Easy ways to work on your own mental health

Following Mental Health Awareness Day Thursday I wanted to offer some ideas of simple things you can do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve your mental health (whoever you are) and perhaps even help manage depression and anxiety:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when I eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better than turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself fell more positive.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hard to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do an hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxed by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

World Mental Health Day 2019

 

World Mental Health Day this year is focusing on suicide prevention, there’s some useful downloads on their website about this topic for a variety of situations and it’s worth a read (website link below).

https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention

There are two school’s of thought with ‘days’- mental health, women’s day and so on.  Yes – in an ideal world we wouldn’t need specific days to remind people are inequalities and reduce stigma.  We don’t live in an ideal world though and what these days do is start conversations – some of those conversations may well be forgotten tomorrow sadly, but for some the onslaught of coverage on one day could set in motion the impetus to make a change- either for someone specifically affected or in making someone more mindful.

There’s so much that I could write about today- from personal experience but I’ll limit this blog to three brief things I think worthy of being mindful of if you know someone who is currently struggling with any mental health condition.

One

It can be frustrating for those around someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.  Often you try and help and feel like you’re being met with resistance at every turn.  These illnesses are not logical though and as well meaning as your advice may be you might not get the reaction you hope for.  You can offer the most practical and solid advice in how someone might feel better but self care is hard when you are really ill and even though it’s the thing that will help it can feel practically impossible to do.  As frustrating as that may be for you believe me the person affected will be equally, probably more frustrated and knowing those around them are frustrated can just add to the difficulty of climbing out of a hole.

If you know someone who is struggling, be there for them, offer an ear, even offer advice, but accept you can’t fix it and you may feel like you repeat yourself a million times before anything lands.  Don’t take that personally – you being there is probably helping even if it feels like it isn’t.  If someone is suicidal, as much of an impact and stress that will place on you and others around them- remember the stress they feel to get to that point is far greater- frustration and anger are normal and understandable responses but when people get ill they aren’t doing it to piss people off or make life hard for others, get time off work or get attention.

Two

From my own experience when I went back to work after being off for a long time due to mental health issues I found it really hard and one reason for this was there was no understanding of mental illness in the way there would be for a physical illness.  The procedures in place just didn’t work for managing what was wrong with me.  I’m lucky I have a good manager who took time to listen to me and understand and that helped me settle back in, but at first it was really hard because I felt like I was having to fight against a system at a time when I really didn’t have the capacity to do so.  It took me to bite the bullet ask for a conversation and try and explain.

You can understand in situations like this how so many people fall between the gaps and end up unemployed, isolated and feeling like there’s no way out.  It’s easy to drop out the system (if you stop going to the doctors because you really just can’t face anything they don’t chase you up for instance), you can have to jump through hoops to get help but often have no motivation to do so.  You actually have to fight to get help (or have someone fight for you) and often you just can’t when your ill.  You may lose your job because your company doesn’t recognise mental illness as a genuine illness and not have the capacity to fight that.

These situations could be improved with education.  I don’t just mean companies educating their staff to understand mental illness, I mean in some cases companies themselves need to understand better how mental illness can affect staff and how best to handle it at a variety of stages- both preventative measures, catching signs of problems early on and dealing with the aftermath of serious issues.

Three

Today is about making people aware of the importance of mental health, of being open about discussing it- because more people than you would ever anticipate will be affected to varying degrees over their lifetime.  Being aware everyday is important though.  If you notice that a friend or a colleague doesn’t seem quite right you haven’t got to have a conversation with them if you don’t feel comfortable.  It might be mentioning your concern to someone closer to them who could check in on them.  But equally it could be dropping them a message or calling them for a chat, inviting them for a coffee or lunch, anything to connect with them.  You know that thing we call being nice, letting people know they have people around them.  On a day to day individual basis that can be the thing that makes the difference, and because you never really know how much people are struggling making not being a dick a general life rule is probably the best way to help others maintain good mental health, not least because you never know what sort of things could affect someones so something you say in passing which means nothing to you could affect that person for hours even days after.

Jump 4.2 – Week 5

You know when you have those weeks where you just feel a bit blah, where no matter who much you try and do and even manage to do you have a nagging sense of failure.

That’s been me this week!

I’ve actually been pretty productive and got quite a lot done, I’ve trained, and I’ve eaten reasonably well – hitting a small calorie deficit, if not the 20% I was aiming for. I’ve also hardscaped my garden (which felt like it burnt around four million calories as well as burning my back!).

