Our modern-day life can certainly be challenging with many demands on our time, attention and energy and we can become overwhelmed. We may think we are not good enough in some way as we struggle to meet our own and others’ expectations. In the process, our mental wellbeing suffers. Mental Wellbeing refers to our way of dealing with our emotions and stress and our perceptions about our lives.
Here are 10 tips for Mental Wellbeing:
- Take time for yourself EVERY day. It is important for your mental wellbeing to develop the habit of having some time every day to yourself to spend on what YOU choose. It’s helpful to have time for reflection and a little check in with yourself about how things are going and what you may need. Spending time on activities that you really enjoy helps build your resilience to deal with other stressors/pressures that come your way. In a busy life, you may dedicate bigger blocks of time for activities such as yoga; an exercise class; walking; reading; arts/crafts; socialising etc. a few times per week and scheduling relaxation time every day, even if you can only manage 10 minutes.
- Take stock of what you are spending your time on. Decide if you can take anything out of your schedule that is not important to free up time for something that is. Explore your values about who and what is important to you in life and work out if anything important is being neglected. When you neglect important values (e.g. being emotionally available to loved ones; being kind to self and others; being fun and spontaneous) you may feel discontent in your life and a sense that your time is spent doing what you ‘should’ do or the ‘have to tasks’ rather than what is truly meaningful. When we are making choices guided by our values, we often feel content within ourselves as a person even when dealing with stressors which supports our mental wellbeing. Often tasks we may perceive as mundane or tiresome can be more satisfying when we connect with the underlying values e.g. the task of cooking dinner connecting with the value of caring for our family and ourselves.
- Take care of your physical health! Doing our best to look after our physical health helps us feel better in general and supports mental wellbeing. Eat regularly including three main meals and two or three snacks (morning and afternoon tea and possibly evening snack) and aim for no more than three to four hours between meals. It helps to plan and shop for fresh, healthy foods keeping it simple to reduce demands on your time. You may enjoy visiting the local farmer’s market as an outing as well as getting organised for the week ahead. Drink plenty of water and develop a good sleep routine which is restorative for your physical and mental wellbeing. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days (e.g. walking; gym; yoga; running).
- Practice gratitude and kindness. Spend a little time everyday noticing three things you are grateful for. Be kind to yourself and others. Acts of kindness can be heartfelt behaviours that really don’t take up much of our time but can have a big impact on someone else’s mental wellbeing and our own (e.g. giving a compliment, listening, making a cup of tea, making a gift etc.). Being kind helps us feel connected.
- Spend time in nature. Find places that are special to you in nature e.g. the bush; the beach; a park and practice mindfulness to fully experience the restorative effects of nature for your mental wellbeing. Use your senses to take it all in: what you can see, hear, touch and smell and even taste if appropriate.
- Connect with others. Spend time nurturing the important relationships you may have in your life and/or find ways to make new connections. Join a group e.g. walking; art; meet-up; parent groups etc. Find ways to connect with community: school; gym; sports; volunteer etc.
- Practice mindfulness skills being in the moment. Being in the moment helps us experience life more fully rather than being on ‘autopilot’ ‘going through the motions’. Being in the present supports dealing with problems more effectively and helps us to experience more enjoyment in pleasurable activities. It’s hard to enjoy time with our family when we are distracted with worries about work. To practice mindfulness practice noticing ‘X’ and ‘X’ can be anything in the present moment: your child talking to you, the rain, music, the taste of the food you are eating. Use your senses to practice being in the moment.
- Be curious and try learning something new. This could be a hobby, something for your work/career, a personal growth skill. Learning something can build confidence and a sense of competence.
- Notice your self-talk. Are you overly harsh or critical of yourself? Try and unhook from these judgements reminding yourself they are thoughts, nothing more or less and try and respond to yourself like a wise and kind friend might. Question your thoughts asking whether they are helpful if you let them dictate your choices and actions. If they are not helpful, let them go. Accept what is out of your personal control and put your energy into improving your life situation. Be realistic that life does involve pain and from this place work on responding to it in line with your values. Be careful of the trap, “when ‘X’ happens, then I’ll be happy”. Instead take small steps everyday toward what matters to you.
- Take SMALL STEPS to create healthy habits for your mental wellbeing. Start with something that matters to you, an aspiration or outcome (e.g. being present and having quality time with family) and break it down into very small steps. Describe specifically the action/behaviour of this very small step and decide when you will do this step and how often (e.g. taking 10 calm breaths before going inside to greet the family after work). When you do the small step behaviour combine it with a reward/celebration in the moment such as encouraging self-talk ‘way to go!’ This associates your new small step with pleasant emotions in the moment to support your positive habit moving forward. Evaluate how you are going and problem solve any barriers to following through on your goal or be flexible. Sometimes we have chosen a strategy that may not be the best for us at the time. Try and choose strategies that seem to have the best fit for you. It takes time to develop healthy habits supporting your mental wellbeing so start with the small steps, be committed as well as flexible enough to adapt if something is not working and establish a pattern before challenging yourself with the next step.
If you are struggling in your mental wellbeing and need support speak with your GP. Your GP may determine that you qualify for a Mental Health Care Plan and refer you for psychological treatment. You can also self-refer to psychology for private services. If you would like to consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, then please download our Referral Form here and take it to your consultation with your GP.