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Jul 25, 2022

Taking care of your mental wellbeing

It’s important to look after your mental wellbeing during these challenging times. Here we discuss some tips and strategies.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes mental health as a state of mental wellbeing that enables us to cope with the stresses of life, realise our abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to our community.

Why is mental health and wellbeing important?

According to the WHO, mental health is crucial to personal, community and socio-economic development. Mental health is an integral component of our health and wellbeing that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in.

What can happen to your mental health?

Your mental health can fluctuate - we all have good and bad days. But what's important is being aware that there might be an issue, for example, you've been feeling down for a period of time and things aren't improving. Along with not sleeping well or changes in weight, these can all be signs of poor mental health.

How do you improve your mental health?

The Australian Government's free health advice website, Healthdirect, says that having good mental health is crucial to your overall health and just like your physical health, some days it can be good and on other days, not so good.

Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the US.

Getting started with self-care

Here are some tips from the NIMH to help you get started with self-care and on the road to improving your mental and physical health:

  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.

  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.

  • Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.

  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy, such as journaling.

  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.

  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.

  • Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.

  • Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help. Make an effort to connect and socialise.

What works best for you

The NIMH says that self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. In addition, although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding what causes or triggers your mild symptoms and what coping techniques work for you can help manage your mental health.

Learn to understand and manage your feelings

How you feel can affect your ability to carry out everyday activities, your relationships, and your overall mental health, says the NIMH. How you react to your experiences and feelings can change over time.

Emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times, according to NIMH. The self-care tips listed above can be one way to help get you on the right track.

Talk to someone you trust for support

If you are finding it hard to manage your mental health, and are struggling with difficult feelings or negative feelings, it's important to reach out for help. Speaking to a trusted family member or friend can be a good first step.

There are many services and resources which can provide you with support, such as Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute.

Your GP can refer you onto a psychologist who can help you and give you the tools to better manage your thoughts and feelings and change the way you think about things.

Learn what to look out for when your mental health and wellbeing takes a dip

When your mental health and wellbeing declines it's often not one thing that indicates there could be an issue but a few - it might be that you're not sleeping well, you're having feelings such as being worried or anxious, or you might find that your weight or appetite changes.

It's important to be able to recognise what might be happening for yourself or a loved one if mental health and wellbeing is in decline. Speak to a health professional if in doubt.

Strategies to keep you on track

Here are some ways you can help keep your mental health on track:

  • Plan things to look forward to - catching up with a friend, or going on a trip or taking part in an activity which you enjoy doing can all help to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
  • Learn how to manage stress and worries - with the support of your health care provider you can learn techniques to help reduce stress levels.
  • Identify and use your strengths - think about things you enjoy doing and what you're good at and embrace them. Maybe you enjoy reading a good book, a spot of fishing or doing volunteer work - discover what you enjoy and are good at. It will help you shine.
  • Try and avoid self criticism - be kind to yourself. We are often our own harshest critic.
  • Spend time being present - focus on being in the moment and not dwelling on what happened yesterday or what might happen today. Focus on everyday life.
  • Be kind and help create a better world - being, generous and considerate are all good qualities we should all embrace.
  • Set yourself exciting and fun new challenges - try something new and learn a new skill. Always wanted to learn to knit? Find a local group or connect with an online community.
  • And there's nothing quite like a good night's sleep to help with better mental health.

Retirement living at IRT

If you’re interested in downsizing your house and upsizing your life, IRT has more than 30 retirement villages across NSW, Qld and ACT. Find out more about the possibilities of village life and how one of our independent living communities can suit you and your unique needs.

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