Mental health is an integral part of our overall well-being. Just as we take steps to look after our physical health, it’s equally important to prioritise and look after our mental health. Poor mental health can lead to persistent negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger or irritability. It can make it challenging to experience joy, happiness, contentment or satisfaction in life.
See how you can use different strategies and practices to help you look after and boost your mental well-being. Some of the information overlaps into other categories but I believe that they are all worth mentioning in their own right.
20 strategies and practices to nurture your mental well-being
1) Self-awareness. The first step in caring for your mental health is self-awareness. Take the time to understand your emotions, things that trigger you, and patterns of thought. Writing down your thoughts, emotions and experiences can be a powerful tool for self-reflection. Over time patterns and insights may emerge that help you to understand and manage your thoughts and feelings better.
2) Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Understand that you are not alone in experiencing challenges and imperfections. Everyone makes mistakes and faces difficulties. Remind yourself that being human means being imperfect! Think about how you would treat a friend in the same situation as you and treat yourself with the same kindness, compassion and understanding as you would them.
3) Stay connected. Staying connected to people is crucial for maintaining good mental health. As Aristotle said, ‘man is by nature a social animal’. Being connected provides support, reduces feelings of loneliness, and offers opportunities for emotional expression. Maintain strong social connections with family and friends. Keep in touch regularly. Reach out to loved ones when you need to talk or share your feelings.
4) Manage stress. Stress is a common part of life, but chronic stress can be damaging to your mental health and can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Identify what is causing your stress by writing down how you are feeling. Make this a habit and this could help more than you might expect. It has many benefits in managing stress, recognising triggers and reducing anxiety and depression, and provides a great outlet for your emotions. Recognising the sources of stress allows you to develop targeted coping strategies. Good stress management techniques include:
- Deep breathing to help to calm the nervous system – inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – tense and then relax different muscle groups in your body to release physical tension associated with stress.
- Guided imagery (generating positive mental images) – use guided imagery exercises to transport your mind to a calm and peaceful place, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Mindfulness (being aware of the present moment without judgement) – regular mindfulness meditation helps you stay present, reduce rumination, and manage stress. Focus on your breath and observe your thoughts without judgement.
5) Prioritise sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential for mental health. Lack of sleep can worsen stress and negatively impact your mental health. Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a comfortable sleeping environment by keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Turn off any phones, ipads, tvs etc at least 30-60 minutes before sleep, don’t drink alcohol before bed and try not to drink caffeine for the 6 hours before going to bed. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and alert, and while alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt the sleep cycle and decrease sleep quality.
6) Exercise regularly. Physical activity has numerous mental health benefits. It releases endorphins, improves mood and reduces stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. We have the perfect 30-minute circuit to get your required amount of exercise, which easily fits into your lifestyle at www.wfitness.co.uk.
7) Balanced diet. Proper nutrition is essential for both your physical and mental health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively impact your mood and energy levels. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar, as they can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Practice mindful eating by savouring your food and paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Avoid emotional or stress-related eating.
8) Limit stimulants and alcohol. Excessive caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to stress and anxiety. Limit the amount you drink and smoke especially in times of high stress.
9) Set realistic goals. Avoid overloading yourself with tasks and responsibilities. Break down your goals into achievable, manageable steps, and then make them even smaller to reduce feeling overwhelmed. Achieving small milestones can boost your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Celebrate every success, no matter how small it is! 😊
10) Positive self-talk. Challenge negative thought patterns with positive self-talk. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion and encouragement. For example, instead of saying I have to do…, try saying I get to do…., or instead of saying I must do….., change this to I can do…..
11) Time management. Organise your time effectively. Prioritise tasks, create schedules and use time management tools to help you stay on track and minimise stress. Plan specific days and times to do things over the week rather than trying to do everything in one go.
12) Learn to say no, without guilt! This is a difficult but very important point. It’s essential to set boundaries and not overcommit yourself. Saying no helps you to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. This means that you are actively defining what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. Boundaries are crucial for protecting your mental and emotional well-being and for reducing stress and preventing burn out.
13) Avoid perfectionism. Accept that no one is perfect. Embrace imperfections and learn from mistakes rather than dwelling on them. Learning from mistakes is an essential part of growth and development. When you make mistakes, you can gain valuable insights and learn how to improve yourself.
14) Practice gratitude. Focus on the positive aspects of your life and express gratitude regularly. Write things down that you are thankful for to shift your perspective and reduce stress.
15) Engage in relaxing activities. Dedicate time for you to do something that relaxes and rejuvenates you, such as reading, listening to music, taking a luxurious bubble bath or going for a walk in the fresh air.
16) Get out in the fresh air. Spending time outside has been shown to reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. Take a walk around the park, woods or beach and look around you and enjoy all that it has to offer.
17) Limit social media. Spending a lot of time on social media can negatively impact your mental health. Set boundaries and reduce the time that you spend scrolling. Live your life, not other peoples.
18) Monitor your mental health. Keep a track of your mental well-being over time, writing down how you feel and what you are doing. If you notice persistent changes in your mood, seek professional help.
19) Enjoy hobbies. Pursue activities that you’re passionate about. Hobbies provide an opportunity for relaxation and enjoyment, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. What could be better than looking forward to the weekend when you get to do something that you absolutely love? 😊
20) Seek professional help. If stress becomes overwhelming or leads to severe anxiety or depression, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with coping strategies and support. Remember that seeking support and professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
In conclusion, taking care of your mental health is a lifelong journey that involves a combination of self-awareness, self-care practices, and seeking help when needed. Prioritising your mental well-being is essential for leading a fulfilling and balanced life. By implementing these strategies and maintaining a holistic approach to mental health, you can build resilience and enjoy a happier, healthier life.
Caroline & Hannah xx