HOW TO PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WHEN LIFE FEELS TOUGH
Life presents challenges and we need to be strong and resilient in both body and mind to deal with them effectively. Here are some tips to help you look after yourself and protect your mental health when life feels tough.
WHY YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT
If life feels particularly difficult, it’s so important that you take some time to look after your mental health.
So much of how we cope with struggles and times of hardship comes down to our emotional strength and psychological resilience and how we process and deal with difficult emotions such as anxiety, uncertainty, overwhelm and helplessness.
Here are some tips to help you protect your mental health so you’re more robust, ready and able to tackle tough seasons of life when you need to.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
#1 Stay connected
Talking is a great therapy. Keep in touch with friends and family in whatever way feels right for you. Give them a call and chat on the phone, send a text to say Hi, write a letter and pop it in the post, Skype so you can see them face to face. Have a laugh, share your worries, listen to what’s going on in their lives, enjoy the company.
#2 Take regular exercise
Anything from walking the dog to rolling around the floor testing out a new Yoga position. Follow a You Tube workout or chase the kids around the park. It doesn’t matter what form of exercise you take, just do something daily to move your body and get those endorphins flowing.
#3 Avoid social media
If you’re feeling low then you might like to watch cute videos of fluffy puppies and kittens doing funny things. However, watching other people go about their perfect Instagram lives (even if they’re not that perfect in reality) often brings about feelings of envy, jealousy and negative comparison. Remove social media apps from your phone, give it a break for a while and focus on your own life instead of comparing yourself with others.
#4 Eat and drink healthily
When we’re worried, upset, bored, stressed or depressed, many of us try to numb, distract or control our feelings by over (or under) eating and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Be kind to your body, treat it with respect and love and help it to help you. Fuel it with healthy options where possible, have a glass of wine or those chocolate biscuits in moderation and give yourself a treat every now and then!
#5 Structure your day
Kids are better when they have a bit of structure and I know I certainly am too. Structure your own day using mealtimes as a framework, for example. Factor in some exercise time, family time, quiet time and time for catching up on daily chores or things to do. This structure, which can be as flexible as you need it to be, will help you know what you’ve got to do and when you’ve got to do it. It keeps you up and running, even if you don’t really feel like it. Structure gives us a sense of purpose and achievement which is so important for our mindset and boosting our self-confidence.
#6 Turn off the news
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by what’s happening around us and the sheer magnitude of the world’s problems can make us feel anxious and unsafe. Keeping up with the news is important but you don’t need to watch it all the time to get a sense of current events. Maybe check it out once a day and perhaps not last thing at night when you’re getting ready for (hopefully) a good night’s sleep.
#7 Get enough sleep
When our mind is restless it often keeps us awake at night and our problems seem to get much bigger when it’s dark outside and we haven’t got the day’s noise and busy-ness to distract us. Set yourself up with a calming evening routine that sets you up for a peaceful night. Avoid watching TV last thing at night, or scrolling through your work emails on your phone. Instead, have a bath, read a book, write in your diary. Sleep recharges and resets our body and brain.
#8 Appreciate what you have
Being grateful is so underestimated. We’re often so busy just trying to get through the day that we take the important things in life for granted. Being thankful for what we have, slowing down and spending time with loved ones or on a hobby, meditating, practicing mindfulness, writing in a journal, planning our goals for the year ahead are all examples of ways we can appreciate what we have (and build on them) instead of being upset about what we don’t have.
When we’ve got some difficult thoughts swirling around our head, it sometimes helps to distract ourselves by thinking of something else. Take up baking, learn something from a You Tube video, play a board game, move your furniture around, do colouring with your kids, declutter your home, watch your favourite TV series… It doesn’t matter what the activity is, just distract your thoughts by concentrating on something else for a while.
#10 Be kind to yourself
Don’t stress yourself out if you think you’re worrying too much, or getting upset by something or feeling anxious or scared. Negative thoughts are natural and we all feel like this, to varying degrees, every now and then. Go with the flow, find ways to express those thoughts on paper (brain dumping is a good technique) and see if you can think of things to help you deal with those thoughts in a constructive way. Getting angry or frustrated with yourself for feeling down, useless or lazy won’t help. Channel those thoughts into positive action by cutting yourself some slack, admitting that everyone has bad days, and move on.
OTHER QUICK WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
- Get a pet or borrow one.
- Sing in the shower or dance around the house.
- Make a list of 5 things you love about yourself or you’re proud of yourself for.
- Take up a hobby and spend time doing it.
- Read or listen to inspirational podcasts or ones that just make you laugh!
- Set yourself a project to learn a new skill, redecorate a room, put your books in alphabetical order or do that bit of DIY you’ve been putting off.
Just pick something and start it. Don’t overthink whether you really want to do it. Just start!
Here are some other resources which you might find helpful: