When we hear ‘mental health’, it’s easy to jump to the assumption that a mental health problem is being referred to. But mental health is far more than a diagnosis. Mental health is much like our physical health, it's something we need to take care of every day to prevent problems from arising.
Every one of us is affected by psychological triggers daily – a recent survey by Nuffield Health in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation corroborates this - and the challenge is to prevent them from turning into a diagnosis. So, how do we do this? Here are some of our favourite quick and easy tips!
1. Talk it out.
You know what they say, 'a problem shared is a problem halved'. Communication is important for our wellbeing, so try to reach out to have a chat about how you're feeling on a regular basis. It can be something as simple as talking to a friend, partner or colleague, sending a text, an email, or picking up the phone.
Our social network can also be our support network: having people who are there for you no matter what – to laugh at your jokes, or share the load when things aren’t going so great - helps support our mental wellbeing.
- Do something for someone else.
Research shows that helping others has a positive knock-on effect on your own self-esteem. We’d call that a win-win!
“It might sound really obvious”, Sid Madge, Founder of Meee says, “but often, especially as men, we are expected to be ‘efficient’ or ‘professional’ and yet that doesn’t always incorporate ‘nice’. Why not?
“Being likeable is a verified influencer. We will always do more and go out of our way to help someone we like or has been nice to us. It makes sense and it’s also a more enjoyable way to go through life.”
Noticed your friend is not themselves? Send them a nice text. Got a mate who’s insecure about his skin? Introduce him to our tinted moisturiser – a foundation, moisturiser and concealer all-in-one, giving an overall healthy glow.
- Be kind to yourself.
It’s easy to jump on the kindness bandwagon - less so when it’s for yourself. But research continues to show that how you think about and treat yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Use positive words when thinking about and describing yourself - and write them down!
“It's time to accept we are all human beings and that none of us are perfect”, says Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Pharmacy.
“If you start beating yourself up over something, thinking it's all your fault, feeling guilty, and angry, this simply pushes up your stress levels and floods your body with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic stress increases your mortality risk, and this effect is even larger if you have other medical issues such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol heart diseases or diabetes.”
If you're feeling this way, try doing things to take your mind off the negative emotions. Cook your favourite meal, dance to your favourite song, call a friend. But most of all try to accept the past for what it is, and focus on the future.
Sometimes it’s really hard to break through those negative feelings – especially if a nasty spot has popped up and taken centre-stage on your face! Nothing that a bit of concealer can’t help you with, eh?
Exercise doesn't need to be a hardcore gym session. Moving your body for 30 minutes each day - even at home and in between meetings - will do wonders for your mental health. This is because when you work out, your body releases endorphins (stress-relieving and mood-boosting chemicals, to you and I!). It’s certainly something Myprotein, Europe’s number one sports nutrition brand found, with 99% of survey participants confirming that exercise improves their mental health.
“Aside from the health benefits, the mental health benefits of exercise are paramount”, explains Numan Founder, Sokratis Papafloratos.” Exercising is a great way to de-stress and unwind. Make sure you engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, otherwise you will never get around to actually exercising.”
Look for small ways to add movement to your day, such as choosing the stairs over the lift, taking a short walk or taking your kids for a run around in the park. In fact, research shows that being surrounded by nature can increase energy levels, reduce depression and boost wellbeing.
- Take breaks.
You know those moments when it all seems too much? Taking a break in these times goes without saying. But regular pauses throughout your day should become the norm, even when things are going well, so that your mind has time to recharge and refocus.
“Taking time to breathe is a powerful way to stay grounded, process what’s happening and activate the rational side of the brain”, explains Ali McDowal, mental health campaigner and Founder of The Positive Planner. “Just the simple act of breathing can slow the heart rate down, lower blood pressure and rebuild a sense of calm in your mind and body.”
Suzy Glaskie, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness, teaches her clients the 7/11 breathing practice – “perfect for grounding yourself before a big meeting or if you have an important call to make.
“Breathe in to the count of 7 and then out to the count of 11”, she explains. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and out through your nose. Your stomach should expand, but your chest should rise very little, so you may find it helpful to place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest to monitor this. Keep going for a couple of minutes and see how much calmer and in control you feel!”
For ideas of breathing exercised, check out this guided breathing video.
- Get lots of sunlight.
Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, which helps our brain release mood-boosting chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin.
Aim for 30 minutes – two hours a day (even if this means coinciding with a lunchtime walk or taking your laptop to a park bench and getting some hours in, there!).
Sun protection – as ever – is an absolute must. Be sure to put on SPF every day, even if it's cloudy.
- Stay connected…
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the company of others has a big impact on how we feel. So, make an effort to maintain good relationships with people and find other, non-work-related things to talk about with your colleagues throughout the day.
Seeing someone in person is obviously preferable, but keeping in touch with friends and family with the help of technology can work wonders, too.
“Friendships are a great way to boost mood as we all know how a good laugh can lift the spirits but they are also invaluable when things get tough and you really need to speak to someone”, Ali explains.
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- …But know when to disconnect, too.
We’re talking about technology, obviously. Yes, our phones, laptops and tablets are amazing and we wouldn’t be without them, but sometimes – just sometimes – it’s imperative to switch off. Not only will this encourage you to meet others face-to-face instead, but it will also give you a welcome break from the constant stream of emails, alerts and never-ending feelings of FOMO that social media is guilty of.
“Managing your digital boundaries can be simple acts like not charging your phone by your bed, taking note of when you are scrolling just because you are bored and also switching off your notifications”, Ali says.
At the very least you should try to have a no-screen policy an hour before bed, as studies continue to show that the blue light emanating from your smartphone affects the production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle).
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If you are worried about your mental health, make an appointment to speak to your GP who will be able to guide you to tailored support.