Mental health is defined as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. It is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in.
Why Mental Health Matters?
Positive or balanced mental health influences our choices, actions and how we relate to others. Good mental health can help us cope with stress, succeed in our professional lives, more effectively recover from difficult situations and add value to our community and be our best selves.
Poor mental health affects our quality of life by impacting our life choices, relationships, education, work life and so forth, poor mental health can lead to depression, anxiety, addictions, and how we function.
My Experience with Mental Health
Mental health does not discriminate against age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or social class, every human will experience some form of mental health difficulty at one time or other during their lifetime.
Mental health is about working towards balancing our mental health to reduce the impact it can have on our daily lives. Everyone can feel helpless when experiencing a mental health difficulty or crisis. However, what I have learned about managing mental health difficulties is that sometimes you can’t control what the trigger is, but can control your reaction. There are always solutions and it’s about opening up with regards to a problem and allowing others to support and provide guidance.
People will often become lost in their own thoughts which causes their mental health to spiral. It triggers symptoms of mental health such as stress, anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts. Sometimes it’s about understanding what is causing me to feel this way and what can I do to help myself.
I myself have experienced mental health difficulties throughout my lifetime postnatal depression, bereavement, periods of low mood, anxiety, and even intrusive thoughts despite my profession as a mental health nurse. Previously, mental health was a taboo subject. However, over recent years, more awareness is being raised and others feel more comfortable talking about their own difficulties and journey.
Why are we as a society so comfortable talking about our physical health difficulties, yet reluctant to discuss our mental health, when both our physical and mental health are interlinked? When one becomes unbalanced, it then impacts the other. For example, when we have a physical illness it can cause our moods to deteriorate.
I myself have engaged in therapy and use various skills daily to keep my mental health on track.
COVID-19 has caused a significant increase in both children and adults suffering from mental health difficulties, people spent months in isolation leaving with uncertainty and fear, and when the lockdown was over they had to adapt to a different way of living.
Tips to Look After Your Mental Health at Home
Look After Your Environment
Keep your environment clean and free from clutter. There is a saying that goes, ‘Messy bed messy head’ and what this means is that when our environments are chaotic it can impact our mental health in a negative way.
Set yourself small daily tasks to maintain a clean uncluttered environment. It doesn’t have to be a full house. Small steps can make a difference, for example, washing the pots, or hoovering/sweeping a room. These tasks take less than ten minutes but make a difference to your mental health. The individual feels a sense of achievement when these tasks have been completed.
The key is to work within your own abilities and not overexert yourself as this can lead to feeling overwhelmed.
- Having a to-do list helps the individual to set realistic tasks throughout the week which will help keep on top of their environment.
- Introducing nice smells within the environment helps activate your senses, and can provide some calming effects e.g. lavender, scented candles, and oil diffusers help.
- Soft fabrics can also help activate the sense of touch the individual can gain some comfort when feeling low, or stressed by cuddling, or wrapping themselves in a blanket.
- Be mindful of what you watch/ listen to, for example, the news can be extremely negative and can trigger anxiety, fear, low mood, and feelings of helplessness.
- Learn how to understand the triggers and to limit your exposure.
You have the power to control certain aspects of your home environment and it’s about taking steps to protect your energy, switching off the news and listening to music that makes you feel good.
Increase Your Physical Activity
Exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health too. Exercise also releases endorphins which make us feel good and is great for improving mood. Aim to increase your physical activity daily whether it’s going for a short walk, parking further away to allow for increased steps and movement, or dancing to music, since not everyone can train at a gym or run long distances due to financial difficulties or level of ability.
Stay Connected And Keep In Touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face. But that’s not always possible. You can instead give them a call, drop them a note, or chat with them online.
- Keep the lines of communication open: Connection with others helps us feel less isolated and alone.
- Connect with the right people: If we surround ourselves with individuals who may not have our best interests at heart and bring negativity to our lives, then we have the power to protect our energy. Whom you surround yourself with, impacts your overall wellbeing. Negative interactions can lead to stress, resentment, depression, anxiety, and feeling drained.
- Ask yourself if the relationship is balanced: If the answer is ‘NO’ then try to communicate your feelings first to allow the receiver to understand and make positive changes.
Be In the Present
If we take time to be aware of ourselves and be in the present moment, noticing our own thoughts and feelings, and the world around us, we can gain a better perspective. Sometimes this is known as being mindful.
Activating the 5 senses can ground us into the present moment, make us more in tune with ourselves and our surroundings, allowing our minds to be calmer. It allows distraction from our busy fleeting thoughts.
Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.
Developing a good sleep hygiene routine can help improve your heart and circulatory system, and regulate your hormones, Sleep helps with learning and the formation of long-term memories, and allows immune cells to work harder.
Below are some tips:
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers and smartphones from the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Get some exercise
- Be consistent
Life can be stressful, especially in the current times where people are living life at a fast pace and are juggling an increased number of responsibilities such as work, families, etc. It is important to take time for yourself in order to unwind and de-stress. This can be anything that relaxes you, such as going for a walk, reading, watching your favorite TV show, or listening to music.
You have 24 hours in a day. Dedicating 10-20 minutes per day to de-stress will help with balancing your overall well-being. Having a balanced diet with regular meals helps regulate your hormones and links to developing positive physical and mental wellbeing.
- Article Written By Miranda Marsh on behalf of Ambimind Mental Health Practice
About the Author
Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
BSc in Mental Health Nursing
Miranda is a Senior Nurse Practitioner and is currently working as an all-age practitioner in a Mental Health Liaison Team. She has worked within mental health services for over 16 years including secure adult / CAMHS inpatient during which she delivered DBT skills training therapy groups.
Miranda has experience of working within other specialisms of psychiatry, such as community CAMHS and community eating disorder services for children and young people.
She also has vast experience in providing comprehensive holistic assessments and identifying the needs of the individual. Miranda is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.