5 Strategies to Take Care of Your Mental Health
January has been a heavy month for most, and 2020 has been quite a challenging year to say the least. A major commonality with most people in these times is they are feeling the mental health effects of coming back from the break of the holidays, COVID-19 impacts, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), navigating the unknown, and racial tensions being at an all time high. It has been a lot to take on and many are not ok. One thing to remember is that it is ok to not be ok. Mental health is health, and just like you would go to the doctor when you have a physical ailment your mental health should be viewed through the same lens. You wouldn’t continue to ignore when you are in physical pain so don’t ignore when you are in mental pain. Let this article serve as a reminder that it is time to prioritize yourself and your mental health.
So how do you get mentally healthy in a time that may seem to have a dark cloud? Here are some strategies to start:
1. Assess your holistic health; proper nutrition, regular exercise and optimal sleep are underrated.
What you put into your body and how you treat it can directly affect your mental health. Think about it if you have been eating junk food and been sitting down for most of the day this can affect your mood and energy levels. The amount of sleep you get also affects your mental capacity and productivity—have you ever tried to do an activity that requires a high level of concentration with only a few hours of sleep, how much harder was it for you to do this activity?
One thing to remember is that it takes effort and planning to be able to incorporate and maintain healthy habits. Having proper nutrition in your meals may be easier if you have a meal plan for the week, regular exercise may require incorporating it in your regular routine, and optimal sleep will require discipline to go to sleep by a certain time. Without incorporating supports to help you maintain a holistically healthy body you will quickly revert to unhealthy habits. Think about what will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle; do you need an accountability partner, would a planner help, how about getting the whole family involved? Have supports in place to help get you there. If possible, seek professional help with your health care providers including but not limited to GPs, nutritionist, sleep consultants, etc. Take one step at a time if necessary, with the goal of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
2. Listen to your mind and body; slow down and take breaks when necessary
Next, as the old saying goes rest or your body will make you rest. Listen to what you know your mind and your body are telling you. There are many signs that you can clue into if you are not sure when you may need to slow down. For example, are you feeling unmotivated, are you starting to feel impatient or anxious, is your body and mind feeling tried, are you getting snappy with others, are you feeling stress in your body? Pay attention to these signs, they are there for a reason. A part of being mindful in your life is taking observation of your internal bodily signals. One approach you can use in stressful moments is the acronym STOP this stands for:
S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, just pause momentarily.
T: Take a breath. Re-connect with your breath. The breath is an anchor to the present moment.
O: Observe. Notice what is happening. What is happening inside you, and outside of you?
P: Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing.
Understanding what your body is telling you may take time but it’s also important to incorporate rest and renewal in your life everyday. Be proactive-schedule and enforce your rest and renewal time daily and take natural breaks before and when you notice changes in your mood and behaviour
3. Limit social media consumption
According to Hootsuite social media consumption significantly increased in 2020 and people are now spending an average of almost 2½ hours per day on social platforms. Research also indicates the prolonged use of social networking sites is linked to signs and symptoms of depression. What’s different now is we tend to get our most of our information from social media and this leads to the inevitable “doom scrolling” where we keep scrolling more and more without noticing how long we have been online and how it has been affecting us. Placing limits on social media can be challenging when every app for many of us is on our phone. Limiting our social media consumption means we must be strategic, for example setting boundaries around when we look at it and for how long. This may mean looking at strategies that would make it more difficult to get on social media. Can you take off social media apps on your phone and only have it on another devise that’s out of your sight. What about downloading an app that limits your social media use for you and shuts down your social media applications when you use up all your time. How about involving your family and have phone free dinners or activities where no technology is present. If you notice that your social media usage is affecting your moods, the time is now to make a plan.
4. Focus on areas in your locus of control
Life can be unpredictable but in this currently climate even more so. When we feel thing are out of control it can bring on symptoms of anxiety such as worry, restless nights, sped up thought and breathing. This can be a normal reaction to dealing with the unknown. When we think about locus of control this means either attributing successes to your own efforts and abilities (internal) or attributing successes to luck or fate (external). People who have an external locus of control tend to experience more anxiety and feel more out of control in their lives. So how can you shift your perspective to focus on things you can control? First assess the current climate, take inventory for things that are out of your control. Once you do this now assess areas that have a direct impact from your efforts. You will start to realize there are lots of areas that you can influence, for example taking care of your health, doing your best to provide a safe environment for yourself and your loved ones, going after what you want in your life and career. Shift your focus to acting on areas in your life where you have a choice and make choices that best align with your vision. Let go of areas you cannot control, worrying about things you cannot control will not make them any better. Once you start to realize this the changes you make can start to make a direct impact in your life.
5. Re-discover what brings you joy
Lastly, time to sit down with yourself and remember what used to bring you joy and re-engage in these activities. Whether it’s re-connecting with your loved ones, volunteering, baking, dancing, reading, find something small you can commit to everyday and do more of it. Think about activities that make you smile, energizes you, and overall makes you feel good. Set a reminder for yourself to prioritize doing at least one feel good activity a day—your mental health counts on it!
Are you or members of your team feeling stressed? I can help, book a call with me to explore how.
Jodi Tingling is a Workplace and Wellness Strategist who works with leaders, professionals, and organizations to ensure they meet their unique workplace goals. To work with Jodi connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.