How to look after your mental health
Our West Yorkshire Training Lead, Andrea Wallman, has written a blog on how to look after your mental health. Andrea draws on her insight from having worked with businesses and individuals to deliver mental health training at Leeds Mind and Mind in Bradford. She uses her own experiences of looking after her and her family’s wellbeing.
Many of us can feel overwhelmed and stressed; life is busy, and we need to look after our mental health just like we do our physical health. The first step is noticing when your mental health is declining, or spotting the symptoms that someone you know is not feeling their best.
This blog is more a reminder of those small things that can help us to survive life’s busy periods.
I have often felt tired, overwhelmed, and stressed and then reflected on my daily habits over the last week that normally keep me well, only to realise I’d stopped doing some, or all of them!
We know that mental wellbeing is a complex and ever-changing thing – don’t see this as a to-do list, but a list of things for you to try to get back on track. Even if you take one thing from this list, that’s enough to make a real difference to your mental health and wellbeing.
1. Eating and drinking for your mental health
The basics – what we eat, and drink, really does affect our mood, here is a great podcast that explains this in detail. Not being hydrated or drinking more caffeine and alcohol than normal can increase anxiety and low mood depending on your mood. Having a deadline for drinking caffeine can help such as not drinking caffeinated drinks after midday, or rotating caffeine, water and herbal tea or juice can work so you are decreasing the amount of caffeine in your system.
Being aware that when we are busy our bodies will crave carbohydrates, they provide quick energy and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormones), this is particular important for women or menstruating people. What healthy carbohydrates or snacks could you substitute during those afternoon slumps?
2. Notice those Automatic Negative Thoughts
Notice those ANTs – ANTs is an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts. We need to notice them and squash them! We are often our own worst critic and never take the advice and empathy we offer others, so if you find yourself being self-critical think how you would talk to your best friend if they were in your situation, have some self-compassion. Reframing unhelpful thoughts can be beneficial for our mental health, this clip shows how you can Catch it, check it and change it.
3. Put YOU first
Do something for you – we often forget that looking after our own mental health is important, especially if we spend a lot of our time supporting others such as colleagues, family members and friends. Everyone’s mental health is important, so book that massage, go for a walk, or do something you enjoy for you to improve your mental health and wellbeing. When we are mentally well we are a better support for those around us.
4. Connecting with others (and hugs!)
Connect with people you like, such as friends and colleagues that lift you up. Being surrounded by like-minded people with similar energy can lift your spirits and boost your feel-good hormones. If your friends are huggers, then having a hug for at least 30 seconds releases oxytocin (the hormone of love) it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, reduces blood pressure, stress and anxiety and helps regulate emotions see benefits-of-hugging.
5. Sleep better for your mental health
Sleep is so important, practicing good sleep hygiene (yes, that’s a term) as your brain literally gets washed whilst you sleep, and we all know how we feel when we get a good night’s sleep, our perspective can improve so much. Understanding sleep, what helps and hinders it, is a great start to tweaking your bedtime routine and benefiting from a restful night, this 5 minute ted talk on sleep science is a great place to start, I’d also highly recommend reading or listening to ‘Why we sleep’ by Matthew Walker.
6. Be present for your mental health
Mindfulness is ‘paying attention on purpose’ and being present in the here and now. Not thinking about the past, or the future takes practice, but you can start from just one minute per day. The Balance app is currently FREE, and helps you meditate and learn about the benefits of meditation for your whole life. I promise it’s not about making your mind go blank and there is a reason it’s called meditation ‘practice’, because you are not trying to be perfect but just to be with your thoughts.
7. Connecting with nature for your mental health
Connect with nature and get moving – Get outside, the change in scenery, fresh air and physical activity will help to lift your mood. If you’re prone to eating your lunch at your desk, ask a colleague to go for a walk, even 5 minutes will help. Find a physical activity you enjoy that can help decrease your stress levels, run, walk, swim or play a team sport are all beneficial.
8. Ask for help with your mental health
Ask for help – this one is listed last, but certainly not least. We all experience mental ill health, just like physical health and talking to someone can make things so much better. Sometimes a cup of tea (Yorkshire, of course) and verbalising how you feel may be all you need to help find a way forward. That may include: Counselling support via your GP, contacting a crisis support service, looking up information on the Mind website or accessing an Employee Assistance Programme at work. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, manager or colleague if you need help accessing support for your mental health.
Thank you for reading my blog.
If you need support with yours or a family members mental health and you live in Bradford District or Craven District then please visit the Mind in Bradford services page.
If you’d like to find out about Mind in Bradford’s Mental Health Training then you can access the training brochure of courses and workshops here.
Posted on: 21st September 2023