10 ways to protect your mental health

With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, it’s easy for our mental health to go unnoticed, which can lead to problems down the line. Luckily, as simple as brushing your teeth, there are steps you can take to keep your mind healthy

So, how can we protect our mental health?

1. Speak to someone you trust

If you’re having a low mental health day, it might feel easier to bottle up your emotions. But, talking to someone you trust can help you change the way you’re feeling. Not only can it help you to get things off your chest, but you might also build a better connection with that person so that you can build a support network together. Having somebody you can turn to, whether that’s a partner, friend, or colleague, who will listen to your concerns is a great step towards healing.

2. Spend more time in nature

Even if it’s just for a moment to pause and reflect, spending time outdoors can be a calming experience. You might decide to go on a walk, or sit on a bench and take in the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Being in nature, however you chose to do it, gives us a sense of grounding and inner peace.  

You can read about other natural ways to boost your mental health here.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

For those that suffer from sleeping problems like insomnia, this is easier said than done. Adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night, and if we’re lacking this, we feel it.

If you’re struggling to sleep, try switching up your nighttime routine. Start ‘winding down’ about an hour before you want to go to bed – you could have a relaxing bath or do some light reading. It’s also a good idea to avoid distractions like TVs or phones right before bed, as well as caffeine, as these can hinder your ability to fall and stay asleep.

4. Eat healthy food

We might seek a temporary ‘high’ from sugary foods and drink, but this is often followed by a crash – leaving you feeling more tired than before. In order to maintain energy, alertness and fuel your brain, a balanced diet is essential.

Food and our feelings can often get caught up in one another. Sometimes we might over-eat when we feel stressed for comfort, or under-eat if we are upset.  Eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be boring. You could cook and eat with friends or family, sparking the conversation around mental health and making healthy eating an enjoyable experience.

If you’re worried about the cost of living, read our guide on how to eat healthily for less.

5. Understand your feelings

How we feel can sometimes be overwhelming – whether that’s a state of happiness or sadness. If we don’t try to understand our feelings, these emotions can be heightened and impact our daily activities, such as sleeping, working, or relaxing.

It might feel difficult to pay attention to the way we are feeling but, with practice, it can help us process our emotions and understand the best way to deal with them. Try journaling your feelings in a notebook or on your phone to uncover any patterns in your emotions or potential triggers.

6. Exercise

Keeping physically healthy plays a big part in our mental health, as even a short burst of exercise is enough to keep us energised, alert, and release ‘feel good’ hormones. You could go for a run, walk or jog, walk the dog, clean the house or go to the gym. Staying active also helps release tension which can cause stress and anger, and helps us sleep better. Exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore. You could join a gym class or get together for a walk with friends to combine exercise with socialising and make it fun!

7. Take control of your finances

Money issues like debt can be a cause of common mental health problems, particularly in the current cost of living crisis. We need money for our electricity, water, heat, and food and, when we’re struggling, this can be detrimental to our well-being, causing anxiety and stress.

If you’re struggling financially, you might feel ashamed, but it’s important you seek help. There are many charities that can offer free advice, so reach out before it becomes unmanageable.

8. Plan things to look forward to

Planning time in to do things you enjoy, no matter how small, gives us a sense of hope which can help us cope with difficult situations. Decide what it is you’re going to do, whether that’s sitting down to watch your favourite TV show or meeting up with friends, schedule time in, and, most importantly, see it through.

9. Be curious

Curiosity can be a powerful thing. We can easily get stuck in our own ways, develop our own routines, and be reluctant to change, but being open to new opportunities can change the way we think about ourselves and our surroundings. Tell yourself “I can do this” or “I can make this better” and you’ll begin to see yourself taking control.

10. Show kindness

Be kind to yourself, others, and the world around you. Loneliness can strike anyone at any time, and we never know how someone is truly feeling. A small gesture, like a smile or starting up a conversation, even if it feels daunting, can make somebody’s day. Kindness will not only make the other person feel good, but it will also leave you feeling inspired and boost your mood.

You might also decide to give up some of your time to volunteer for a charity close to your heart. Just a few hours of your time a week is enough to contribute to change and give us the sense that we can make a difference, which is great for our mental well-being.

You can read the full report from the Mental Health Foundation here.

Want to learn more? Read our tips for looking after your mental health before it reaches a crisis.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can reach out to a qualified professional on Counselling Directory who can work through your feelings in a safe, non-judgmental space.

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