We all lead busy lives and can often put our mental health on the back burner. After all, we can’t see it or feel it the way we can a broken arm or a swollen knee. But just like physical health requires attention and care, mental health does too.
So here are our top 5 tips for looking after your mental health:
Talk to someone
Having a good chat is a great way to get things off your chest. While it can be challenging for some to seek support, speaking out now can make an enormous difference in how you may feel later.
Talking to someone is also a great chance to gain some perspective on what’s bothering you. It could also highlight ways in which problems could be solved – maybe there’s something small that could make all the difference. Or maybe talking through what happened will allow you to come up with new ideas for dealing with it next time?
We encourage you to seek support from friends or family members, your GP or training professionals who work specifically with mental health services. If none of these options appeal or fit your life right now, consider reaching out online or by phone. Organisations such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline or Kids Helpline offer peer-to-peer support through text or phone.
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Exercise boosts circulation and releases endorphins, which help improve your mood. Studies have shown that exercise can also help combat anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses by reducing stress levels, improving sleep quality and boosting self-esteem.
While different types of exercise can benefit mental health, some research has shown that aerobic activity, like jogging or swimming, can lower depression symptoms more than resistance training. However, both forms of exercise are associated with improvements in psychological well-being, so engage in the activities you enjoy most.
You may find greater consistency in exercising when teamed with a social activity. Engaging in team sports, a walking group or group fitness may encourage you to continue that form of physical activity over the long term. Many people also find that walking for 30 minutes three times per week provides tangible benefits in reducing stress levels and improving sleep quality.
Being mindful means being present in the moment. It’s about observing your thoughts, feelings and senses without judgment. It can be done through meditation or just by taking a few moments to stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath and focus on the present moment.
You don’t have to be a yogi or spiritual guru to be mindful or meditate. Being mindful is being aware of your senses. You can do this by focusing on an object like an apple as you eat it, focusing on the texture and taste of the food. When walking in nature, try focusing on how the ground feels beneath your feet or what smells you sense.
You don’t need to be sitting cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed if it doesn’t work for you; find whatever works best for you at that time. The more time we spend aware of our thoughts and senses in the moment, the less stressed we’ll feel throughout our day-to-day lives.
Limit your alcohol consumption
Limiting your alcohol intake is a good way of maintaining mental health. Drinking too much can increase your risk of developing depression and also cause you to make poor decisions, forget things and become aggressive.
By sticking within recommended drinking guidelines (2 units per day for women & 3 units per day for men), there is less chance that any negative consequences will occur due to drinking too much or too often. If you notice that drinking has negatively affected your life, then it’s time to set some ground rules around how much you drink.
Eating well is a great way to improve your mental health. A well-balanced, healthy diet can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost energy levels.
Try to avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates. They are low in fibre and many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best.
Include foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish (e.g., mackerel, tuna), nuts (especially walnuts), seeds and leafy greens such as kale or broccoli. These are all excellent sources of vitamin B3, which is needed for healthy brain function.
Foods like eggs, lentils, beans and spinach, all contain large amounts of folate. Folate helps keep our moods stable by reducing homocysteine levels in the bloodstream – an excess of which can lead to depression.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it can feel daunting and lonely. But we hope these tips help you to look after yourself. Remember that it is okay not to be okay, which is why it’s important to talk about what we’re feeling with someone who will listen without judgement. Remember, a conversation can change a life.