Taking Care of Your Mental Health
By Tina Summers
The University of California notes that “Wellness is much more than merely physical health, exercise or nutrition. It is the full integration of states of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.” In other words, our mental health is interconnected with our physical and spiritual health. Because these states are interrelated, there are also similarities in how we can care for ourselves. Here are ten ways to improve your wellness generally, and specifically your mental health:
- Mindfulness - having intentional, open attention on the present moment - is a way of coping with the stress that comes from worry about what has happened or what may happen. When you're mindful, you are living in the moment and can observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judging them. A way to become mindful is to just breathe and focus on your breath, stay in this moment and practice staying in the moment daily. You can start out and benefit from as little as 2 minutes per day. Quiet yourself and breathe...concentrate on breathing slowly and just notice any intruding thoughts, aches or noises. Notice what is going on in your mind, in your body and gently move back to your breath.
- Be Gentle and Kind with Yourself especially on those more challenging days! Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise some and sleep well. When you make a mistake or mess up, respond with gentleness, kindness, compassion and refocus. Have a bath or shower, make a plan for the next steps.
- Connect with Others. Strong connections take regular little efforts. Make a phone call, leave a note, and check in with someone close to you. Say hi with a smile. Build connections around you by reconnecting with those you know and meeting new people through teams, events, clubs or a workshop.
- Empathy for Self. We can be our own worst critic. Pay attention to your own feelings and the stresses around you. Check in with yourself and provide yourself with encouragement on those days when things are tougher. Work towards compassion for yourself; knowing what you think and feel and having compassion for these feelings is a good step towards healthy decision-making.
- Laugh especially an out loud belly laugh. Watch a funny movie, tell a joke, even forced laughter can relax muscles and reduce stress hormones. Try forced laughter for 2 minutes; try it with a friend or group, and you will make each other laugh.
- Do One New Thing. This can be big like a learning an instrument to play; this can be small like take a different route on your daily travels.
- Get Outside of You. Join in with something bigger than you; volunteer with something you are passionate about, that you care about. This can be a cause you care about or finding a spirituality that fits for you.
- Build Hope. Protect your mind from negative self-talk. Notice the good things in your life. Start a thankful journal and fill a page every night for all the little things and the big things you have to be thankful for: fresh water to drink, hot water in the shower, the car running today, a job or job interview to go to, that person that smiled at you and so on.
- Have Fun and be Creative. This is different for each of us: writing, colouring, drawing, painting, dancing, flying a kite, taking a picture, scrapbooking or playing music.
- Get Help When You Need It. Learn to recognize when you are not coping: increasing headaches, drinking or smoking more, taking more than prescribed or recommended dosage of medications, sleep problems persist, crying easily, irritable, daily decisions become overwhelming. When natural supports and tips above do not seem to help, reach out to your family doctor, local counselling agencies such as Lutherwood Family Counselling Services or Walk-Counselling Service for Families. If you are a youth or family with a child or youth and you live in Waterloo Region, contact Front Door for help accessing local mental health services for families with children and youth.
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