Today is World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. 1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma. We need to talk about this!
Firstly, what is mental health and how do you know if you have issues? This can be hard to tell, as many of the symptoms associated with mental illnesses can just as easily show up in everyday life. While depression may be thoughts of having nothing to look forward to, anxiety is often described as spiraling thoughts that get in the way of you doing whatever you actually want to do. There’s a few ways of dealing with this in the moment, but I wanted to take the opportunity to look at ways to look after your mental wellbeing and prevent these things from happening in the first place. Let’s jump in!
Anything that gets you out of your mind and into your body. Going for a run, dancing your heart out, playing soccer, or simply a walk around the block all are excellent ways of doing this. You may know that in that regard I’m a big fan of yoga – which leads me to the next point…
Meditation is a big one. Regular practise actually changes the structure of your brain. Yes, you read that right! And it’s fairly easy to start as well. There’s heaps of apps out there – try and download Calm or Headspace and give it a go. A few minutes a day could have a big impact! I personally also like breathing visualisations like this one…
3 Connect with your senses
This follows meditation because it’s closely related. Tuning into your senses can be a form of meditation. Let your eyes gaze into the distance. Consciously taste your food or drink. Enjoy the smell of some stress-relieving essential oils. Focus on touch by touching different surfaces, hugging a loved one, or booking in at your favourite spa for a massage. All of these are great ways to calm down your nervous system.
4 Connect with Nature
Nature makes it easy to connect with your senses as well. Feel the wind on your skin, the sand/grass/rocks under your bare feet, hear the waves, birds and rustling of the leaves. You might have heard of the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Another concept is earthing, which suggests walking barefoot in nature may have more benefits than you might have thought.
5 Get Creative
Another good way to switch off can be painting, drawing or writing. Art therapy fascinates me, and I’m a big fan of journaling and it’s numerous benefits. It helps me sort through my thoughts and get clarity. In the past I’ve also very much been into calligraphy and lettering – if that’s something you’re interested in you can find a list of courses here.
Laughing, singing, humming, and even breathing all stimulate the vagus nerve, which is largely responsible for mind-body connection and helps mood, controlling anxiety and depression. Laughter yoga is a thing! Try faking a laugh for 30 seconds and note how you feel before and after.
7 Watch Your Media Consumption
Yes, this includes social media. Become aware of how your feed makes you feel and eliminate anything that doesn’t make you feel good. Your friends holiday shots are great, but if you feed is full of only that you may start to feel unhappy with your own life. Watch for inspirational posts that give you a feeling of not being good enough. Fill your feed with positive, affirming messages and things you actually care about.
The other point to this is that reading the news is actually not necessarily good for you. I’ve given up on them completely which may not be the best solution either. But what I’m trying to say is – be selective about what you read.
8 Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar is not only inflammatory but also spikes and quickly drops your blood sugar levels. Being on a constant blood sugar rollercoaster affects your brain function and can result in feeling anxious, moody and depressed. That’s not to say you should restrict yourself and be on a rigorous diet – constantly stressing about what you eat isn’t healthy either. But there’s easy steps you can take to improve your diet.
9 Talk to someone
Most important of all, human connections are essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing. If you are struggling, make sure you reach out and talk to someone about it. Don’t think you’re the only one – in a recent survey of the creative industry, 72% of respondents indicated that they have sought help for mental health issues. You are not alone.
If you want to work on a self-care routine, a holistic wellness coach like me may be able to help. Stay tuned!