You might be aware that it’s Stress Awareness Day/Week/Month - depending on where you live! It is deserving of our attention for the whole month. Stress can be very detrimental for both our mental and physical health, but there ARE strategies you can use to take back control of the stress in your life. Particularly at the moment as we re-enter lockdown.
If you were to write a to-do list, what would you include to help your mental health and wellbeing? It seems to be much easier to think of things to improve our physical health. Many people have no idea what to do for their mental health and wellbeing. So, let us start with something called "5 Ways to Wellbeing" These are evidence-based ways and actions we can all do to improve our wellbeing.
Let's see what they are and if any of them surprise you:
- Connect - we are social animals and need other people. Of course, connection has been hit hard by the restrictions we are living under - but it is essential you find ways to keep connections going and/or make new connections. Social media can help - there are several support groups for people trying to break habits or start new ones, such as - closed Facebook groups for diet or fitness goals. And of course, using Skype, Zoom etc to keep connected. And at the other end of the scale, sending letters, cards and items by post. What interesting ways have you found to keep in touch?
- Keep Learning - Being interested and curious about the world we live in is a sign that our wellbeing is good. Many people are turning to hobbies or taking up new ones - astrology, Spanish, Japanese, Pilates (?), cookery, map reading - the world and the people in it are ENDLESSLY fascinating. You might have to make some adjustments, but keep your interest in the world well fed.
- Be Active - again, adjustments might have to be made, but getting active and increasing our heart rate helps to release the happy hormones - the Endorphins, and helps to reduce adrenaline and cortisol. We might be back to our indoor exercising for a large part, but we can still get out to walk or run.
- Notice - instead of going around on "auto-pilot" and not seeing or noticing things, deliberately notice your surroundings more. Slow down, savour, smell, see, hear your surroundings. And BREATHE, properly, deeply, slowly - try activities like mindfulness or yoga, relaxation techniques or meditation.
- Give - a smile, a compliment, your time, a listening ear, volunteer, raise funds, donate funds where you can, perform a random act of kindness. All of these help us - doing good does YOU good too.
You could also consider constructing a “What NOT to-do list” as well as a “to-do” list What things do you think you currently do that are unhelpful to your wellbeing? Too many late nights, Too many hours on your electronic devices/social media? Ignoring symptoms of illness, whether physical or mental? Isolating? Jumping to negative conclusions? What could you do instead with the time you have freed up?
If you’d like to read more about this, I’d recommend the NHS site.