Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’. The last 6 months have been pretty tough on everyone and lockdown has had a huge impact on our mental health. Even those who are mentally strong have struggled at some point over the last 6 months. Everyone, no matter who you are will experience tough times at some point in your life. I went through a difficult time a few years ago which made me realise how important it is to take care of yourself and get the most out of life.
Today I thought I would share some of the methods which I use to improve my personal Mental Health. Remember everyone is different and what works for one may not work for the other.
Ways to improve your Mental Health
1. It’s okay to not be okay. We’re not superheroes. Accepting that it’s okay to not be okay is the first and most important step. For me, this was the most difficult thing. I’d spent my life being perceived as a strong, fit, robust individual and suddenly I felt inadequate, under-valued and inferior to those around me. Realising that my mental health was suffering because I was being treated like I was shit on a shoe at work was a life changing moment.
2. Seek help or talk about your feelings. We all sometimes get overwhelmed by how we are feeling if things don’t go to plan. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not a weakness. This can be professional help or talking to somebody who you are close to. Someone who will listen and not judge you. I found talking to my wife really helped, but I also saw a counsellor who taught me different ways of dealing with the stress at work, which was the root cause of my depression.
3. Keep active. Regular exercise helps you feel better, inside and out. It can help boost your self-esteem and aid concentration. The endorphins that are released through exercise can have a significant benefit towards improving your mental health. Your body may ache after exercise, but I guarantee it will increase your confidence and make you smile. My training regime suffered because of a lack of energy and desire to exercise. Once I re-instigated my training, I felt better day by day.
4. Take care of you body. It’s so easy to get into bad habits if you’re going through tough times. I wanted to eat rubbish and found I was drinking slightly more. My brain was ticking 24 hours a day so getting a good night’s sleep was a challenge in itself. Not taking care of your body can aggravate mental health issues, so try to adopt the following good habits:
· Eat nutritious meals.
· Drink plenty of water.
· Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking.
· Rest whenever your body or mind needs to.
5. Learn how to deal with stress. Stress is part of daily life whether we like it or not. Practise coping skills that suit you. This could be anything from meditation, to taking up a new hobby or creating some ‘you time’. For me it was going out for a long walk and focussing on the positives in my life such as my wife, my son and my general health.
6. Surround yourself with good people. Keep in contact with those who matter. Remember to smile and see the best things in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress. This may be easier said than done when going through tough times. I found that once I had taken the negative people out of my life who were causing my depression, smiling and laughing came to me much easier.
7. Give things a shake up. Routines make us feel safe, but a small change of pace or scenery can perk you up and improve your mental health. A few minutes of doing something different can be enough to de-stress you. I made the decision to leave the Army after 31 years and start a new business. Drastic you may think, but 100% necessary for my wellbeing. In fact, I have never looked back.
There are many more ways to improve your mental health but these worked for me and I hope they will help you. Always treat yourself with kindness and avoid self-criticism.
Make time for you and remember IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY.
Take the leap of faith. Make the Change. Not tomorrow. Not next week, but NOW.