Mental health needs as much care as physical health does. We must be careful before crossing the line and recognize the symptoms our brain sends us.
We are acutely aware of the importance of physical health. If we don’t always exercise or eat a balanced diet every day, nevertheless we know what is right and what is not.
Recognize the warning signs
Everybody knows that drinking alcohol in quantity, eating a lot of fat and red meat every day leads to coronary issues for sure at one point or another. Sometimes the signals are not enough and strokes are the last red flashing light. But most of the time, check-ups shows high blood pressure or glucose or many other things that are supposed to stay a certain level. We also know that we are gaining much weight, feel out of breath after few stairs. Most of the time that’s when we decide to go back to the gym and stay on a regular lighter diet.
If we can understand all that, then why don’t do the same for our mental health. It is as fragile as our physical health, if not more. Most of the time we choose just to ignore the rising problem, thinking that we can’t do anything as it’s happening in our brain.
It’s essential to stay aware of everything that translates into chronic issues for a start. Chronic fatigue, regular anger, daily pain in the body, anxiety, stress, boredom, burn out, etc. All these are bad things. They are wrong, but you can try to ease them before it’s too late.
Take it from the start
We never go to the doctor. Not that we are never sick, we do some rare times in the year have a cold, or two, but I am always cautious of the symptoms. Being a cold, or a skin issue, if treated early, almost everything can be handled very rapidly with natural medicines. If we wait too long, then it’s taking over, and your body becomes too exhausted to fight. That’s when you have to go to the doctor.
Mental health issues are the same. If we wait too long, it’s becoming too serious. If we try to be aware of the little flashlights that our body and brain are activating to warn us, there s a lot that can be done before it’s too late. We can get better by making some changes in our routine, or our daily life.
What are the different easy actions you can take
I don’t want to play MD or any other doctor. I just want to share some little tricks we use, and I know are efficient to fight the stress created by our modern life.
Canada is very well known for the winter depression. The cold weather, the short days, are as many factors that are preventing us from having our daily Luminotherapy. It can end up in very uncomfortable and painful situation. But it can be avoided very easily too.
It’s just one example. Many mental discomforts could be avoided with little efforts. To sum up, 2 words: diet and outdoor. In detail, there is a lot more.
Nature is our natural element. That sounds obvious said like that. But, for how many of us, our natural element has become our home or our office? Forest bathing is a powerful ally to stay healthy. Simply walking in areas with plant and trees allow us to beneficiate of their essential oils, improving our physical and mental health. Trees also transmit energy. Many people reckon that they feel reinvigorate after a walk in the woods.
You don’t need to drive for 2 hours at lunchtime to the closest forest to benefit from that. In my last post “My First Experience Of Forest Bathing” I explain how any natural urban area can be beneficial. A little of something is better than perfection that you can’t achieve.
Take a walk
At lunchtime, take a walk. Anywhere, in a park is the best of course, but on the streets is a good start. Walk around your building for a start. Anyway, if you keep doing this every day, you will soon want to walk faster and further.
Walking is an exercise, it activates your blood and makes you feel good. It’s far from the physical benefits that running or fast walking can bring, but regarding your mental health, it’s already a considerable improvement.
You can also try to have walking meditation if you need to get free from your job stress. It’s an exercise of mindfulness that is soothing the soul before going back to your desk.
If you feel bad, indulging in alcohol or other substances that make you think you feel better will never ever help! First, it will make you think you feel better, and you won’t indeed work on the problem. In the end, it will slowly and secretly go worse every day until it’s too late. Then these substances are acting on your brain to manipulate it. Do you think this is a good option?
For example, if you like eating sugar, eating sugar makes you happy. Let’s say that you had a bad day and by a pack of sweets or your way back home. You deserve a little treat after all, so why not all the bag. No harm done here! Now imagine you start to eat only sugar all day long. After all, it makes you feel better. Do you think it’s the solution to you having a bad day? Do you think consuming on a regular basis something that makes you feel good for a while won’t harm you? You will gain weight, lose your teeth, have a high level of glucose, etc.
I believe you’ve got my point. Drinking a glass of wine once in a while is not a problem, but consuming alcohol or anything stronger when you already feel bad is risky.
Where I come from, journaling is considered an activity for a dreamy romantic little girl. But now that I am in my 40’s, I have discovered how journaling can help me organize my thoughts. By organizing them, I prevent them from taking over my brain.