But I’ve not felt brilliant. The tough thing about these weeks is what do you do if you know you’re basically on track but you still feel a bit rubbish – it’s not the same as knowing you feel crap because you’ve not trained or have eaten nothing but takeaways.

What I have done is follow module 5 of Jump, get the training in, modifying it a bit on the days I felt crap and lethargic so I still did it just at a slightly reduced intensity. I’ve done yoga everyday, noted down things I’m grateful for every day, for more fresh air and generally tried to keep myself plodding along without dwelling to much on the nagging anxiety.

When we sign up to programmes or plans or start new health kicks we want 100% perfection and the moment we slip up or don’t do every single workout or eat every single meal we think I’ve fucked that up, I need to go back to the beginning and start again doing it 100% this time. This is why so many people don’t complete fitness programmes however they are structured.

Life is rarely uniform, things crop up all the time and the most successful lifestyles are ones which allow you to ride the ups and downs, have good weeks and bad weeks but importantly not stop and start again after the bad weeks.

To be fair just writing this reminds me that what I’ve felt of as a bad week really wasn’t bad at all, I’ve just not felt very sprightly and have been a bit run down. That’s not a reason to call a week a failure because if anything getting to the end of weeks like that and being able to brush yourself down and be ready for a new week is part of creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Under Pressure

An awful lot of the pressure in my life comes from me.  I’m probably not alone in that.  We face enough genuine stress in life without putting more on ourselves, but that’s exactly what many of us do, in one way or another.

I get annoyed with myself if I miss a workout, go over my calorie goals, make a mistake at work. I take these small things and build them into massive issues that can ruin my day- sound familiar?

The first step toward easing off of yourself is to identify when you might be making things harder on yourself unnecessarily.  Recently I’ve been making more of an effort to identify when I’m stressing about something I really don’t need to stress about and change that.

Here are some ways I’ve found helpful for cutting down on unnecessary stress.

1

Understand The Difference Between High Achievement and Perfectionism

When it comes to stress, “do your best” is better than “be perfect,” and in the long run, it’s healthier as well.

If you find yourself constantly going over mistakes you’ve made, noticing more of what you’ve done wrong than what you’ve done right, and getting anxious when you do a good-but-not-perfect job you may want to review how you view your own expectations of yourself.

2

Draw A Line Between Leading A ‘Full’ Life And An Overwhelming Life – Learn to Say No

Leading a full life is great (YOLO and all that) but if you don’t live a balanced life too, you can feel too stressed, too often.

Be aware of how you feel at the end of the day or weekend – if you’re constantly knackered maybe you need to let some things go or say no to some invites to allow yourself some time to relax. Exhausted people lose momentum eventually no matter how many exciting things they’ve done or got planned.

Manage your commitments in all aspects of life to help manage the pressure you put upon yourself.  If something needs to take longer then it needs to take longer, if it really really can’t then something else needs to give sometimes.

3

Think Like An Optimistic Realist Rather Than A Pessimist

Realistic positive thinking (focusing on the positive without completely ignoring and failing to address issues that require a response) can help you to be more effective in your life, and less stressed along the way, research has shown.

One of the best positive thinking strategies you can adopt is optimistic thinking, which is a specific pattern of thinking that allows you to focus your attention on your accomplishments which allows you increase your confidence to do your best in the future.

That doesn’t mean not dealing with problems – just not focusing on them over the positives all of the time.

4

Allow Yourself To Feel Then Take Action

An effective way to help yourself through stressful times is to become more aware of how you feel and why (perhaps by journaling, talking things out with a close friend, or even talking to a therapist if necessary, sometimes it means just having a really good moan) and then once you’ve acknowledged those emotions instead of trying to fix them there and then decide to undertake one or two small activities that will bring something positive to your day.  The activities can be completely unrelated, it’s more the act of just doing something positive and feel good that matters here.

In other words – acknowledge what is getting you down then focus on what you can do that day that is positive (it could be a tiny action) rather than trying to fix your entire mood in one go.  It won’t fix things but can just improve how you feel a little bit.

5

Accept Your Weaknesses, And Those Of Everyone Else

Give yourself a break. You can also relieve stress by giving everyone else a break as well, don’t take things as personally, don’t hold onto grudges, and try to see the best in people by understanding how things may feel from their perspective.

I wrote recently about the fact you can’t be positive all of the time.  In the same way you can’t avoid all stress, these things are just part of life.  You can be proactive in managing your reactions to these stresses, which goes a little way towards making you feel good about things.