by Teddy Stanley, Digital Marketing Executive, The Edge
We all feel pain and emotion, it’s just a part of life. Everyone deals with their emotions differently but it is imperative to your mental health that you do deal with your emotions. Here we have a 10 step plan for taking control of your mental health.
1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about how we feel isn’t always easy. It can be hard to really open up to someone, even your close family. You just don’t want to be a burden on someone by unloading your problems on them. Or it might be that you don’t want to be judged, or you just simply don’t want to admit you’re struggling.
It helps to talk things through with someone you can trust, the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ well – its still relevant. Not only that but by opening up to someone, they could share their experiences, offer up advice or different perspective on the situation. It’s important to remember that the friends or family you reach out to will be glad you asked for a chat. They might even feel privileged you came to them for advice.
2. Take care of your body
We all know that exercise is important for your physical health. But it’s equally as important for your mental health and wellbeing too. Any physical activity, especially that in the fresh air has a positive impact on our wellbeing.
Taking part in physical activity has been proven to increase endorphins, the happy hormone – in turn self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It’s why we leave the gym often feeling sore, but much better about ourselves than when we went in. It not only stimulates the chemicals in our brain that improve our mood but the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
Regular exercise whether it’s in the gym, playing football or even going for a run helps you to get out into the world, reducing those feelings of loneliness and can put a purpose back into your day.
3. Value Yourself
Building your self-esteem is crucial. It’s important to learn to be confident as yourself. To put yourself, at least your mental and physical health first. Treat yourself with kindness and respect, avoiding self deprecation – acknowledge that negative thought, correct yourself and let it go.
Making time for things you enjoy doing is so important to your mental health and it doesn’t matter whether this is an art class or ping pong. If you enjoy doing it and it’s important to you, then you should be making time for those activities. It’s also worth noting that helping others is also a great way to help yourself.
4. Being mindful
Mindfulness uses techniques such as meditation, breathing and yoga to help us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. It is hoped that, instead of being overwhelmed by our thoughts and feelings, we are better able to manage them better. Taking the time out of your daily routine – ten minutes when you wake up and ten minutes before you go to bed, that’s all it takes to implement these life changing actions.
The NHS suggests mindfulness can be found in the variety of life. Trying new things on a regular basis. It can be as simple as having something different for lunch, or even sitting in a different seat on the train. It’s all about helping you notice the world in a new way.
5. Learn how to deal with stress
Unfortunately, stress is one of those things we will all have in lives. It can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically. Your behaviour too is also influenced by stress levels. There’s a whole host of things you can try to tackle stress. Mindfulness is one of them!
Remember to smile and see humour in things. Research suggests that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and ultimately reduce stress, freeing your mind and improving your mental health. Introduce some ‘light’ into your life – a comedy club, a podcast or a film.
6. Face any fears or anxiety head on
It’s a fact that fear is one of the most powerful emotions. When you fear something, it can have extreme effects on your mind and body. Fear is a natural response to a threat that can either be perceived or very much real differing from anxiety. Anxiety is a different type of fear, a fear that is usually because of something in the future rather than in the present.
If you can, face your fears. If you always avoid situations that scare you, you may make this fear worse. Sometimes, it won’t be as bad as you thought. Anxiety increases when you get into that pattern of avoiding situations. You become fearful of it happening in the future. Try to learn more about your fear or anxiety. Set yourself small goals helping you to face your fears.
7. Sleep better
Good sleep doesn’t just mean lots of sleep. You need the right kind of sleep too. There’s a close relationship between sleep and your mental health and living with an existing mental health problem affects how well you sleep and the quality. Sleepless nights lead to overthinking of situations which is NEVER good. Try writing down your feelings in a notebook before you settle down for the night. This can help get it off your mind.
It’s also good to get into a good routine before you sleep. It’ll let your brain know that you’re winding down for the day. This could be having a bath, listening to relaxing music or meditation and breathing exercises. And limit your screen time, its advised that we switch off our phones 2 hours before we plan on going to sleep and do not sleep with your phone in the same room. Buy an alarm clock and charge your phone in your living space not your resting space. Experiment with temperature, lighting and noise – it all varies from person to person, so find your perfect balance. There’s more to sleep than just getting into bed and closing your eyes!
8. Set goals. Realistic ones.
Goals are amazing. They can motivate us to help pursue something we really want, whether it be a new car, that promotion at work or even simple tasks such as making sure you went to the gym. It’s important to set realistic goals as unrealistic ones are hard to meet which then lead to increased stress. This can have a negative impact on your motivation which damages your mental health.
Focus on short-term goals. They’re often the easiest to complete. It can be as easy as making sure you get up and cook yourself a nutritious breakfast to start the day right. This will set you up nicely to set other goals for the day. Goals that are personal to you and no one else. When thinking of goals for yourself, focus on what you can be better at. Accomplishing small goals are fantastic stepping stones for building your confidence and motivation to reach the bigger ones you might set yourself.
9. Avoid alcohol
A huge reason for drinking alcohol is to change our mood. Alcohol can temporarily lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s for this reason many people use it as a form of self-medication to try and cheer themselves up and make it feel like everything’s alright.
Regular consumption of alcohol alters the chemical balance of the brain, depleting it of serotonin which is what makes us feel happy. This depletion in serotonin leads to us feeling more depressed, drinking more alcohol to suppress the depression. Try to limit alcohol consumption as much as possible and if you can, eradicate it completely.
10. Seek help if and when you need it
It’s common to feel unsure about seeking support for mental health and to feel like you should wait until you can no longer cope. If you felt a cough coming on would you wait until you are full blown bed bound to seek help or would you stock up on Lemsip to keep that situation at bay?
There is plenty of easy-to-access services and organisations that offer help and support to those with mental health issues such as Mind, Sane and Rethink Mental Illness. Your GP is also a good place to start. It’s the gateway to further services available on the NHS. Good advice is to keep a diary, write down how you feel on a daily basis so that when you do see the GP you have all the information there.
You’ve got this.