Journaling is also an excellent way to discharge your memory from the unfortunate, uninteresting events. You can write them down, tear the page off and trash it if you want. I just chose to write things down, when the journal is full, I scan what’s worth keeping and trash the notebook after that.
You can train to be grateful. Gratitude is a powerful exercise to gain a positive attitude. It’s also a way to remember only the good memories. You can also reread your gratitude journal when you feel bad. You will realize how many good things are happening to you every day.
Affirmations are also a great exercise. Though I must admit I’m not enough into that one yet, but I reckon it’s inspiring. So it’s a work in progress for me. When you write affirmations, you write down what you want to achieve, or what you want to be or become. You can keep it in a notebook, or stick the page above your desk. When you train your brain to be familiar with the goal you want to achieve, you’ve already done half the job!
More no-screen time
Yes, it’s obvious, you hear that all the time, okay. Do you put your phone away when you feel bad and do something else? You should do it for 2 reasons.
The first one, because it gives you more time to practice all of the above.
The second because the Internet and social media can be great, fantastic amazing! But it’s also dangerous. You compare yourself to the tremendous fake image everybody is sharing. If you feel bad already, this is only going to make things worse. Remember that people are more and more spending hours composing these images. If the picture is real, they only show the more beautiful moment of their day. They don’t share the crap. It’s even worse now. People share more and more of their problems. But most of the time there is this insidious feeling that they deal with it so well that you are blaming yourself because you don’t manage as well in the end.
Honestly, I have a feeling that some of them now, not all of them of course, but some are making up issues to attract some followers. Isn’t that the most treacherous image people can share?
When you feel lousy switch-off your phone and do something else. You’ll go back to it on purpose, when you feel better, or only for the essentials.
This one could be a part of the last point really, but I wanted to highlight this problem. Being an introvert, like me, or an extrovert, like my husband, social media, emails or SMS give a false idea of communication. We think we are communicating, but we are not really. When we stay on our phones, we are cutting ourselves from our real present environment. We are avoiding real life for a while; this can become a dangerous habit.
If you are an extrovert, you think you have your daily dose of communication as you enjoy it, even if you have no time because you have too much work: wrong! You don’t really meet the people, and that’s what you need. It only makes you unconsciously contact-depraved.
If you are an extrovert, you think you communicate but at the same time avoid the discomfort of overwhelming people in front of you: wrong again! Social media and every modern way of communication are as overwhelming as people are in real life. Even more, because of you don’t see the real scenery. So better not force you on social media just because it will make you less introvert. It definitely won’t. It will only insidiously make you feel overwhelmed a little bit more every day.
Taking care of your mental health doesn’t include cheating with it. Faking what your brain needs to be happy won’t make it feel better.
I can’t say it enough: reading is a mindblowing exercise. You create your world, your images. It’s far more distracting than any movie will ever be. Plus it will make your brain work pleasantly. How many of us are falling into boring routines without even noticing? The reason is, you don’t train your brain. You do every single day the same things. No question asked. A brain is a muscle that needs exercise; reading is the perfect exercise.
Your mental health depends on exercise just like your physical health does! To get some inspiring reading ideas: Reading: 6 Books for Going Back at it this Semester
Creating is the second essential exercise we are trained to avoid most of the time. But it’s such a necessary part of our brain that we choose just to switch off! Imagine you lose at least a quarter of your brain, a half even. Would you say “I’m okay, I don’t need it anyway?” I hope not. So, just create, a little bit every day, even if it’s not Mozart, Shakespear or Picasso, who cares!
Ask for help
If nothing works, ask for help! By all means, talk to your loved ones, your doctor, or a volunteer in a centre. Whatever works for you is fine. Just talk to someone. It’s half the way done through recovery most of the time. There is no shame here. Everyone gets sick, everyone! There is no such thing as a permanently healthy human being. I’m going to compare that to physical diseases: I never trust someone who says “I am never sick.” Most of the time I simply answer: “you never take care of your problems, that’s not the same thing.”
A proper diet is a base
Everything start from what we fill our body. Our brain and our body won’t work correctly for long we are not cautious about what we put in our mouth. Eat veggies and fruits every day, proteins, and fibres. These are the essentials. The rest is and must remain a treat!
Your brain is the body of your mental. You need to fuel it adequately to balance your mental health.