Today ends Mental Health Awareness Week, 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.
Often, as a society we separate physical and mental health, but it is important to recognise; health is health. As each one influences the other, both require attention.
Unlike some physical conditions, mental health struggles aren’t easy to see from the outside looking in, and because sometimes the factors which affect our mental health are out of our control, it can feel more difficult to manage.
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, the way we approach and prioritise our health as a whole could help us to make some beneficial steps toward improving it.
At times it can be really challenging to improve the way we are feeling. The below could work as a helpful tool to consider ways in which we could prioritise and maintain positive mental wellbeing going forward.
Check in and acknowledge how you feel
Try to recognise and sit with your feelings when they come up, rather than suppress them and just get on. Although it can be hard, honouring your feelings helps you to acknowledge the cause and work toward making the relevant steps to improvement.
Talk to your support group – family, friends and loved ones. Tell them how you feel.
Prioritise basic self care
Investing in something you enjoy, or making a little time to put yourself first will encourage an optimistic mindset and remind 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, opt for an activity that contributes to your happiness and work to make it a daily priority.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison, thinking everyone around us is living their best life, particularly when looking through the blurred and unrealistic representation that social media provides. 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 having the potential to boost 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. Consider the root cause of your stresses. How can these be managed more effectively?
Eat more plants
There is a strong link between mood and food. Think about it – generally when we nourish our body with what it needs, we feel better within ourselves.
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 can enable calm signals to be sent to the brain, signaling things are okay. However, if we consistently eat highly processed foods, stress signals are more likely to be sent. 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 we 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 things 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.
There is no right or wrong way to feel, and our emotions / how we react to the challenges of life are complex and ever changing.
I’m sure many of us have been faced with highs and lows (!) this year, and often, we are just trying our best to get through each day in a way that feels right for us and our individual circumstances.
With this in mind, when you feel like you are struggling and the above information feels unachievable, try to understand that you are not at fault, nor have you failed. Be gentle with yourself. Reach out. Do what you can, when you feel like you can, at a pace which suits you and with a sense of self compassion.
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
The ‘Wellness with Anna’ philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health. Often, the tools needed to make a lasting change are already in your toolbox. I offer client led guidance in order to support the progress of an individual working to meet their personal wellness goals. I will not diagnose, treat or take responsibility for bringing about wellness change, but direct, listen and support development. We work together on a journey to make health a main priority, both physically and mentally.