Our top tips for self-care and emotional well-being this Mental Health Awareness Week
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 18 May 2020
This week the focus is on mental health! In the UK, literally millions of lives are blighted by anxiety, depression, low mood, a lack of motivation and a lack of self-confidence. Poor mental health can affect people of all ages, social classes, races and backgrounds, but unfortunately is particularly common in people who have some form of physical disability.
Not only is poor mental health extremely distressing, it can also make pre-existing physical conditions worsen. Mental health-related physical symptoms such as insomnia, digestive problems, palpitations, and pain can all make it even harder to live with a disability.
Although it’s sensible to seek medical assistance for mental health problems, many sufferers find that’s only part of the answer. Correct self-care not only benefits those with a mental health condition, it can also make it much easier to manage a disability or pre-existing health condition. Here we take a look at proven self-help strategies that can really make a positive difference!
Dealing with stressful situations
From a doctor’s appointment through to a phone call to discuss an outstanding debt, life is full of stressful situations. Particularly if anxiety levels are already high, it can make dealing with these situations successfully a real challenge. We suggest the following:
– Do your prep. Be clear what you want from the situation before you enter it. This may include making a list of questions you want answered or writing down the outcome you’re looking for. Also check that there are suitable facilities to accommodate your disability if necessary (for example easy access, close proximity to a toilet, appropriate lighting or anything else you need).
– Make sure you’re hydrated and have eaten something. Dehydration and hunger can exacerbate unpleasant mental health symptoms.
– Make a conscious effort to breathe slowly and deeply.
– Tell those involved in the situation that you are anxious. In many situations, easements such as additional time, a sympathetic approach of some additional reassurance can make a difference.
When you’re feeling low mentally, it can frequently seem as if our friends, colleagues and loved ones just aren’t there for us. This can lead to feelings of isolation, and also create misunderstandings when others interpret the withdrawal and introspection that can come with ill-health as signs that you don’t want their company.
– If you possibly can, keep connecting. One of the common symptoms of poor mental health is a tendency to draw away from social events or activities. Research shows that spending time with others can help people feel better in the longer term, even if it doesn’t feel much fun at the time.
– Remember that you may well be viewing close relationships through the lens of your mental health. If you feel that those nearest to you are being unresponsive, unhelpful or insensitive, it’s worth checking whether your interpretation is correct. Conflict is usually down to a breakdown in communication: reaching out to others aids communication and helps to prevent destructive misinterpretations in motive.
If someone you cared about was going through a bad time, how would you care for them? Self-neglect is a common feature of mental illness, which helps to perpetuate negative emotions and can create additional problems. For mental health sufferers, making a conscious effort to treat yourself with care is absolutely essential. The following are all examples of positive self-care:
– Reach out to a friend.
– Pamper your body with a hot shower, or book a massage.
– Enjoy a hot drink from a beautiful mug
– Treat yourself to books, hobby equipment or other reasonably priced “feel good” items.
– Prepare tasty food which does your body good.
– Get some fresh air. Even if you can’t walk far, being able to sit outside, appreciating nature, can have a wonderfully positive effect.
Positive self-care behaviours can also be substituted for less healthy coping strategies, such as drinking, eating too much or reliance on drugs.
Take regular exercise
Of all the self-care activities out there, regular exercise is arguably the one which can yield the most benefits. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can enhance mood, promote relaxation, aid sleep, boost confidence and reduce anxiety. It also has many physical benefits, helping participants to reach or maintain a healthy body weight, improving cardiovascular condition, increasing strength and reducing the risk of chronic disease. Although you may need to work within your limits for some activities, there’s usually some form of exercise that will work well for almost everyone.
Distraction can work really well
Self-care activities, work, exercise and social situations can all help to distract people from the negative feelings of anxiety and depression. Over time, distraction can help to lessen the unpleasant feelings which poor mental health creates. Even if your mental health is in fairly good shape, positive, fulfilling activities can help protect you from problems in the future.
Enhancing your wellbeing can have a powerful effect on both mental and physical health. Why not start some self-care now, and start seeing the difference it makes?