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A psychotherapist's top tips for looking after your mental health

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

As an integrative psychotherapist I often see the psychological distress caused by not looking after our mental health and emotional wellbeing. All of us are vulnerable to a greater and lesser extent to mental health difficulties if we don't pay attention to our emotional wellbeing. Just as when we don't eat a balanced diet we can easily find ourselves falling ill. None of us is immune to mental health challenges which don't discriminate on gender, social class, religious, racial and cultural backgrounds. Some of us are knowingly more vulnerable than others, and others are quite unaware of their potential vulnerability and hardly ever give their feelings much thought.

The importance of actively looking after your mental health can not be emphasised enough. Below are 3 tips that when practised daily can support your mental wellbeing.

By practising these 3 tips you will increase your emotional resilience making you more equipped to handle the ups and downs and stresses of daily life.

Tip #1 - Cultivate a daily Spiritual practise

Even if you are not religious or don't believe in a higher power, a spiritual practise can be anything you do that gives you a sense of inner wellbeing and calm in your life. Start off with just a simple 5 minutes of silently being with yourself with no distractions first thing in the morning and build on from that. Some ideas you can incorporate are:

  • mindfulness techniques such as focusing on your breathing,

  • a special meditation practice silent or guided,

  • visualising someone or something that represents self-compassion and kindness for you,

  • or place that makes you feel happy and at peace.

The intention is to give yourself some space to be with yourself and get in touch with your inner world before going out into the world and engaging your mind in the challenges, high and lows of living.

Why not try this out for a week and see what happens? Comment below of your experience if you feel like sharing with other readers.

Tip #2 - The usual suspects - Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! Unfortunately, today what is sold to us as food are processed and attractively packaged products that are tempting and temporarily provide us with quick energy boosts and feelings of pleasure. Just because a product is marketed as a food doesn't mean it provides us with all the necessary nutrients for optimal functioning, quite the contrary. Many of us are so used to consuming processed food. We don't question or notice the effect that this highly palatable product can have on our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Everything you eat either supports and increase the diversity of the good bacteria of your gut microbiome or depletes it and increases the bad bacteria. This is important because the gut microbiome plays a critical role in neurotransmitter functionality which directly effects how we feel and think about ourselves and everything around us. You literally are what you eat! So, the first step you can take to regaining control of your mental health and wellbeing is by empowering yourself by prioritising a diet rich in whole plant-based foods.

"Let food be thy medicine." Hippocrates

We all know that exercise is a powerful antidote to depression by providing us with endorphins that naturally enhance feelings of wellbeing.

The saying goes mind over matter, but movement is the key that switches on our ability to put into practise this saying more easily.

To overcome the lack of motivation that can so easily accompany the thought of "having" to exercise it can be helpful to break it down into small, manageable and easily achievable short chunks of activity and reminding yourself how you will feel after you have engaged in some physical activity.

Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • Move your body each day for at least 15 minutes, in fresh air first thing in the morning and taking frequently activity breaks through out the day.

  • Simply getting up from your seat and stretching for a few minutes will benefit your emotional wellbeing and provide relief from stress and tension.

  • Choose a type of activity that you enjoy.

  • Commit to a time in your day when you can do this.

  • Remember don't overdo it and don't judge yourself. Every bit of movement helps.

Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity and pillar for mental wellbeing and should rightfully be tip no.1 as it impacts your attitude and approach to cultivating and prioritising tips 1 and 2. Conversely, tips 1 and 2 also feeds into assisting you with improving your quality of sleep.

Practising sleep hygiene by implementing some of the suggestions below, can help you form a good bedtime sleep routine that will in time improve your mental wellbeing.

  • Regular bed time and wake up time.

  • No screen time at least 1 hour before bed - ideally 2 hours.

  • Doing something relaxing such as reading, meditation, journalling

  • Reviewing your day - what went well, what didn't and what if anything would you do next time.

  • Gratitude practise.

  • Connecting with a loved one, or animal companion.

  • Gentle yoga.

Which 3 ideas can you start to implement right away? Comment below if you wish to share any tips that help you.

Tip #3 - Find Meaning and Connection

Humans are built to seek out human connection and have a strong need to bond. We also have the need to make meaning from of our life as a response to the suffering that is an universal experience for us all. When this is missing the natural response is to feel lonely that can lead to feelings of low self worth, despondency, depression and shame.

If you are in a situation where you may not have the relationships that nourish and support you, remember that there are many who are in similar situations and are also seeking friendships and connection to others. Volunteering and psychotherapy can be great starting points to finding meaning and forming positive relationships with others.

Finding meaning and connection can come from unexpected places, such as:

  • small acts of kindness such as smiling at a stranger,

  • doing something that gets you out of your comfort zone,

  • meditation,

  • being in a beautiful spot in nature,

  • doing something creative,

  • volunteering

What is something you have thought of doing but have been apprehensive about fearing judgement or not thinking you are good enough? What will help you take a small step towards this? If you need support please get in touch with me. I can help you face your fears.

Taking care of your mental health is an ongoing process. I hope that the tips above will encourage you to think about the importance of looking after your mental health and try out some of the suggestions above, and create your own personalised emotional wellbeing toolkit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on what emotional wellbeing toolkit you are creating.

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