Making Mental Health A Priority

If somebody was to say the word ‘health’ to you, what kinds of terms, phrases or images would pop into your head? Most of us associate health with our bodies but mental wellbeing is equally important. Being healthy isn’t just about having a healthy body. It’s also essential to take care of your mind.

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If you’re guilty of neglecting mental health, and you’re keen to make psychological wellbeing a priority, here are some steps to take today

Assessing your mental health

Many of us think about health regularly but this usually means thinking about our weight, how we look in the mirror, or what we’ve eaten that week. If you don’t devote much time to your mental health, now is the time to think about how you feel. Are you happy and content most of the time, or do you often experience emotions that you can’t control or feel you have to suppress? Is it a challenge to get out of bed some days, or do you have moments when you feel helpless or hopeless? Do you feel mentally exhausted, or are you struggling to remember when you last felt fine? It can sometimes be distressing to analyze your mental health, especially if you bottle up your emotions, or you feel like you’ve been treading water for a long time. It’s natural and normal to go through a rollercoaster of emotions as a human being but it’s not healthy to experience lows for prolonged periods. 

If you take a step back and think about your mental health, and you realize that you have been struggling, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to keep battling. There is help and support available, and there are also lots of self-help techniques you can utilize to try and boost mental wellbeing. 

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Understanding how mental health affects your behavior

Mental health can influence every aspect of your life. From the relationships you have with others and your performance at work to your physical health and the decisions you make, it’s beneficial to understand the impact of stress, anxiety, addictions, depression and other mental illnesses. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor or tell a friend if we were feeling sick or we were struggling with back pain or a stomach ache, but we close up when it comes to our mental health. We often assume that people will judge us, and we feel ashamed or embarrassed to open up or reach out. 

If your behavior has changed, you’ve become more isolated or withdrawn, or you’re drinking more than usual or taking drugs to try and manage emotions or block out feelings, it’s critical to realize the benefits of seeking professional advice and getting support from people close to you. You can learn more about programs and facilities that provide specialist support for those with addictions online, and you can also speak to trained doctors and therapists about the symptoms you’re experiencing and how they’re affecting your day-to-day life. It can also be hugely beneficial to open up to friends and family members if you feel comfortable doing so. If you don’t, you may prefer to see a therapist who will listen to you talk without any judgment. 

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Making time for mental health

Many of us lead hectic lives, and our health falls by the wayside. We get caught up with work, raising kids, caring for others or running a household, and we don’t make time to look after ourselves. Your health should always be a priority, and it’s essential to understand the importance of taking good care of your body and mind. 

There are several steps you can take to try and improve, protect, and nourish your mental health. Exercise is proven to boost your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and help you manage and control your emotions. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, try to increase your activity levels. Even if you can only manage a 20-minute stroll to begin with, you’ll notice the benefits of moving your body. Try different activities, and work towards incorporating exercise into your daily routine. You can hike, run, play sports, do a workout at home, go for a bike ride, enjoy an outdoor yoga session or go swimming. Find activities you enjoy and use exercise to make you feel better. You might not feel amazing when you’re in the middle of a grueling run or a tough hike but you’ll experience a natural high once you’ve finished. Being active triggers the release of endorphins, and it also increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. 

Another important step to take if you’re on a mission to make your mental health a priority is to manage your time. If you feel like you’re juggling too many balls all the time, or you feel like all you do is work and look after others, adjust your schedule. Make time for activities or hobbies you enjoy, exercise frequently, and take time out to recharge your batteries, connect with friends and family, and unwind. Learning to say no can be refreshing. If you’re already working long hours or you’re struggling to manage your time, don’t take on more work or feel that you have to accept every invitation. It’s also beneficial to consider asking for help if life is too hectic. Simple things like teaming up with other parents to take care of the school run or asking friends or family to help out with babysitting from time to time can make a huge difference. 

Taking time to enjoy activities or hobbies that make you happy is an important element of improving and protecting mental health. Life shouldn’t just be about work or running around after others. It’s important that you make time for yourself, and that you have opportunities to socialize with friends and relatives. Whether you love to bake, write or read, you enjoy yoga, meditation or running, or you long to be able to go out for a coffee with friends once a week, it’s beneficial to include these activities in your schedule. 

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Learning when to seek help and advice

Mental health is often a gray area. If you break your leg, for example, you can see the injury, and it’s obvious that something is wrong. With mental illnesses, it can be difficult to determine what’s ‘normal’ and what’s not and to know when to seek help. Anxiety, for example, is a natural human emotion. The trouble is that some people feel anxious all the time, or they experience anxiety in scenarios or settings where others would feel totally calm and relaxed. If you’re always on edge, you find it hard to switch off or wind down, or anxiety is causing your heart rate to rise, your palms to sweat or changes in your bowel habits, for example, this is a sign that you need help. Depression is another condition that is difficult to understand. We all feel sad at times, and we go through patches and periods when our mood drops. This is natural human behavior. What’s not healthy is going through prolonged periods of feeling down, helpless, stressed or worried, or waking up every day feeling that you don’t even want to get out of bed. 

It can be incredibly difficult to reach out for help, especially if you don’t really understand why you’re experiencing symptoms of mental illness, or there doesn’t seem to be an obvious trigger. Taking the first step is often the hardest part but it’s also the most crucial. There is support available, and you should never feel like you’re on your own. From therapists and family doctors to nonprofits and facilities that are designed to provide specialist care for those with mental health conditions, there are solutions for everyone. 

One important self-help technique to try and include in your mental health toolkit is talking. We are often reluctant to tell people if we don’t feel good, or we’re finding life tough. We worry that we will burden friends and family, or we feel embarrassed about talking about mental health. In truth, most people feel better when they open up. You might be surprised at how comforting and reassuring your friends and family are, or at the difference seeing a therapist can make. Offloading can feel like shifting a weight off your shoulders. If you’re not ready to talk, you could also consider utilizing activities like writing or painting or drawing to help you channel your emotions and feelings constructively. Often, it’s easier to write things down than to say them out loud, and creative activities can be cathartic. 

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When we talk about health, we often focus on our bodies rather than our minds. Mental wellbeing is as important as physical health, and there are lots of steps we can take to protect and enhance our mental health. If you’re keen to boost your wellbeing and start putting your mental health first, take these tips on board. Understand the importance of taking care of your mind, be proactive in using self-help techniques to lift your mood and reduce stress, take time to think about your mental health, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help, advice or support. 


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