With this week being R U OK day, we thought that it was a good time to talk about our mental health and wellbeing.
Did you know that in a recent women’s health survey, nearly half of all women responded that they had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety by a doctor and almost 70% reported feeling anxious in the past 4 weeks?
The survey also found that we’re exercising more, are interested in educating ourselves about healthy eating and nutrition and the number of smokers is decreasing. But the number of women diagnosed with mental health issues has risen from 40% just last year.
The report indicates that one of the reasons behind this is that we’re trying to do too much and, in some cases, have limited time to ourselves – no surprises there right!?
So, while we’re choosing to put more energy into exercise and nutrition, we’re either putting way too much pressure on ourselves, setting ourselves unrealistic expectations OR quite simply, we’re just not taking the time that we need to nurture our own mental health. And in all honesty, it’s probably all of those things.
Our mental and emotional health is as important as our physical wellbeing, so we need to start taking care of it in a way that’s not going to add another stressful ‘to do’ to our lists, which are clearly already way too long.
6 Super Easy Ways To Support Your Mental Wellness
1: Get outside
Spending time outdoors is shown to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Getting outside boosts your mood and immune system, reduces stress and anxiety and, as a bonus, encourages physical activity. (Check out the benefits of working out outside here.)
If you have a dog, take them along too for the quality time and connection. Plus, spending time with your pets is shown to have a positive affected on our mental health and reduce stress.
2: Exercise regularly
Moving your body and exercising regularly does wonders for your mental wellbeing. With a range of benefits such as; getting those happy hormones pumping, increasing focus and concentration, regulating breathing, boosting energy and motivation and improving sleep quality.
You also increase your opportunities for social interaction. Whether that be your new bootcamp buddy or the person you wave to every morning on your run – every little connection is good for you.
Top Tip: The survey shows that we are exercising more than we have in the past, which is amazing. To really reap the mental benefits of exercise, set yourself goals that motivate and inspire you rather than basing them on comparison or unrealistic / superficial targets.
This is all about YOU – looking after and becoming a stronger, fitter, healthier version of you. We’re all very different, so choose activities and goals that work for you and make exercising a fun and fulfilling part of your day.
3: Learn to say ‘no’ to things that don’t work for you and create boundaries
It’s natural to want to help and care for everyone around you. It’s a lovely quality, as long as it’s not to the detriment of your own health or stress levels.
Saying ‘no’ is not a negative so you shouldn’t feel badly about it. It’s just about setting boundaries and being honest.
Whether you say ‘no’ to (or resist the urge to volunteer for) more work when you’re already at capacity or are telling your friend / family / partner / child that you need a little quiet time rather than going along with whatever activity they want to do, saying ‘no’ enables you to set boundaries and control your capacity.
Much like the old analogy of a cup being filled until it overflows, you need to find ways to balance and manage your volume rather than constantly being ‘filled’.
Say ‘yes’ to the things that serve and support you, and ‘no’ to those don’t.
4: Realise that some stress is good stress
When we hear ‘stress’ we immediately jump to the negative, but some stress is actually good for us. The trick is being able to recognise the difference and respond in the healthiest way.
Good stress is the kind of stress that helps you learn, grow and develop. Like getting out of your comfort zone or pushing yourself to achieve something new. Studies show that this kind of ‘anxiety’ can actually help you perform better.
Think of that time at work you were given a new task or a promotion. At first it was super uncomfortable and you had no idea what you were doing. But, you embraced it as a learning opportunity and now you’re all over it and are ready for your next challenge! If you had backed away from that uncomfortable, nervous feeling you would never have been able to learn something new or realise that you’re capable of more than you initially thought.
When you begin to feel stressed, take a breath and think about the cause. Are you feeling nervous about something new or being pushed out of your comfort zone? Generally, nervousness is temporary and attached to an event or something challenging that will pass. The uncomfortable feeling will go away once the ‘event’ has occurred. Anxiety is felt daily and can be attached to something that may seem irrational.
Defining the difference between feeling nervous or anxious will help you in finding the best way to manage the situation.
5: Practice gratitude and mindfulness
Gratitude and mindfulness are a great way to put things into perspective and to take some time to ‘reset’ so you’re able to think more clearly.
These practices also help you to slow down, recognise and appreciate all of the great things in your life which we can easily overlook when we’re under pressure.
Studies have shown that groups practicing gratitude and mindfulness report having significantly better mental health.
6: Talk to people you can trust
Whether you need advice, to vent or to just have a great big belly laugh about a crazy situation, having people you can talk to openly, honestly and without judgement is important. Often, the simple act of saying something out loud helps to rationalise it and give you a sense of relief for getting it off your chest.
It’s also great to be a support to your loved ones in time of need too …
Supporting Each Other
As the old saying goes, problem shared is a problem halved. And while that may not be 100% accurate in all cases, having support is key, especially when tackling issues like mental health.
Having support and providing support those around us can have a huge impact. The smallest gesture could make a difference for someone, without you even realising it. Everyone is going through something, so by opening up lines of communication and having a ‘safe’ non judgemental support network is important for all of us.
Recognise people’s behaviour and be aware of subtle changes
Knowing someone well or seeing them regularly means that you will have a good sense of how they ‘normally’ behave. Look out for any subtle changes, for example: withdrawal, self-depreciation or even a change in the way that they are dressing or eating. Not all changes appear negative though, some people swing the other way and become increasingly extroverted in their behaviour. So don’t assume that if they’re acting happy that they actually are. Tragically, some people who appear the most upbeat are the ones suffering.
You don’t need to scrutinise to notice if they’re not acting like themselves.
Make yourself available and approachable
If you’re ‘too busy’ or rushing through conversations people may not feel comfortable coming to you to talk. Create opportunities for people to reach or chat to you if they need to. By not over scheduling yourself or allowing people to see that you’re happy take the time (or will schedule some) to talk, they’re more likely to approach you or take an opportunity to begin a conversation.
We all have important ‘things’ to do but remember, tasks are never as important as people.
Be present and in the moment
If you’re having a conversation with someone or even sharing some time, be present. If your mind is elsewhere you won’t be the support you may think you are. You need to be present to be supportive, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too.
A simple as that… just listen. Don’t judge, don’t try to steer the conversation, don’t try to ‘fix’ every problem and don’t relate everything back to yourself. Being heard is incredibly powerful.
Check in and follow up. Your support doesn’t need to end with the conversation. Take a moment every now and then to check in, especially if someone has shared with you. A quick text, invitation for coffee or call shows your ongoing support and that you genuinely care.
How do you nurture your mental well being?
And if you’re one of the many people suffering or going through a tough time, please speak with someone. Please. You may not feel like it will help, but it will xox