We talk a lot about self care in relation to empowering your mental health and one of the key elements of this is first understanding the difference between Mental Health and Mental Illness.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is about wellness rather than illness. Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual;
- realises his or her own potential,
- can cope with the normal stresses of life,
- can work productively and fruitfully, and;
- is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a general term that refers to a group of illnesses, in the same way that heart disease refers to a group of illnesses and disorders affecting the heart. A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people.
Your mental health journey and continuing to grow with strength and power is forever ongoing. With busier lives it can be difficult to treasure the little moments as we are often looking to the future or thinking of the past. This is where mindfulness becomes important to your mental health.
‘People don’t realise that now is all there is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.’ Eckhart Tolle
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Everyday we have hundreds of moments, actions, meetings – at the time we don’t know how these will effect our lives. But, in understanding how to be PRESENT within your situation and to connect to what is, NOT what isn’t, could be or should have been will enable you to accept life as it truly is.
By paying attention to the here and now, without judgment or expectation the benefits to your mental health are huge. Research is increasingly showing the benefits of regular mindfulness on mental health and as a tool when people are suffering mental illness.
In addition to practicing mindfulness, it’s important to take your mental health as seriously as you do your physical health. What is it that you are doing for yourself everyday to positively fuel your Mental Health? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Top tips in creating a self-care plan that works for you.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and eat at regular times each day. Drink lots of water and remember they call them treats for a reason!
- Remain physically active in a way that you enjoy (walking, yoga, stretching, jogging or playing a team sport).
- Get an adequate and consistent amount of sleep each night. Can be tricky with your lifestyle but sleep is a major investment into your wellbeing.
- Stay in touch with friends and family who encourage and support you.
- Establish a regular night out with your partner, a friend or a family member (weekly, monthly). Date night or Mate night? Engaging in an activity with loved ones is a proven way of building connections which aids your mental health.
- Do something you enjoy. Take up a new hobby or reconnect with an activity you’ve done in the past (cooking, reading, gardening, photography, listening to music). Hobbies and interests are crucial in developing the person you are and the person you want to be.
- Learn to identify your stress indicators; short temper, mood swings, withdrawal from friends or family, feeling overwhelmed and drained. Use these indicators as a reminder to take some ‘me’ time to unwind. You will be more understanding, supporting and calmer with your loved ones.
- Set boundaries and recognise your own limitations. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to others when you need to seek therapy for yourself. How is it that you invest your energies and align them with your values in life.
- Talking things out can help. You can reach out to a friend, family member, colleague, counsellor, Doctor, psychologist, or peer support group. 87% of people go to their friends first to talk about challenges or life hardship and this is a great first step.
- Knowledge is power. Not only will this help a person who is unwell, but it will help your own wellbeing and confidence. Awareness through education and education through awareness! Stand up, step forward and make a difference!
- Listen. Having a conversation doesn’t mean you have to talk back or give the answer… When was the last time you asked someone “How are you?” and waited for the answer? Sometimes people just want someone to hear them, to feel heard. They may not need you to ‘fix’ the issue or provide solutions.
- Take the foot off the life pedal. Our lives have become so busy and we are always looking for the way to get everything done yesterday. Generally this just serves to make us anxious rather than more productive. Plan for your day and remember to act on the what is, not the what isn’t – practice mindfulness.
- Having social connections, good personal relationships and being part of a community are vital to maintaining good mental health. It also heavily contributes to people’s recovery, should they become unwell.
- Love Me, Love You! Look at yourself everyday in the mirror and tell the person looking back at you “I Love You and We Got This!”