Saturday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day and unfortunately, yet understandably, there has been a rise in levels of mental distress here in the UK this year.
Of course, we are unique and mental health holds different definitions for different people.
Whilst there is no generalised checklist which will improve health for all, and with an awareness of the extremely challenging factors which can influence mental wellbeing, at times, the way we approach and prioritise our health could help us to make some beneficial steps toward improving it.
With this in mind, it is important not to separate our physical and mental health - health is health, and as each influences the other, working consistently to prioritise both will help us on our journey to feeling our best.
Why do we separate physical and mental health?
It can be easier to give physical health greater attention than mental health when working to make a lifestyle change, as in some ways physical health is easier to control. By prioritising regular exercise and having healthy food in the fridge; you’re a step in the right direction.
As well as this, actions which support our physical health can have more of a direct impact on our appearance, which is often why these are more widely promoted in society / the media.
However, just because we cannot always see stress in our physical appearance, or recognise when we are suffering from anxiety or low mood just by looking, it doesn’t mean these things don’t have an impact on our overall health.
Our mental health is ever changing, and because sometimes the issues which affect it are out of our control, it can be more difficult to manage.
Remember, prioritising mental wellbeing can help to support our physical health in the same way that regular exercise and eating well can help contribute to how we feel. We are more likely to feel fulfilled, healthy and happy when we work to look after both.
Do what you can
With respect for the fact that everyone’s situations are different, and no one size fits all, there are small things we can do every day to help us to promote positivity and contribute to both physical and mental wellbeing going forward. Hopefully some of the below will help.
Check in and acknowledge how you feel
It’s important to recognise and sit with your feelings when they come up, rather than trying to suppress them and just get on.
Although it can be hard, honouring your feelings helps you to acknowledge what has caused them and works toward making the steps to improve them.
Trust your mind and allow it the attention it requires.
Talk to your support group – family, friends and loved ones. Tell them how you feel.
Prioritise daily positivity
Consider ways in which you can promote positivity and make this a priority every day.
This works as an opportunity to put yourself first and will encourage an optimistic mindset, proving to yourself that you are worthy, you are valued and you deserve to feel good.
Remember, what works for one doesn’t always work for another – whether it’s a walk in nature or a chat to a friend, find a self care activity that contributes to your happiness and continue to make it happen.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison, thinking everyone around us ‘has it together’, particularly when looking through the blurred and unrealistic representation that social media provides. Again; we are individual! What is going on in our life will be completely different to what’s happening in someone elses, as our lifestyle is completely different to theirs.
Focus on you, your life and the things that make you happy – quite often this is when we realise it’s the simple things that provide us with the most joy.
Prioritising movement has a positive impact on both physical and mental health, not only helping to manage stress but also working to boost our mood. It doesn’t have to be an hour on the treadmill, consider an exercise which you enjoy, that makes you feel good, and work to make this a habit.
Get into nature
Regular time in nature contributes to lower stress levels and improved mental focus. Nature notifies your brain and body that it’s time to rest. Prioritise getting outdoors for some time and space from the busyness, in a bid to calm your mind and improve your mood.
Consistent stress is a main contributor to both physical and mental health issues. Beginning to acknowledge your stresses and working to manage them more effectively could be a helpful tool. Remember, stress management is so individual. Experiment and find something that works for you.
Eat more plants
There is a strong link between mood and food. Think about it – generally when you nourish your body with what it needs, you feel better within yourself.
What we eat affects our mood through our gut brain connection. If we feed our gut microbes their preferred source of fuel (diverse fibre mainly found in plants) it enables calm signals to be sent to the brain, signalling things are okay. However, if we consistently eat highly processed foods, stress signals are sent to the brain. Messages that come from our microbiome can strongly influence mental wellbeing.
Prioritising more sleep is one of the most important things we can do when working to improve our overall health. Getting more sleep can reduce stress and anxiety in the same way that sleep deprivation can contribute to it. When we have poor sleeping patterns, we are less able to cope with the stresses of daily life, making day to day decisions and challenges more problematic. Doing what you can to ensure you get a restful 8 hours will be hugely beneficial.
Self compassion is key
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to reach unrealistic goals, often leaving us feeling like a failure if they don’t go to plan. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend, with care, kindness and compassion. Check in with how you are feeling each day and give yourself permission to go with it.
We all understand, approach and prioritise health in different ways, however, one thing I’m sure we can agree on at present is that our health and the health of our loved ones really is the most important thing.
Hopefully considering some of these acts of self care will help when working to make a beneficial lifestyle change and maintain positive physical and mental wellbeing going forward.
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
'The 'Wellness with Anna' philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health, providing clients with the tools they need to make sustainable changes and the motivation to start their new health journey.
We discuss how you can eat real, nourishing food, exercise mindfully and prioritise time to relax. What I provide isn't a diet; it's a holistic approach to a healthier life.'