This week we recognised World Mental Health Awareness Day. On Thursday the 10th October, people around the world are reminded to consider how they support their own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of others around them.
There are experiences that can make either yourself or those close to you more susceptible to experiencing poor mental health. Things like past or present traumas, domestic violence, poor housing and living conditions, unemployment or underemployment, and financial problems all impact on your mental wellbeing.
We understand the need to maintain good physical health to be able to work or to participate fully in life, but sometimes we underestimate the importance of good mental wellbeing.
Our mental health is not static throughout our lives.
It can change as we experience different stressors in our life. We all have times when we feel down, stressed or frightened, and most of the time those feelings pass. Sometimes however, these feelings can develop into a more serious mental health condition and this is something that could happen to any one of us.
So what can you do to look after your mental health?
- Build positive relationships: seek out friends and colleagues who lift you up, who are positive about life, who seek to find good in the world. You become like those you associate with, so seek out the positive thinkers and doers.
- Keep in touch: don’t isolate yourself. It’s easy to close the door and hide away in the dark when things get tough, but this is the time when you need your friends. Reach out to others – you don’t need to disclose your problems with them, just take the time for a coffee or a cup of tea and a catch up.
- Make time for yourself: yes, we all have demands on our time, kids to ferry around or parents to support, a family to feed, work to be done; but it’s important to take some time out for yourself, to do the things that bring a smile to your face. Take up a hobby, join a club, go for a walk on a regular basis or simply take a long hot soak in a tub.
- Look after your physical health: you know the drill, eat well, sleep well and exercise regularly. Exercise can boost your self-esteem, help you sleep and concentrate better and keeps your brain and other organs healthy.
- Minimise alcohol intake: cut down or cut out excessive alcohol consumption. While it might seem to help at the time, it can have a negative long-term effect. Seek help from a health professional or support organisation if necessary.
- Look after your mental health: for some people, time alone is a necessity. If you need to transport yourself temporarily to another universe by reading a book, watching a movie or playing video games, give yourself permission to do so. Explain your needs to significant others so that they understand your need for this alone time.
For those who are struggling, there is no need to suffer in silence. Speak up about how you are feeling and be willing to ask for help if you need it.
And for the rest of us, we need to be aware of those close to us, our family, friends and workmates. If something doesn’t seem right, reach out, ask them how they are doing. It might be the opening they need to discuss an issue that is overwhelming them, or maybe they just need an ear to listen.