15 ways to look after your mental health
There are around 7.9 billion people on Earth. Of them, nearly one billion people struggle with a mental health disorder.
Touching the lives of millions every single day, it’s very likely your friends, your family, your colleagues, your peers and even your local barista have been affected by the agonising cycle of mental health.
Devastatingly, one in every 100 deaths is by suicide, the World Health Organization (WHO) states.
Having endured the challenging times of the pandemic for almost two years, it’s more important than ever to recognise World Mental Health Day, which is held on 10 October every year.
"We are in the middle of a growing mental health crisis," António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said at the Global Mental Health Summit. "The loss of loved ones, disruption to jobs and education, and the social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to rising levels of stress and depression."
Of all conditions, depression is the leading cause worldwide suffered by about five per cent of adults.
"There is no health without mental health." – António Guterres
Raising awareness towards the often invisible illness, it’s important to take time out and check in with loved ones – even those who seem to be the happiest.
Despite costing the global economy US$1 trillion every year, countries only spend on average a mere two per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, the WHO claims. However, this is set to change as governments realise the importance of improving mental health services across all levels where many countries have endorsed the WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030.
"In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75 per cent of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment whatsoever," Guterres said. "This is a direct consequence of chronic underinvestment.
"There is no health without mental health."
15 ways to nurture your mental health
- Pick up the phone
- Get moving
- Eat the rainbow
- Avoid alcohol
- Change it up
- Try something new
- Do something you love
- Catch the sleep bug
- Look for inspiration
- Escape to another world
- Be nostalgic
- Create a routine
- Embrace self-care
- Ask for help
By talking through your feelings, thoughts and events of the day, it gives you a way to cope with any problems you may be experiencing.
It’s also beneficial to others. By calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, you could just help them feel more connected and less vulnerable – especially if they live alone.
"Older people may experience isolation and loneliness while children and adolescents may feel alienated and distressed," Guterres explains.
Whether you exercise every day for an hour or simply commit to a 20-minute stroll through the local park, all activity will benefit your overall wellbeing.
How? When you exercise, endorphins are released into the body and interact with the receptors in your brain, triggering a sense of feeling good.
The more active you are, the more likely you’ll feel better about yourself, therefore boosting your self-esteem and self-worth while also improving cognitive function.
It’s neither new nor groundbreaking, but it’s definitely something that gets overlooked when life gets busy.
Healthy eating plays a number of roles in sustaining optimal wellbeing. To start with, if you eat a well-balanced diet, you are less likely to experience mood fluctuations, which means you have a greater ability to focus.
Good mood foods include fatty fish (like salmon), fermented foods, bananas, oats, berries and even dark chocolate.
It can be really tempting to have a glass of wine or beer to lift your spirits after a stressful day, but the effects are only temporary.
Once the alcohol wears off, you will often feel worse due to how your body processes the chemicals.
Try swapping your usual drink of choice with a non-alcoholic version – the market is bursting with options that don’t compromise flavour, and will leave you feeling better for it.
While it’s been hard to do with varying travel restrictions, one of the best ways to hit refresh is with a change of scenery.
Take a midweek break and explore your local neighbourhood, take a different route to work, sit in a different part of the office for your working day, wear something new, eat lunch at a different cafe or even escape the country for a week and visit somewhere entirely different.
Just a small change can do the world of good.
From learning a new language to picking up a new hobby, trying your hand at a new activity is shown to boost your self-confidence and add a sense of purpose to your life.
By learning something, your brain creates new neural pathways for the information to travel, which in turn increases greater cognitive abilities.
This can then lead to improved self-confidence, helping you to connect with others. It also gives you a great conversation starter at any social event.
One of the ways to reduce stress is by doing something you enjoy, leading you to feel more fulfilled in life.
Thanks to the feel-good chemicals (such as dopamine) that are released in the brain when you take part in a pleasurable activity, it makes you feel motivated to do the task again.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. By recharging your body and your brain, you will likely wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
However, many of us don’t get enough sleep. For every hour of sleep you miss, there’s a 58 per cent increase in the chance of suicidal behaviour, according to Headspace.
To ensure you get the best quality sleep you can, create a routine and aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, avoid using any screens at least 30 minutes before bed, limit drinking caffeine (some experts recommend no caffeine after midday) and create a peaceful environment – that might mean fresh sheets, an essential oil and a cool room.
A great way to boost your motivation – especially if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut – is by listening to audiobooks and podcasts.
Listening to a fresh idea or hearing inspiring stories can leave you feeling ready to tackle any challenge that may come your way.
When you can’t travel, immersing yourself in a different life by reading a book is the next best thing.
Explore some of the favourites on The New York Times bestseller lists or upskill with an educational book written by industry experts.
You can even take it a step further and share the book with a friend once you’re finished, creating an opportunity for conversation.
Uncover lost activities or songs that once created a wonderful experience and relive those positive vibes.
The powerful feeling of nostalgia can create a sense of comfort and familiarity, putting any discomfort at ease.
There’s a reason so many production companies are recreating old classics: Cruella (a fresh take on 101 Dalmatians), Mary Poppins Returns (a sequel to the childhood favourite), Cinderella (a modern twist on the original), A Star is Born (the fourth to be made).
By adding structure to your day, you are likely to reduce overwhelming feelings of stress.
Whether it’s as simple as going for a morning walk before work or going to your favourite coffee shop for your usual order, your routine will set you up for the day at hand.
Not only is laughing fun to do, the boost of oxygen stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and helps to relieve you of stress.
Scroll through TikTok, watch a funny television series, stream a comedy show, spend time with a friend or read a funny book – once you start, you won’t want to stop.
It’s one of the most talked about topics recently, and for good reason.
You know the saying, put your own oxygen mask on before helping others? The same goes for mental health.
Take the time to relax at the end of each day and do things you enjoy – whether that’s taking a bath, going for a swim, listening to your favourite music, watching a show you love. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be able to help your loved ones too.
If you’re feeling stressed, tired or overwhelmed you should always reach out for help.
You’re not alone. Feeling down is more common than you probably think – more than a third of UK GP visits are about mental health, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Whether you get in touch with your friends or family, seek guidance from a counsellor or reach out to a helpline, there is always someone who can help.
If you need someone to talk to, reach out to Lifeline Australia (13 11 14), Mind Infoline UK (0300 123 3393), Lifeline India (+91 3340447437), National Suicide Prevention Lifeline US (1 800 273 8255).