the morning? Learn more about mindfulness.
7. Reach out for help
If emotional or behavioural problems are significantly disrupting yours or a loved one’s life, it’s important to get help from a professional early. Any ongoing and significant changes can be a sign that you or them may have, or are developing, a mental health issue.
Signs of mental health issues are different for everyone but here are some of the common ones that can be detected early:
- feeling unusually stressed or worried,
- feeling depressed, unhappy or grumpy most of the time,
- feeling restless and tired a lot of the time,
- feeling things have changed or aren’t quite right,
- being quiet or withdrawn and losing friends,
- not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that you would normally enjoy,
- having emotional outbursts or feeling sad, ‘down’ or crying for no apparent reason,
- increase in drug or alcohol use and/or depending on these substances to feel “normal”,
- feeling guilty or worthless,
- having negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts,
- significant lack of self-care.